Just after the war, Dutch Volkswagen
importer Ben Pon had the inspired idea of creating a van based on
VW's Beetle car. By 1950, the Volkswagen Type 2 (T1) ' Split
Screen' (or 'Splittie' to its millions of devotees) was born.
The versatility of the VW van meant it could
be produced in many different forms. The first official camper van
conversions were completed by sub-contractors Westfalia-Werke in
1951. These were known as the 'Camper Box' and over 8,000 were
produced in the years up to 1958. Similar conversions to
split-screen Type 2s were completed in Westfalia, as part of VW's
Special Model range, until German production ended in 1967.
The popularity of the split-screen camper soon
spread worldwide, with companies including Devon Conversions Ltd in
the UK and Riviera Motors/Automotive Services Inc. in the US also
carrying out conversions.
The first split-screen conversions were
supplied with a simple awning, supported by a pair of poles and
guy-ropes. This was soon upgraded to a small, enclosed vestibule
style tent, and then larger, fixed versions were introduced. From
1965 until the demise of the 'Splittie' in 1967, colourful 'Big
Top' style awnings became available, offering the added advantage
of a stand-alone construction.
Further improvement came in the form of larger
engine sizes, with power increasing from 1131cc in the early days,
up to 1500cc by the end of split-screen production.