It was precisely 70 years ago when ‘Sofie’ a first-generation T1 panel van dressed in Dove Blue left the production line accompanied by the chassis number 20-1880 in the Wolfsburg plant. Beginning its long working life of service, the humble van was promptly delivered to Hildesheim where it transported goods locally.
Fast forward some 23 years and the Type 2 (also known as the Bulli) takes early retirement, joining various VW enthusiasts between 1973 – 1992. The final custodian decides to sell the vehicle via a magazine run by the ‘Brezelfenstervereinigung e.V.’ fan club, without success.
Following multiple ads in an era when ‘commercial vehicles’ of this sort were not popular, a gentleman called Dane Tonny L, telephones the seller and, after learning on the phone that the vehicle has the lowest chassis number known at that time in the Bulli scene, snaps the VW up.
‘Sofie’ – Restoration
In 1992, at the proud old age of 42 and with less than 100,000 kilometres on the clock, the old girl is transported back to Denmark on the back of a flatbed.
As with any maturing classic, being off the road for 19 years can lead to a host of mechanical issues so the essential parts are first to be replaced to make sure Bulli can be driven safely once again. Tonny is immediately sure that he’ll be keeping the vehicle for a long time and affectionately names the van; with a nod to the first T1 ever delivered to Denmark, he christens his prize possession ‘Sofie’, which was the name of that first vehicle too.
By early 2000, the time consuming and costly restoration had been completed and was ready for its first ‘test drive’ to the VW meet in Bad Camberg. The pair continued their automotive love-in for over 20,000 kilometres, often visiting Bulli meets where ‘Sofie’ is always the highlight and generally wins the ‘Most Beautiful Bulli’ prize. She is always the eldest in any case.
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As with all classic relationships, the spark gets less intense and some distribution is yearned for. As always, Tonny is continuously being approached by various collectors when by a chance encounter in spring 2014, the Crown Prince of Denmark is attending Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles in Hannover, the accompanying importer mentions there is a 1950 Bulli in Denmark looking for a new home.
Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles Collection
Tonny is soon contacted by the VWCV Oldtimer department and is thrilled by the idea of his classic Bulli potentially becoming an important part of Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles collection. Discussions continue for several weeks, culminating in his memorable line “I’d, therefore, prefer to sell ‘Sofie’ to you, where she’ll still be able to make people smile…”.
Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles was delighted and in late 2014 ‘Sofie’ arrived in Hannover – the city of the Bulli. With tears in his eyes, Tonny says on parting “I know that she’ll fare best at home.” He was to be proved right. Since then she has already experienced a lot, made countless people happy and brought back many memories. As she did on her latest tour of several milestones in her life.
Be it at the Wolfsburg plant, in Hildesheim or in Hannover, as soon as Sofie drives up there is the sort of clamour for selfies you get by a red carpet. She is an undisputed star of the Bulli cult, celebrating with a small group of her Bulli friends from the VWCV Oldtimer collection.
Rumour even has it that they had fresh engine oil and a delicious cake. So bottoms up and Cheers, Miss Sofie – Here’s to the next 70 years!