When the clocks ticked over on New Year's Eve last, the world record price paid at auction for a Volkswagen Samba van was US$236,639. That van was a 23-window model, with the record price for the 21-window model standing at $129,719. Barely six months later, the record for the 21-window model now stands at $302,500 and the 23-window record is now $291,500 and with several near perfect specimens of the Samba heading for auction at Monterey Car Week, more records could go.
The record price for a Samba first passed the $200,000 mark in 2011, when Barrett-Jackson sold a 1963 Volkswagen 23-window Deluxe Samba for $217,800. That record stood until November, 2014 when a 1955 VW 23-window Deluxe Samba sold for €190,000 ($236,639) in Germany.
Though the collectible car auction marketplace has been generally erratic over the last 18 months, the T2 Volkswagen bus has been one of the fastest appreciating automobiles on the auction block, with the $100,000 mark seemingly the new auction "floor" for any Samba vans and even some tradesman variants of the Kombi Wagen are pushing past that figure.
The 23-window Samba had always been considered the most valuable until the Scottsdale auctions in January 2017 when a 1967 Volkswagen 21-window Deluxe Samba (pictured directly above) sold for $143,000 to set a new record for the model.
The auction record for a 21-window Samba lasted just 24 hours before another 21-window Deluxe Samba (directly above) took the outright world record for any Samba van with a sale of $302,500, more than doubling the 21-window record of just 24 hours prior. Even more surprisingly, it wasn't even standard – normally the best-of-breed cars which sell for the highest prices are perfectly "bog stock." This one wasn't.
That's the hero image from our story published on January 22, 2017 above. For those who want to get into the fine detail of all the previous $100,000 plus sales for the Volkswagen Kombi/Samba, make sure you read that feature entitled How the Volkswagen Kombi became a family heirloom!
A sale of a 21-window Volkswagen Samba for $104,095 (€97,744) in Paris in February suggested the marketplace temperature had fallen but on April 8, 2017, Barrett-Jackson sold the 1961 Volkswagen 23-window Deluxe Samba above for $291,500, a new record for the 23-window model. That sale along with the January Scottsdale sales appear to have recalibrated the marketplace.
In Portland Oregon on June 17, 2017, the above 1959 Volkswagen 23-window Samba received a bid of $115,000 at a Mecum auction. Given that the 10 percent buyers premium had to be added to that bid and it was not accepted, that means the reserve price for the vehicle was more than $126,500 and given there was no compromise reached, most likely a lot more.
Then in Denver last weekend (July 21-22, 2017), Mecum sold the above 1960 Volkswagen 23-window Samba for $132,000.
The VW Samba/Kombi vans available at auction during 2017 Monterey Car Week
Monterey Car Week is an event of such gravitas that not only do people travel there from around the world, but people from around the world send their cars there to sell them. If you have a top tier automobile of any ilk, you'll most likely get the highest price for it at Monterey because the week long event draws an audience like no other, an audience comprising more Ultra High Net Worth automotive enthusiasts than any other gathering on the planet.
Hence the sale of a 21-window Samba van for $302,500 and a 23-window Samba for $291,500 in the first six months of 2017 means that the world's best available Samba vans are heading to auction at Monterey Car Week 2017. Here's a rundown of the Volkswagen Samba/Kombi vans we'll see in Monterey.
The "woods find" 1959 23-window Volkswagen Samba
Mecum appears to have by far the strongest Samba van line-up at Monterey with the above 1959 Volkswagen Deluxe 23-window Samba the most likely of several Mecum offerings to snatch the record, partly because it is as close to perfect as you can get, and partly because it is one of those fabled "barn finds."
Found in the Oregon woods, the Samba has been the subject of a no-expense-spared rotisserie restoration, and ticks all the boxes. It has traveled only 200 miles since that restoration, comes with a Volkswagen Certificate of Authenticity, and in its only public outing to date, it won the Best Luxury Bus Award at the 2017 Kelley Park Vintage Volkswagen Show held in San Jose, California on April 23 by the Vintage Volkswagen Club of America.
Most importantly, the van also comes with 400 photographs that illustrate the journey from being abandoned in the woods to becoming one of the stars of the most prestigious automotive gathering on Planet Earth. Auction Description
The 100 mph "sleeper" 1959 23-window Volkswagen Samba
Authenticity has always been the defining characteristic of the collectible car movement, though there are signs that may be changing in the middle and lower tiers as a new breed of investor is more interested in function than form. Cars modified in period to be as good as they could be are gaining fast in credibility on the block. The world record $302,500 Samba is not standard and this vehicle might look standard to anything less than the untrained eye, but it most definitely is not.
Instead of the original 40 hp 1200cc horizontally-opposed four-cylinder engine, the engine bay (above) now houses a bored and stroked unit displacing 2,387cc and producing 160 hp. All that extra muscle now drives a new transaxle with much longer gearing, enabling the van to cruise at 100 mph, and the Samba now sports stoppers to match, with disk brakes on all four wheels. Auction Description
Fully-restored 1962 23-window Volkswagen Samba
From the last year of Samba production, this 1962 23-window Volkswagen Sambavan has just completed what the auction report describes as a "no-expense-spared, ground-up restoration." Auction Description
... and another fully-restored 1962 23-window Volkswagen Samba
This 23-window Deluxe Samba was purchased new in Germany in 1962 by a US military sergeant who shipped it home to the United States in 1969. In 2015 the Samba completed a three-year concours restoration project. Auction Description