21 Window vs 23 Window Volkswagen Buses

In the world of Vintage Volkswagen buses, it's all about the windows. It seems like everytime you go to a VW show, people are talking about "21 window buses" and "15 Window buses"... If you're new to the hobby, this all seems pretty confusing. You need to get up to speed here so you don't embarass yourself at the next swap meet - "hey man, check out that cool 22 window bus! - oops". So read on for a full explanation of the secrets of how to count the windows in a Vintage VW bus.

It all starts with the simplest bus; the Kombi, which is also sometimes called a "standard" bus. Ignore the front doors for a minute, and you'll see there are 3 windows on each side of the bus. Although people usually don't call it this very often, the Kombi is an "11 window" bus. Ok break out the adding machine; that's 3 windows on each side, plus the back window plus the 2 windshield panes, plus the 2 front doors (yeah, I know, each front door has 3 panes of glass, don't overthink this, all the glass in a front door counts as just 1 window). Technically, the fancier "Microbus" model is also an "11 window" bus, same as the Kombi, since they both use the same body stamping. So that's the hard part. If you can keep this straight you're in good shape - just remember that "Kombi and Microbus = 11 window bus".

Ok let's dial it up a notch. To offer a fancier bus, Volkswagen took the basic Kombi/Microbus body stamping, added more windows and called it the "Deluxe" bus. Originally, they added 1 window to each side (towards the back of the bus) and also added a very cool curved window to each back corner. So you take a standard 11 window bus, add 2 side windows and 2 rear corner windows and you get the Deluxe, or "15 window" bus (that's 11 + 4). So far this all makes sense, but starting with model year 1964, VW "modernized" the Deluxe bus by removing the 2 curved corner windows, so starting with the '64 buses, a Deluxe was known as a "13 window" (15 - 2) bus.

Now for the final twist. To really super-size the deal, you could order a Deluxe bus with the "Samba" option (a $160 option for 1963), which added a large canvas sunroof and 8 "skylight" windows to the roof. Since the large sunroof is not actually a "window", the Samba model added 8 windows, not 9, to a Deluxe bus. So through model year 1963, the Samba was a "23 window" bus (15 + 8), and starting with model year 1964 the Samba was a "21 window" bus (13 + 8).

So here's a quick summary of the bus window story:
    11 Window Bus:  Standard Kombi or Microbus
    13 Window Bus:  Deluxe Bus from '64 thru '67
    15 Window Bus:  Deluxe Bus prior to '64
    21 Window Bus:  Deluxe Samba Bus from '64 thru '67
    23 Window Bus:  Deluxe Samba Bus prior to '64

Now, you're a "windows expert"!   Next week we'll talk about why you can't call a convertible bug, a "rag top"!

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