An unexpected icon, the VW camper van was originally designed in Germany as a low cost utility vehicle. After being shipped from a bomb-damaged German factory to England in 1945, it was dismissed by motor manufacturers as ‘too ugly and noisy’.

Despite a bumpy start, the van went on be sold more than 10 million times, and become a globally recognised icon of the 1960s hippie era. Few other products ever made have had the ability to conjure a spirit of freedom and adventure in such a widely understood way.

The 1960s ad asking ‘Do you have the right wife for it?’ tells the audience loud and clear that this isn’t just a vehicle, this is a lifestyle choice.

The power of its symbolism is demonstrated through its consistent use in films, music and fashion to communicate, very simply and clearly, a certain era and lifestyle. During its heyday, the van graced the covers of Bob Dylan’s album covers and was Scooby Doo’s vehicle of choice. Today the van is used as a throwback to era, covering surfers’ boards and featuring in recent films Cars and Little Miss Sunshine.

And through these interjections in pop culture, despite no longer being in production, the spirit of ‘the hippie van’ lives on.

Rhonwen Lally - Planning Executive at mcgarrybowen.

Follow Rhonwen on twitter @rhonwenlally

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