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Introducing……The Original Swamper Thing!

What would happen if a Volkswagen Thing and a Type 2 T1 spawned an offspring?

Well, we’re confident that it would look a lot like the fabled VW Half-Track Fox you see here.

We love creating Volkswagen swampers. You can of course, tell. Yet even our ‘go-anywhere’ builds have their all-terrain limitations. Irrespective of their monster BF Goodrich tyres and lifted suspension.

A problem that didn’t stop one particular Veedub swamper in its tracks (physical and literal) back in the day. The 1960's day that is.

When Urban Legend Became Reality

It’s like a mythical creature that people generally only talk about in hushed tones. Urban legend that is handed down through the generations. Questions lingering over whether or not it actually exists.

Thankfully we’re not talking about the Abominable Snowman (nor Yeti, depending on which yarn you were spun of yore). However, this is-it-isn’t-it-real non-myth is equally as useful in snowy terrains as the Rockies’ answer to the Loch Ness Monster.

More on which, we’ll explain after the drop.

The Drop

A split-screen VW Type 2 T1 Transporter on permanent snow tracks is a sight to behold in whatever exterior paint job it’s finished in.

We’re sure you’ll agree.

Yet this one-off stands out still further thanks to its vivacious orange colouration.

Yet this unique Volkswagen being Tango’d pales in comparison to its astonishing mean of forward progression. And the engineering prowess which made this one-off project possible. And that was all down to an Austrian mechanic who dedicated four years of his life to designing - and subsequently constructing - what was later dubbed the ‘Half Track Fox’.

What makes this feat even more impressive, was the fact that this most original of VW camper conversions happened some 60-plus years ago.

Before we venture down the ‘how’ avenue, we answer the more pressing question of just ‘why’ Kurt Kretzner embarked on his engineering odyssey from the outset. The answer simply being a passion to enable practitioners of certain professions to perform their roles with greater ease.

Or at least, be able to get from A to B.

VW Swamper Genesis

This bona fide off-road Veedub beast Bulli’s modus operandi was that it was an everyman/woman campervan. Yet perfectly placed for those whose business - as well as pleasure - might have taken them a little off piste.

Mountain hut keepers, forestry workers, ski-lift maintenance engineers, hunters, medics, etc.

Those folk who needed to get somewhere inhospitable in a hurry. And who were specifically targeted in the accompanying sales literature.

A vision fuelled by Kretzner’s own obsession with ski-ing, and the desire to own a vehicle which could handle every type of terrain and adverse weather condition it encountered en route.

It wasn’t just this aspect that inspired Kretzner.

It was the need to create something which didn’t exist at that point in history. Or anytime since, to be honest. With echoes of a certain Elon Musk, Kretzner went on record saying; “I couldn’t find the vehicle I was dreaming of. So, I decided to build it myself.”

So, Just What Did He Build?

Well, it helped that Kretzner was mechanically adept. And that he was employed by VW. Despite these advantages, the alpine-ready Kombi was originally four years in the making.

In terms of the bare bones of the Bulli, it was very much a numbers game.

Four axles, divided into two steerable front axles along with two chain-driven rear axles. Whilst 14-inch rough-tread tyres were utilised on the front wheels, teamed with 13-inch chain-mounted rear tyres.

In addition, each tyre had its own individual brake, and Kretzner also factored in an automatic limited slip differential to ensure smooth distribution of the power. Kretzner’s own bespoke design, apparently.

Not that the ‘power’ was anything to write home about.

The 1.2-litre power plant - such as it was - in this modified Type 2 T1 managed to muster just 33bhp. Giving the Half-Track Fox a top speed of a meagre 56mph. But as we have already learned, Kretzner essentially wished to build a relatively comfortable Veedub minibus that could circumnavigate mountains in whatever weather conditions prevailed.

Which is precisely what he achieved.

You Ain’t Seen A Swamper Until You’ve Seen This

Legend also has it that Kretzner didn’t just create the one Half-Track Fox. But instead followed it up with another from the same blueprint. Only that one has never been unearthed, so remains fiction over fact as we write.

Either way, this version 1.0 has been on quite the journey since its inception. And during the intervening years from initial build disappeared off everyone’s radars. Before rocking up in the Porsche Museum in Austria, of all places. The papertrail thereafter saw the serious swamper end up with the Bullikartei e.V. A clandestine society of first-gen Bulli aficionados which began ‘rehabilitating’ the microbus in 2005.

Which was somewhat short lived.

Fast-forward to 2018, when the Half-Track Fox was acquired by the Volkswagen Classic Commercial Vehicles division. Who undertook a ground-up restoration process on the camper, affording its dedicated resto team carte blanche on the interior aspects.

Hence the liberal smattering of beech and pine wood throughout the cabin space.

This was in tandem with overhauling the mechanics and engineering underpinnings, and stripping and repairing the exterior. Culminating in giving the vivacious bodywork colour a timely refresh after 60 years in the wilderness. Courtesy of a cathodic dip coating and bright orange finish.

Wirral Custom Campers Can Help You With Your Exacting VW Swamper Requirements

In February 2022, the revamped Veedub Half-Track Fox made its second debut outing, post-transformation. And now the next chapter in this unique van’s history is about to be written.

If you prefer your Volkswagen swamper a little less military in spec, then you’re in luck. As we have another TWO swampers currently under builds. Both of which are specially budgeted campervan conversions to appeal to a broader demographic. Especially broader than the Half-Track Fox crowd.

If either of these two swampers float your boat (check out our social media channels for weekly progress reports on the conversions), then get in touch with our team today.

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