There are few designs as long-lived and successful as the VW Bus, but by the mid-1970s, #Volkswagen was trying to figure out how to modernize the successful template, which, aside from larger motors, cosmetic revisions, and big bumpers, had been only gradually evolving since 1949 (note, the changes under the skin were profound from 1949 to 1979, but the old bus more or less looked the same every year after the Bay window of 1968). The angular solution to what to do to make the old bus appeal to a new audience debuted in late 1979 as the 1980 VW #Vanagon. Underneath, much of the late Bay Window bus remained, including the 70-hp fuel-injected, air-cooled 2-liter flat four. The new styling and shell brought more weight, however, so the early Vanagons, called #Transporter or #Caravelle in Europe, were slower than their predecessors - in some cases dramatically. At one point in 1982, VW decided to offer the van with the 1.6 liter non-turbo diesel found in the Golf/Rabbit - a motor so overmatched by the van’s weight that it was dangerously slow, and it was dropped after ’83. But it was around that time that the Vanagon finally came into its own, shedding the air-cooled motors for new water-cooled units (hence, it is often referred to as the #wasserboxer by aficionados). The new 1.9 and 2.1 liter engines offered far more power. The Vanagon was still no road burner, that would come only when owners swapped in Porsche or Subaru engines later, though there was a plan for a flat-six Vanagon that VW abandoned and which was taken up by #German tuner Oettinger, but that was not widely available (nor was a special six from Porsche directly). The good attributes of the old bus largely translated to the new - and the Vanagon remains a popular and durable camper today, and benefitted from further evolution that brought AWD and more features. Interest in the van declined as its price rose in the late eighties, and the last Vanagons were imported to the U.S. in 1991. Production in Europe ended in 1992, with South African production (powered by an Audi I5) continuing into 2002.
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