Type 147 – Volkswagen Kleinlieferwagen/Fridolin

Words by Charles Harding & Photos by Michael Schaffer – Published in Hayburner Issue 38

The Type147 (Kleinlieferwagen/Fridolin) came about after German Bundespost approached Volkswagen in 1962 with an interesting exact specification it needed to have a storage capacity of at least two cubic meters, with an engine and suspension system capable of carrying around 400kg without no issue.

They also specified a rough size, and asked that it had two sliding doors to help with deliveries.

Previously, the German postal service used the Goggomobil, a strange little vehicle but its tiny engine couldn’t keep up with the strain of carrying the weight required.

Volkswagen took on the challenge and the end result of this was the VW Type 147 Kleinlieferwagen (or ‘little van’). The vans were based on the chassis of the VW Beetle but later changed over to a Karmann Ghia chassis as it was wider. It ended up being a bit of a jumble of parts – including the engine, transmission and axles from the Beetle but headlights from the Type 3 and a cut down tailgate from the T2 Splitscreen.

Only around 6,139 Type147’s were made between 1964, when production began, to 1974. Of these, only around 200 are said to be on the road.

The Fridolin we are looking at here belongs to Steven, he is 44 years old, self employed working with young people with difficulties along with design and advertising living in the German district of Emsland. His VW obsession began a number years ago when he purchased a 1600 VW Square-back. Through owning the vehicle, he made great friends who thought him about all things air-cooled. His next car was a T2 high roof. He bought the bus because he wanted to travel, go camping and visit as many VW shows as possible. He visited a lot of shows in Germany and abroad, his favourite being Le Bug Show“ in Spa.

Soon after he added a ’65 Beetle to his collection. Then it happened, he saw one and decided his ultimate Volkswagen was a Type147 Fridolin. He told us that “Sure, there might be more beautiful cars out there but there is just something special about the Fridolin which I can’t really explain, at one point actually I wish I had a different dream car because the 147 is so hard to find and also expensive. At one point i nearly gave up looking for one”. 

Within three years, he went to see 7 Fridolin’s in various parts of Germany, Netherlands and Belgium. But sadly, all the cars were much worse than described or just too expensive. Then he read about a Type147 near Munich and immediately got in contact with the owner. It all sounded perfect, too perfect to be true! He had to got there to check it straight away only problem being Munich was over 1000 KM away.

Steven asked a friend, Ihno, if he would like to join him on a road trip. They started their journey in the middle of the night. He was so positive that it was the car for him that they drove towing Ihnos trailer. Finally they arrived after an 8 hour drive. He was nervous but excited when the guy opened the door and they soon realised that compared to what he was expecting, the car was a pile of rubbish. He couldn’t believe it… disappointed was an understatement.

His friends from DKM (DieKaputtMachers) knew the whole story and on their way back they wanted to stop at Chris’s (a DKM member). Chris lives close to Coburg which is a three hour drive from Munich and there was a VW meet happening that day. On there way to Coburg, Steven got a message from his friend Steini with two pictures of a Frid located somewhere between Coburg and Munich.

Was it fate? He was still so deflated but his friend forced him to call the guy because he’d given up all together. He was just not ready for more disappointment. Peer pressure prevailed and a phone call was made saying they could be there in under an hour.

The owner was an elderly guy who was a member of an old-timer club and had a huge collection of Tempo Matadors. Steven was still not very positive on the drive. Once there they didn’t receive the warmest welcome, the guy was very abrupt and stated the price was the price, no messing around. Then he showed them the Fridolin. Steven fell in love immediately and straight away noticed that he didn’t have enough cash with him to make the purchase.

Luckily the DKM is a tight crew so he called his friend Jürgen, who lives close by, and explained his problem. He answered “Wait, I am just in the toilet, I’ll be there with the cash soon.“ 

Jürgen arrived. They loaded the Frid on the trailer and drove back home, that weekend the Steven and Ihno drove more than 2500km.

Once the Type147 was home, he started to do some check ups and repairs. He went to the German TÜV which is a very strict inspection and surprisingly passed instantly.

Due to his background in design, he didn’t just want to leave the Fridolin standard so started playing around with ideas. The yellow paint was quite good and he thought that ‘MAGGI Würze’ (a german seasoning sauce) logos would fit really well. But his favourite idea was to sign write it like an old Greyhound bus. He was torn because although he knew it would look great, he would have to spray the yellow Frid grey.

He told his friend Oli, who is good at painting, the idea and he did a ‘quick & dirty’ coat of grey and Steven finished the design work. In the end he was very happy with his decision.

From the very beginning, Steven planned to use the car for camping whilst traveling so he built himself a hinged rear seat. Steven unfortunately soon found out he is too tall to sleep in the car comfortably but it was too late so he carried on and had his friend Sascha build camping cabinets.

He then brought the Frid to ‘Bude’, which he describes as the craziest garage in Emsland – crazy in a positive way of course. He and his friend’s Matze, Dennis, Dybi, Möller immediately started to swap the front beam and to lower the car. Via his friend Stobbi, he sourced a set of AirEvo wheels which he called in the help of Mathias Krenzer to make them fit.

After a few beers, they changed the original matching numbers engine for a 2 litre Limbach unit which Dennis E modified. Guido Wensing built the carburettor and optimised the intake passage. Steven had the motor sitting in his living room for some time and said he felt like leaving it there because it just looked so good.

Volkswagen Greyhound Kleinlieferwagen - Full Gallery