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Remembering the maddest Kombi

2007-10-10 08:10
The venerable Volkswagen Kombi. From a set of humble pencil sketches in 1947 it became the vehicle which launched a thousand Baja surf adventures and umpteen South African coastal vacations.

And it was always spacious, had rather brick-like aerodynamics and was powered by characterful sounding horizontally opposed engines.

South Africans loved the old Kombi, and although it's current VW MPV replacements are altogether more refined, modern vehicles, the cachet of the old vehicle remains.

Although even the range topping 2.6-litre versions available throughout the 1990's sounded like suburban compromise Porsche 911s, they were hardly fast...except for one. A very special, bespoke, understated variant: the VW Oettinger Caravelle 3.2.

Unleashed upon the South African market in 1988, this 3.2-litre, flat-six Volksiebus was simply the quickest way to get the in-laws anywhere away from your home on a Sunday afternoon.

To achieve the decidedly Porsche like flat-six configuration and 3.2-litre swept capacity without altering the bore or stroke, two extra cylinder pots were added, which obviously necessitate a newly machined crankshaft and cylinder heads.

Bosch Digijet fuel injection fed the machine, and it produced 121kW at 4800r/min and 260Nm at 3800r/min, which was a ludicrous amount of MPV power for 1988 South Africa.

With the Oettinger Caravelle 3.2 weighing in at only 1640kg, and driving through a four-speed manual gearbox - much like the original 911 turbo configuration - performance was quite epic for 1988.

It sprinted from 0-100km/h in 10.47 seconds and topped out at aerodynamic and gear-ratio constrained 172km/h. Fuel consumption was in line with the performance character of the Oettinger and subsequently you were lucky averaging more than 6km's to the litre.

Vastly more powerful than any other MPV available locally at the time, the Oettinger Caravelle was perhaps the ultimate touring vehicle of it's era: cosmically spacious, comfortable, neat handling and effortlessly fast.

The pseudo-Porsche 911 soundtrack was the clincher though, especially considering the relatively understated exterior styling treatment of the Oettinger versions which extended little beyond an 'Oettinger WBX 6' badge.


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