Who doesn’t love a Volkswagen T1? Well, this wacky, off-road Volkswagen bus has a history like no other. After leaving the Hannover assembly line in May 1962, the bus was bought by Austrian Kurtz Kretzner, who would convert the T1 into the world’s most off-road-capable Volkswagen bus. The loveable machine, dubbed the “Half-Track Fox”, was fitted with tank-like half-tracks to tackle the mountainous slopes of Austria and the wider world. After years on the sidelines, the machine was recently restored to its former glory by Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles.
“At first, I had a look around, but couldn’t find the vehicle I was dreaming of. So, I decided to build it myself.” Kretzner said of his orange-painted creation. The inventor spent more than four years designing and building the machine, which incorporates a steered double axle with rough-tread 14-inch tyres at the front and a pair of chain-driven axles with tank-like half-tracks at the rear. Each wheel was fitted with its own brake, while an automatic limited-slip differential distributes power to the wheels evenly, which comes in handy when ploughing through several feet of thick snow. The standard 1.2-litre flat-four engine delivers 33.6bhp to the wheels, meaning the Half-Track Fox can reach a not-so-frightening top speed of 22mph (35hm/h) but still makes light work of snowy mountain ascents.
Kretzner intended to sell his unusual creation, describing the Half-Track Fox in a custom made sales brochure as “An ideal helper for everyone: mountain hut keepers, hunters, foresters, doctors, maintenance engineers for ski-lifts, TV and radio masts, pipelines and the like”. Kretzner built just two machines before production ceased, including this orange-painted beauty which spent time in the Porsche Museum in Austria before being handed to T1 bus enthusiasts Bullikartei e.V for an unsuccessful restoration in 2005.
The other Half-Track Fox has been lost, however, this remaining example lived to tell the tale thanks to a recent restoration by Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles. The team stripped and repainted the bus’s exterior bodywork to give the orange mountain traverser a renewed lease of life, while the interior was overhauled with beech and pinewoods. Following its restoration, Volkswagen put the Half-Track Fox through its paces in February 2022, and the iconic orange van made light work of the snowy conditions Kretzner first envisioned his machine traversing.