This guide has been drafted for the 23-window Volkswagen Deluxe Microbus, often referred to as the “Samba” bus or “Alpine” bus (depending on the market). For simplicity, this vehicle will be referred to as the “Samba” or "Deluxe Microbus" throughout this guide. The guide outlines the features of the Samba from March 1955 – July 1958, which among enthusiasts is regarded as a series which embodies several changes distinct from the pre-March 1955 “Barn-door” bus, and subsequent changes from August 1958 onward. Follow this link for information on the pre-March 1955 Samba bus.
Although the 1955 – 1958 vehicles are dealt with in this guide as a distinct series of the Samba bus, many changes to the vehicles occurred within these years, as Volkswagen didn’t necessarily wait until a new model year to introduce alterations. Many features of the 1955 - 1958 model were carried over from the pre-1955 Samba bus, and certain features were added or changed depending on the vehicle’s year and market.
The prices asked for genuine 23-window Samba buses are very high, with significantly higher prices paid for early, original and low production vehicles. As a prospective purchaser or restorer, it is essential to have an understanding of the various features which distinguish the year models in order to determine a vehicle’s authenticity and originality. This guide provides information with respect to the visual clues, relevant codes and unique features applicable to the original Samba bus within the specific production period noted.
Production numbers and period of manufacture:
Production of the post barn-door buses commenced in March 1955 and the series targeted in this guide concluded in July 1958.
Note: the above production numbers have been confirmed on several online sources. However, the accuracy of these figures cannot be guaranteed. It has not been confirmed whether these production numbers refer to calendar year or production year figures.
Please note, this guide has been written based on a variety of online sources and enthusiast input. You should not rely on this guide to make any purchasing decision and we make no representation that all information is accurate. You should always seek independent professional advice when looking to purchase a unique car. If you have additional information, photographs or corrections you believe need to be made to this page, please contact us by clicking the button at the top of this page, or comment below.
Note: A large number of changes occurred to the Samba bus from August 1958 onward. Those changes will be dealt with in a separate ID-guide.
The following features were present on the 1955-1958 Deluxe Microbus.
Prior to August 1958, the Deluxe Microbus was only available in one colour combination. Alternative colours to this combination were not offered until after August 1958. The colours available on the Deluxe from 1955 - July 1958 included:
Paint code location:
Microbuses produced prior to October 1958 did not have an M-plate, and no paint code is printed or stamped anywhere on the vehicle. Finding codes is largely irrelevant for the 1955 - 1958 Samba, given that it was only available with the two-tone combination.
Chassis plate and stamping:
The VIN/chassis plate is located on the back right side of the engine bay (on the firewall/bulkhead). The chassis plate can be decoded in the following way:
Below the chassis plate, the chassis number is stamped into the body of the vehicle. The number stamping should match the chassis plate. The locations of the chassis plate and numbers are detailed in the images.
|Year of manufacture||Chassis # and notes|
|1955||# 20117903 - 20137605|
|1956||# 20-137606 > 191466. On April 19th 1956, the last Type 2 was built in Wolfsburg (Chassis 20-178-004). From then on, the new factory in Hannover began production. 1956 also saw the change in chassis numbers (no more '20' prefix was applied).|
|1957||# 191467 - 191466|
|1958||# 271676 - 371275|
The body number is located on the bulkhead behind the front seat. However, on pre M-plate vehicles (such as this series of the Microbus), this had no interpretable meaning other than being sequential, and was purely an internal production reference number.
The engine number is stamped on the front generator mount, easily visible after opening the engine hatch.
Engine numbers from 1955 - 1960 should begin with a 2, 3 or 4, followed by a 6-digit unique number (See images). Unfortunately, the engine number is not listed on the chassis plate, and without obtaining a 'birth certificate' from Volkswagen, it is difficult to determine whether the engine is in fact original to that specific vehicle. In addition to checking whether the engine number is consistent with the above format, date stamps on the engine can also assist, as outlined below.
Engine Case Date Stamps:
Date stamps were cast into the block and can be found in two locations:
The stamping contains 3 groups of digits that refer to the production date of the engine.
Group 1: Day of the month
Group 2: Month
Group 3: The first is the shift number of the day, and the second digit refers to the year the engine was produced.
For example: "4 - 7 - 46" would confirm the 4th day of the 7th month (July), and the 4th shift of the 6th year (i.e. 1956). This can then be compared to your chassis number data to confirm whether the engine approximately aligns with the vehicle's build date.
Mechanically, the Deluxe Microbus was identical to the other buses in the Volkswagen range, and had the following features:
We have started collecting several examples of original brochures / advertisements for the Deluxe Microbus, and the intention is to display these here for historical purposes.
If anyone has copies of early documentation, such as brochures, advertisements or specification sheets, please contact us so we can display the information.
Please note, all documentation placed here is not owned by Classic Register, and is for historical reference and educational purposes only. Upon request from any original copyright owner, the material will be removed.
The following sources, among input from many owners and enthusiasts, have contributed to the creation of this page. If you have any further information you believe can be added, please let us know by contacting us or commenting at the base of this page.