This is the story about an early Volkswagen Bus wreck from the 1950s, which I rescued with a friend in an Austrian forest at the end of 2020. Of course we captured everything with lots of photos and a video – as seen below!
It all started in late September 2020. A young boy with a hobby of tracking down historical objects using his metal detector was out in a forest south of Vienna. He was accompanied by his father and friends, who meanwhile spent their time looking for mushrooms.
When the said young man moved away from the group to track down interesting relics off the beaten track, it happened! He discovered a pit at the end of a long unused, overgrown forest road. There it was, the barndoor bus! Well … let’s say the remains of the barndoor bus. It almost looked as if the bus had actually fallen from the sky and had caused this crater itself – as flat as the body was. The wreck was photographed and a single photo was posted on the social networks. That’s how Bernhard and I found out about it and immediately expressed our great interest, despite the poor condition.
A few days later we were there ourselves with the said finder to inspect the T1 remains. Arriving there, we very soon had certainty about how bad the condition of the bus really was. It was obvious that the transporter had been resting there for several decades – and that it did not roll into this pit on its own axis, but more likely was deliberately tipped over into it as a way of „disposing it“. I came to that conclusion because the bus was lying on the passenger side or the roof – it was generally hard to tell because the body had collapsed and was twisted. The driver’s cab was already partitioned off and sat in a different angle than the rest of the bus. We took more photos and in the following weeks clarified everything with the forest owner to plan the recovery of the VW T1 bus.
In mid-December 2020 the time had finally come – we caught a window between the lockdowns to salvage the Barndoor wreck. Due to the poor accessibility, we arrived with a lot of equipment, after all, we wanted to be prepared for all eventualities. Among plenty of tools, we were supported by Niko, my cousin’s friend, who is fortunately a forest worker and came with a tractor and trailer that was equipped with a crane. Without this equipment, the rescue would have been unthinkable in retrospect. A helicopter at most would have helped – but the wreck would have been too porous to be recovered from the air. After all, the Volkswagen T1 was exposed to the weather for several decades, and laid at the lowest point of the pit, where it was easily accessible for rainwater – one of the reasons why the sheet metal is so thin now. Bullet holes in the side wall also indicated that at some point over time someone had put a load of shot into the body with their rifle.
Nevertheless we wanted to salvage and preserve the bus for nostalgic reasons. So the 7-person recovery team began to carefully expose the body in order to lift it, load it and transport it away. Every small piece of scrap metal was collected and the forest floor was left as it should be: only covered with leaves, branches and soil.
Unfortunately, our suspicion that it was illegal disposal was confirmed. The chassis number could not be found. In general, there is no badge or other stamped number that would reveal more about the vehicle. Sometimes a sheet was generally cut out, sometimes the rust just did the rest. In any case, we have saved all parts and stored them dry in a barn .. who knows, maybe something interesting will turn up …
On the basis of various still existing parts and features, Bernhard was able to determine that it must be a VW T1 bus built in mid-1952. So a very early bus, after all, as the T1 was built from 1950-1967!
In general, it was a very exciting and fun experience! I’m happy to have unearthed another piece of Wolfsburg history, and I could get used to it right away.
I am very grateful for any tip about an old VW – no matter how bad its condition – and hope to be able to recover and preserve more vehicles in this way.