45 years of the Volkswagen Crafter

Volkswagen Crafter

“Volkswagen commercial cars celebrates 45 years of the Crafter since its first launch in 1975.”

First shown to the world in April 1975 in Berlin, Germany, the Volkswagen Crafter is celebrating 45 years of its commercial existence this year. Specifically made to carry light to medium-heavy loads, between 2.8 to 3.5 tonnes, the first generation of the Crafter was known as the LT short for Lasten-Transporter. Upon its launch, the Volkswagen LT was available in two wheelbases, two roof variants, as a panel van, station wagon, bus, platform and double cab. Versatility of the LT has since been with it over the years as it has managed to sell more than 1.5 million models across the globe. 

Based on the T2 Transporter, the first generation LT was designed with a front engine which sat between the driver and front passenger above the front axle and was rear-wheel driven. The design was specifically focused on load space and with it, the LT remained compact as it was just 33cm longer and 20cm wider than the T2 Transporter.  Its cargo volume was 50% more than of its Transporter sibling and was more ergonomically friendly with dashboard dials placed next to the driver. 

Ride and driving comfort was thanks to an independent suspension which wasn’t available on commercial cars up until a stage. Shared with the Audi 100, a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with 55kW and 152Nm powered the Volkswagen LT. A diesel derivative was available with 2.7-litre with 48kW. Volkswagen introduced its first six-cylinder, with the 2.4-litre engine adding 6kW and a much smoother drive. 

Further interior improvements were made in 1983 with a redesigned dashboard and new engines added to the lineup while space was optimised to allow a third seat inside the cabin. A 4.6m wheelbase was added to platform conversions same year which was followed by a 5.6-ton variant two years later. Also in 1985, Volkswagen added a switchable four-wheel drive feature and new rectangular headlights replacing circular lights. 

Due to its quality and reliability coupled with the large usable area yet compact dimensions, the LT quickly became a popular base for motorhomes. In 1988, Volkswagen revealed not only the T3-based compact California but also a motorhome based on the LT: the Florida, a fully-fledged motorhome for four people with a wet room. The Volkswagen LT was in production from 1975-1996.

Welcome the LT2, produced from 1996-2006 in conjunction with Mercedes-Benz under Volkswagen’s newly founded Commercial Vehicles stable. The Volkswagen LT2 featured diesel engines fitted lengthways under a short bonnet which also aided in aerodynamics. For easy ingress and egress, lower doors were fitted with an option of getting into the load bay or passenger compartment between the front seats. 

Similar to its predecessor, the LT2 was available as a panel van, bus, station wagon, platform, double and a chassis with three wheelbases with between 2.6 and 4.6-ton weight options. The panel van and bus conversions were already on scene in South Africa but weren’t as popular as thee Crafter that followed after 2006. 

In 2006, the Crafter name was introduced with a complete overhaul of the LT model. As the Lasten-Transporter is loosely translated to heavy load transporter, the Crafter name was chosen for ‘someone who helps’ making life easy in everyday life. This generation, in particular, gained more popularity on South African roads as a Panel Van and Midibus.

In 2012 Volkswagen equipped the Crafter with 4Motion all-wheel drive with a raised height and offroad tyres. This distinct 4MOTION Crafter was part of the support vehicles at the 2012 Dakar Rally. The first generation Crafter was built from 2006 till 2016.

Revealed in 2016 and winning van of the year in 2017, the current Volkswagen Crafter was launched in South Africa in May 2018. This particular model was designed in partnership with customers and specialists spending time with drivers in their everyday life to find out how they used their vans and what they require from them. The result is probably the best and most diverse vehicle in the segment. The Crafter was available with front, rear or all-wheel drive for the first time, class-leading handling and an unprecedented number of safety and driver assistance systems. 

Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles continued the model’s heritage in the motorhome market with the reveal of the Grand California in 2018 while an all-electric eCrafter was also developed. 

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