In the Philippines, it was known as a “country truck” or “Trakbayan.” In Indonesia, its name was “Mitra,” meaning partner. It was also called the Hormiga or “Ant.” By any name, the Volkswagen Basis-Transporter was among the carmaker’s oddest creations.
And now it’s also among the rarest.
The two-door, boxy work truck, manufactured in Germany and in Mexico, was made between 1975 and 1979. Only 6,200 were built.
As a basic utility vehicle, the Basis-Transporter was primarily shipped to Mexico, Turkey and Pakistan. It had a 1.6-liter, 50-horsepower engine and a maximum speed of 48 miles per hour. Its bed had a maximum payload of 2,205 pounds. It was also air-cooled.
Volkswagen Basis-Transporter: Rarest of rare
The utilitarian vehicle found some success during its short tenure because of high fuel prices and a tenuous economy. It had a VW Beetle powertrain, but the transporter’s engine and transmission were located under the cab and drove the front wheels.
When the Transporter debuted, it sold for the equivalent of $5,150. Today, prices are as high as $26,900.
And how rare is rare? There’s a Basis-Transporter in a German museum and periodically they’ve been auctioned in the United States. But good luck finding one.
And just as a modern-day comparison, the original Volkswagen sport utility vehicle is about the same size as a VW Polo, the carmaker’s compact sold in Europe and in other countries but not in the United States. It’s about 13 1/2 feet long and 5 1/2 feet wide.
James Raia, a syndicated columnist in Sacramento, publishes a free weekly automotive podcast and electronic newsletter. Sign-ups are available on his website, theweeklydriver.com. He can be reached via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.