23 April 1947
A chance encounter made an impact on automotive history. As the Dutch Importer Ben Pon walked across the grounds of the Volkswagen factory in April 1947, he came across a very strange vehicle. Some Volkswagen employees had built it themselves to make their work easier when transporting heavy parts from production hall to production hall. A little later, on 23rd April, this impression crystallised into an idea. Ben Pon took his notebook and sketched a type of vehicle that did not exist in the world at that time – a forward control vehicle with rear engine and a box shaped body. This sketch marked the starting point of a million selling vehicle: the Volkswagen Transporter. It filled a market gap, long before there was a suitable name for this phenomenon, which the Second World War had torn in Central Europe – a gap which was in no way to become any smaller as the economy gradually picked up. Simple, robust, highly flexible transport vehicles with reasonably priced production and running costs were what the market wanted. The economic miracle was only just beginning to take shape but it was clear that tradesmen, retailers and small and medium-sized businesses needed precisely the kind of vehicle outlined by Ben Pon in his rough sketch. There are no reliable records as to whether it was easy to convince the engineers in Wolfsburg to take part in this venture. Ben Pon remained persistent and was able to win Heinrich Nordhoff over. Although somewhat sceptical, he put his design department on to the idea and the prototype of the Transporter took shape only a short time later.