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The Big Window Volkswagen T3 in South Africa

Big Window T3
Big Window Volkswagen Microbus 2002 - Available on Rental with Lekker Camper

So What is a Big Window T3 and do they even exist? 

Most people think The T25/T3 was simply produced in South Africa over a longer period with an updated engine, but they would be wrong.

The original T25 vehicles were produced in Germany from 1979 until 1992.  In Europe they are better known as the Transporter or the Vanagon in North America. In South Africa, the equivalent is known as the Microbus or Kombi.

The Microbus vehicle produced in South Africa is quite different to any other Volkswagen Type 2 (T25/T3).  They ran off the factory production line in South Africa between 1993 and 2003, much later that in Europe or America.  One of the most noticeable differences are the bigger windows behind the B-pillars.  That is the reason the South African models are called the 'Big Window T3’s'. 

Other differences include a different and more up to date dashboard and a grill and headlight combination. The wasserboxer engines of Europe were replaced with more powerful and reliable 5-cylinder Audi engines. The 5-cylinder T3's came out with 2.3, 2.5 and 2.6 fuel injected variations along with 4 or 5-speed transmissions. 15" rims were fitted as standard with larger ventilated front disc brakes to accommodate the power of the 5-cylinder engines.  Fuel tanks sizes were increased to 85 litres enabling one to travel further distances on the long and beautiful roads of South Africa.

T25
Transporter / Vanagon 1979 - 1992
  Big Window Microbus
Big Window Microbus 1993 - 2003

The 2.3s are coupled with the 4 speed gearbox whilst the 2.5 and 2.6s have a 5 speed gearbox.  The 5 speed box has smaller intervals between gears, but both have roughly the same top gear ratio.  In addition, the engine bays were raised 100mm and the larger Audi engines were tilted sideways to fit into the engine compartment.  The loss of space is hardly noticed, but the extra power makes cruising along the South African coast a real treat. 

The Microbus was the most popular model amongst South African families with airconditioning and power steering as standard.  Then there was the more basic Volksiebus that did not have air-conditioning or some of the frills of the Microbus, but was a more economical choice.  All models had power steering as it is near on impossible to turn the wheels without some hydraulic assistance. From year 2000 onwards all models in South Africa had colour coded bumpers and wing mirrors.  As in Europe the Caravelle was on offer with electric windows and side mirrors and larger bucket seats with arm rests.  The Caravelle Exclusive was later introduced with 2 rear facing bucket seats and a built in fridge.  The range was completed with the all wheel drive Synchro, but only a handful were ever produced.

All the vehicles are fitted with central locking, an alarm and immobiliser.  Most of the vehicles are also fitted with a gearlock enabling one to padlock the vehicle in reverse gear. 

The original T25s shared an era with the Golf mk 1 and therefore shared a lot of parts with the Golf.   Citi Golfs were produced in South Africa until 2011 and parts are still readily available for both vehicles.  Hopefully we will see the Iconic Big Window T3s on the roads in many years to come. Certainly Lekker Camper is keeping a spotless fleet of Big Window T3's on the road happily cruising the coastal routes, Garden Route and the inland areas of the Karoo.

Posted by Hannes van Tonder 10/04/2013

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