Classic VW Kombi restored to its former glory

1996 VW Kombi Bay Wonder

Alice Piper

Posted July 11, 2022

When Rachel and Josh bought a beat-up old Volkswagen Kombi van, they never imagined how restoring the vehicle would enrich their lives so much. 

Driving down the Great Ocean Road in south-west Victoria, VW Kombi owners Rachel and Josh, and their son Jett, are greeted by waves from other vehicles, smiles through car windows and the occasional tooted horn or thumbs up.  

This is common for the pair who fell in love with the iconic model and snapped up a 1969 Bay Window VW Kombi in 2019 with the purpose of restoring it to its former glory. 

“When we first saw her in the driveway, I thought ‘I think she’s going to be the one’,” says Josh. 

Indy, as the VW Kombi is affectionately named, has been a real labour of love. 

Rachel is an employee of RACV.

Where did the VW Kombi love begin? 

The VW Kombi stands for ‘combination vehicle’, which is the English translation for the German word Kombinationskraftwagen.

However, depending on where in the world you reside, the enthusiast favourite has several different names. Germans call the Kombi a ‘VW Bus’, in Peru it’s known as a Combi Asesina which translates to ‘Deadly Combi’, a name given to it in recognition of the vehicle’s role in the city’s ruthless traffic. In Portugal, the VW Kombi is known as a Pão de Forma, with the name referencing its long body shape that resembles a bread loaf.  

From an engineering standpoint, the VW Kombi is a van that's built on the same basic platform as the classic Volkswagen Beetle. The design dates back to the 1950s, starting out with split windscreens to improve its aerodynamics. 

Becoming a cultural stalwart, the VW Kombi was the beating heart of the hippy movement of the 1960s and the vehicle of choice for surfing road trips. In recent times, with the rise of social media and a growing appetite for all things vintage, the VW Kombi’s charms are back in vogue, with many now returning to the vehicle as part of living a van-based life.  The VW Kombi van has even gained a bevy of celebrity owners including Jack Nicholson, Jamie Oliver and Jerry Seinfeld. 

To much fanfare, Volkswagen announced the latest iteration of its iconic Kombi van in 2022, an electric vehicle named the ID.Buzz, appealing to a new generation of Kombi buyers looking for more technology, safety and zero emissions driving.  


family standing inside a VW Kombi

VW Kombi owners Rachel and Josh, and their son Jett.


The VW Kombi restoration begins 

Taking ownership of the VW Kombi not long before the 2020 pandemic meant that when Victoria went into lockdown, Josh and Rachel had a lot of time on their hands to work on the restoration.  

“We didn’t realise how much time we needed to dedicate to it,” says Josh. “Restoring takes a really long time, so given we were in lockdown, all we had was time – it would be a lot harder if our lives were full.” 

“We’ve definitely put a lot of work into her,” adds Josh. “But I knew she needed a fair bit of work done and some TLC before we even bought her.”  

“Inside needed a lot of work, including a new roof lining, glove box, all new carpet throughout and middle seats.”

Challenges of restoring a VW Kombi 

Obtaining parts for the VW Kombi, since they come from overseas, was no easy feat during the pandemic.   

“Parts was absolutely our biggest challenge,” says Rachel. “Because of how delayed the postal service was at the time, they took a long time to come, which for us wasn’t so bad, but it really extended the process.” 

Another challenge in restoring their VW Kombi was that despite how capable they both are when it comes to DIY, there were certain elements that needed an automotive restoration professional.  

“You have to think about what your skills and limitations are,” says Josh. “And whether or not you have the capabilities and correct tools to do it.” 

“Sometimes it’s just better to outsource things to a professional.”  


The vehicle's licence plate reflects the VW Kombi's year and model.
Collecting car models has always been a hobby for Rachel and Josh.

Biggest joy from restoring their VW Kombi

Along with the leisurely drives down the coast of Victoria and the satisfaction of having completed such a big project, for Rachel, the biggest joy of their VW Kombi restoration is the connections they’ve made with fellow car lovers – young and old. 

“It’s a conversation starter,” says Rachel. “It brings everyone a lot of joy and we get to meet a lot of wonderful people.”

“We once took someone for a ride and they were over the moon because they have always wanted to ride in a Kombi,” adds Rachel. “And all we did was take them to Coles!” 

Don’t think the vehicle is going to sit in the garage for weekend trips only  because Josh has big plans to turn their restored VW Kombi van into a thriving business.

“I want to turn it into a mini transport business and do wedding, corporate events, and school formals,” he says. 

Is another car restoration on the horizon? 

Both Josh and Rachel agree there are no immediate plans for another car restoration.   

“I do love the Karmann Ghia, which is also a Volkswagen, and that’s my dream car,” he adds. “But it’s rarer than a Kombi for sure, so we’ll see what happens.”

If you’re feeling inspired to undertake your own vehicle restoration project, Josh says it’s important to start off by doing lots of research. 

“Whether it’s looking through magazines, going to car shows, or going onto the internet, take time to understand what’s required.” 
"You should definitely know what you’re in for.” 

Josh did a complete engine rebuild as part of the restoration.
The inside of the VW Kombi was entirely redone, including new carpet and leather.

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