Volkswagen Bus turns 60 – Click above for high-res image gallery

Many automakers will build cars for decades and never create a product that can truly be considered a cultural icon. Few that do produce multiple such models. One of those is Volkswagen.The original Beetle/Bug/Type 1 is recognizable almost anywhere and even by people that know nothing about cars. The Beetle itself spawned another icon in the form of the Type 2 (or Microbus), a vehicle that is celebrating its diamond anniversary in 2010.

Like the original Bug, the Microbus had an air-cooled flat-four cylinder engine hanging off the back of the rear axle. The front seats were moved up over the front axle creating a format that was eventually copied by Ford, Dodge, General Motors and countless Japanese automakers.

Over sixty years, the bus became the ride of choice for surfers, hippies and iconoclasts everywhere. Many surviving examples from the 1960s are still hauling surfboards and Deadheads today. In the 1980s, the third-generation bus morphed into the still-loved but less iconic Vanagon, with emissions standards forcing the adoption of water cooling in 1983. The last of the rear-engined VW vans ceased production in 1992. A tip of the hat to Brooks!

*UPDATED: New photos added and official VW press release available after the jump

Related GalleryVolkswagen Bus Turns 60!

[Sources: Volkswagen, Life]

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HAPPY 60TH BIRTHDAY TO THE WORLD'S MOST POPULAR VAN

Production of the Volkswagen Transporter van officially started in March 1950 and during the 60 years since then it has become one of Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles' best-selling models globally, the number one imported van in the UK as well as one of the most iconic and popular vans in the world.

With over 10 million produced, the Volkswagen Transporter has evolved through five generations of functional and practical bodystyles, each representing the ultimate multi-purpose vehicle of its time and loved by business and private users alike for transporting goods or people for work or leisure. This unique heritage is the focus of the current 'Evolution of Van' advertising campaign for the new Transporter which was launched in the UK in January.

The first T1 'split-screen' model was powered by a four-cylinder, air-cooled, 1.1-litre petrol engine mounted at the back of the vehicle. It produced 25 PS of power and had a top speed of about 60 mph. By comparison, the new Transporter enjoys the refinement of Volkswagen's latest 2.0-litre, common rail, turbocharged diesel engine, available with power outputs ranging from 84 PS to 180 PS and a top speed of up to 119 mph, plus the latest stability control systems and braking technology that would have sounded like something from a science fiction novel 60 years ago.

Although the design has evolved over the years, the first and the latest Transporter share the same badge on the front and the same design principles of a generous loadspace and an enviable reputation for quality and durability.

Similarly, comparing the latest Volkswagen California with a T1 campervan shows that both make efficient use of the space available to create a vehicle equally suitable for daily trips to work or the shops, as for weekend escapes or continental capers.

Over the years, Volkswagen Transporters have endured challenging round the world trips by enthusiastic travellers, been used as the preferred choice of travel for rock bands since the 1960s to the present day, and been relied upon by many businesses needing a fleet of delivery or passenger carrying vehicles.

The first Transporter was imported into the UK in 1955, and the latest version of the van as well as today's people-carrying and campervan versions, the Caravelle and California, arrived in the UK this January, 55 years later. Full details of the new Transporter, Caravelle and California and the latest finance offers are available by calling 0800 717131 or visiting www.volkswagen.vans.co.uk.