For many Americans, they prompt images of hippies and surfers, or perhaps memories of wholesome camping holidays. Europeans may associate them more with the police or parcel delivery. As for their name, take your pick: Type 2, T2, Kombi, Transporter, Bulli, Micro Bus, Samba Minibus, Vanagon, Caravelle, Clipper L.
The warm feelings will no doubt be chilled by Volkswagen's announcement that production of the much-adored rear-engine vans will shut down at the end of 2013, after 63 years.
Long gone from European and North American showrooms, the vans that were admired for their simplicity and durability, if not their reliability or speed, have continued production in Brazil, where they are called Kombis. But new safety standards in Brazil are finally forcing the end of assembly of second-generation -- or as VW prefers, T2 -- models.
When the assembly line shuts down, the production of rear-engine vans will total about 1.6 million units in Brazil over 56 years, on top of roughly 7.9 million built at plants in Austria, Germany, Mexico and South Africa. A special Last Edition model of 1,200 Brazilian T2s, with retro hubcaps and interior features, will see out the model.
"It's the exclamation point, the end of an era," said S. Lucas Valdes, the owner of GoWesty, an online parts retailer for camper vans in Los Osos, Calif.
The idea of a van based on the Beetle came from Ben Pon, whose family imported VWs to the Netherlands. On a visit to the factory in 1947, he saw a flatbed truck fashioned from a Beetle chassis being used for in-plant deliveries. His sketch of a box on wheels strongly resembled what became the T1.
The early models were inexpensive to buy and economical to run, and their squareness offered remarkable interior space relative to their overall size. The shortcomings, notably a lack of horsepower, were just as obvious.
With their large windshields and front seats positioned above and ahead of the front axle, the vans offered a somewhat unsettling driving experience.
"You feel like you're being catapulted in front of the vehicle," said Mr. Valdes, who owns a 1979 T2. "There's just a little piece of sheet metal in front of you."
Over time, variations proliferated. VW offered pickups and raised-roof models; aftermarket companies offered conversions that included hearses and roving airport traffic control towers for the Australian air force.
The era of rear-engine vans for the United States ended in 1991 when VW stopped importing the T3. While larger and more sophisticated than the first two models, even a change to a water-cooled engine did not reverse the view that the T3 was antiquated and overpriced. North Americans received the T4, or Eurovan, with a water-cooled engine up front in 1993. In 2006, the Brazilian T2s lost their air-cooled power plant, replaced by a 1.4-liter engine that required the addition of a prominent black radiator to the van's front.
In 2001, VW displayed a Microbus design study at the Detroit auto show that combined the styling of the T2 and T1 with modern mechanical and safety features. But in the end, VW introduced the Routan, a restyled Chrysler minivan that evoked suburban driveways more than peace signs.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.