In order to understand when the T2 production started, I also had to determine when the official VW factory holidays were during summer of 1967. When I searched the Internet, I found a lot of information – even a (58-page long) Volkswagen AG annual report for 1967. Unfortunately it mentioned all kind of information, except a mention of the period when the factory workers were on vacation. Luckily I stumbled over helpful hint in a German forum. Someone in this forum had asked about a general date when factory holidays were held every year. A user (who comes from the Wolfsburg area) replied to the question the following way (translated to English language by me):
„The VW vacation was always “embedded“ in the school vacation in Lower Saxony. I remember that it always was about 1.5 weeks after the start of the school vacation.
As an example – for 1972, the following should probably apply:
School holidays Lower Saxony: Thu., July 20, 1972 – Wed., August 30, 1972
VW works holidays Mo., 31.07.1972 – Fr., 18.08.1972.
On Fridays after the end of the shift, most of the workers rushed into the traffic – their vehicles were usually loaded beforehand.”
According to the theory of this user, after which the factory holiday lasted for 19 days, I tried to apply his formula for 1967 and came to the following result:
School holidays Lower Saxony: Mo., 03.07.1967 – Mo., 14.08.1967
VW works holidays: Mon., Jul 17, 1967 – Fri, Aug 4, 1967
This modified theory seems to be correct to me, especially because so far I have been unable to find any bus (T1 or T2) that was built during this period – or any bus that at least was planned for this period. (If someone does have information about such a vehicle, I would still be happy to get to know about it!)
The closest vehicles to this period are:
a T1 (2X7 148 256) with the planned production date July 12, 1967,
a T2 (2X8 001 609) with the planned production date July 14, 1967,
and a T2 (2X8 001 769) with the planned production date 07.08.1967.
This may confirm my theory that either factory vacations have actually been held – OR that the production has been stopped to rebuild the factory’s infrastructure to manufacture the T2, which is much more likely. I am talking about the modification of the assembly lines and various machines that were previously used for the T1 buses. It occurs very unlikely that almost 20,000 employees were all on vacation at the same time and did not do anything.
Vacation lock including factory conversion instead of holiday?
In the IG T2 forum I stumbled across some highly interesting comments from Wolfgang. He already worked as an apprentice in the Volkswagen plant in Hannover in 1967 and gives some insights into the situation at that time:
“In the summer of 1967, of course, was a state of emergency. In every sense. Vacation block, wherever possible, overtime, extra shifts. The full program.
Back then I was still an apprentice, and of course I know very little background, but through my father I noticed many things. Apprentices were never allowed to work in production, but „only“ in the secondary areas, such as tool-making, fixture construction, cutting and what else was there. In any case, we were extremely proud to be able to participate – without really understanding the historical dimension. And of course we were thrilled with the new bus. No more bow legs, modern shape, high-tech chassis. It was supposed to be the most successful bus ever.
The production of the new parts had already started up before the holidays, so that there was a good deal in the warehouse. During the holidays, the assembly lines were then modified or newly built. It wasn’t just a simple model change, but over the years before that, new insights had also become established in production technology. I think the first robotic cells came into play at that time (VW had built the robots themselves), production had to be more flexible and faster (much more variance than before), the individual lines were coordinated more closely so that the huge buffer quantities in between were smaller (at that time, body shells were removed from the line in large numbers by hand on special chassis and pushed through the factory because any reworking had to be done).
So it was not only a technological leap concerning the vehicle, but above all in production and control. So I’m not surprised that there were problems. Back then, the boys could not simulate everything on the computer beforehand, but only by trial and error. Or wise thinking.“
When asked about the start-up problems of T2 production at the end of 1967, which are discussed in this german speaking video, Wolfgang revealed the following:
„Yeah, I admit it: I was there at the time (and kind of feel guilty 🙂 ). However, I can no longer remember specific problems, and I was not so deeply involved. But we had a holiday lock and everyone who knew how to hold a hammer had to help. For a few weeks in hot July, I was assigned to convert the molds for the cylinder heads in the fireproof suit. I hated it, not only because of the warmth, but also because you looked like a sow in the evening. The girls didn’t like that at all. Later I was allowed to use the cutting tools for the body parts, which was much more promising.
I assume that the difficulties mentioned in the film generally relate to the start of series production at the time. It was the first time that VW had to convert a factory to a completely new follow-up model while production was still running. Until then, there were always new buildings or extensions or limited model changes, but never a completely new car in the old halls. Almost all of the systems would have had to be converted during the vacation. Since that would of course not have been enough, things already went haywire in the last T1 months.
At that time, most of the controls still worked mechanically and had to be laboriously adjusted and made suitable for series production. Today this is programmed and simulated on the computer, then you „only“ have to switch over. Well, it’s not that easy …
It wasn’t until many years later, when I was dealing with the production organization, that I realized what a huge task it was for VW at the time. The longer I think about it, the more it amazes me that in the end actually driving cars came out.
And they weren’t that bad, were they?”
Additional comment on work during the factory holidays:
The people who worked during the factory vacation took their vacation later, so the vacation destinations weren’t that crowded anymore. In addition, you received more money if you worked on evening, during night and weekends – so that was quite lucrative during the company holidays.
I worked in the factory holidays the following year, too, as every year there were massive conversions. 1968, however, no longer as an apprentice, but as a finished toolmaker. Starting hourly wages of 5.34 DM, which is a good 2.50 euros. At that time, VW paid well above average. Nevertheless, I could use the 100% surcharge from the weekend work quite well. Ok and to be fair, the simplest beetle did not cost full 2,000 euros at the time for plant employees. Looking at these numbers today seems like they are from the Middle Ages … „
So there were some start-up problems that persisted until the end of 1967 and as a consequence led to the introduction of pre-series production for future models.
One example of these initial problems in the factory, which also led to delays in production, is the second oldest T2 bus that is currently known. It is a panel van with the chassis number 67. According to the M-plate, this transporter has the planned production date of July 12, 1967. But I wanted to know more about it and contacted the owner to find out about the much more reliable production date – according to the VW birth certificate. He confirmed to me that his bus was planned for July 12th – but the official birth certificate attests August 17, 1967 as the actual day of build.
Of course, you also have to consider that between these two days the factory holidays took place, which were used to convert production lines.
I am describing more about these delays in production on another subpage: Production figures for the VW T2 in 1967. There I also report a strange week in early October 1967 – for which no planned production days for the T2 bus could be found so far.
Get back to the topic overview.
Or continue reading through my research in chronological written order:
- The oldest T2 (baywindow) bus
- VW works vacation – summer 1967: vacation locks, remodeling of the assembly lines & delays (=current site)
- Summer 1967: End of the splitbus era, start of earlybay production
- Production figures of the VW T2 for 1967
- VW T2 register and surviving 1967-built buses