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Interested in Becoming a Mechanic? Here’s What You Should Know About the Classic Volkswagen Microbus

Published on December 13, 2018 by in Blog, CATI

becoming a mechanic

The Volkswagen Microbus: it’s the vehicle of Bob Dylan album covers, Woodstock, and California surfers seeking the perfect wave. While it’s certainly not the fastest vehicle ever made, for anybody with a passion for cars, the Microbus remains a beloved icon.

So how did the Microbus become such a huge part of our collective culture? Here’s what you should know about what helped turn the Microbus into a legend.

Grads of Auto Mechanic Courses Know the Microbus Was Slow but Practical

When we say the Microbus wasn’t a fast vehicle, we’re not kidding. The first generation version had just a 24hp engine and a maximum speed of 60 mph. When travelling uphill, the Microbus wasn’t capable of going much faster than a runner or cyclist.

The Microbus’ original 24hp engine was weaker than most of the engines you’ll see

The Microbus’ original 24hp engine was weaker than most of the engines you’ll see

That being said, it was practical. The engine was low and in the back, which allowed for that classic cut-off front-end design and lots of interior space. The interior space could be configured for different uses: fixed seats for passengers, a bed for camping adventures, or it could be stripped for cargo. The side door made loading and offloading easy, which was especially appreciated by European businesses in the 1950s as the economy recovered from World War II. Even today, while in North America the Microbus is seen as a romantic symbol of the 60s, in the rest of the world it is considered valuable mainly for its ability to transport cargo and passengers cheaply.

Practicality Is What Made the Microbus So Popular with the Counterculture Movement

Of course, if you’ve thought about becoming a mechanic, your love of the Microbus might stem from its status as the preeminent Hippie Van. The reason the Microbus became so popular with the counterculture movement of the 60s was precisely because of its practicality. Most other auto manufacturers at the time were focused on building sedans, which were great for raising a family in the suburbs, but not quite up to the task of carrying groups of hippies to Woodstock and other music festivals.

The Microbus’s large interior capacity, combined with the fact that it was easy and cheap to maintain, made it seem both practical and rebellious. The fact that it was also used by The Grateful Dead as their touring van only increased its mystique.

There’s a Surprising Reason Why Microbuses Largely Disappeared from North America

In the 1960s, the Microbus was becoming so successful that it was creating problems for US auto manufacturers and President Lyndon Johnson. The United Auto Workers (UAW), then a powerful union, threatened to go on strike partly due to the popularity of VW’s imports. Johnson, to avert that strike and to get the union to support his civil rights agenda, slapped a 25% tax on a number of European goods, including the Microbus.

While that tax was ostensibly in reaction to a European tax on US chicken, White House recordings later revealed that a deal between the UAW and Johnson to protect US automakers from competing with the Microbus played a big role. The tax, which remains in force, is why any version of the classic Microbus from after 1971 is a rare find in North America—and why it remains a nostalgic reminder of the 60s for so many people. That being said, the Microbus is so beloved and so durable that after your auto mechanic courses, don’t be surprised if you see a few of these vehicles rolling into your shop.

Do you want to turn your love of cars into a rewarding career?

Contact CATI to learn more about our training for mechanics.

 
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