What is a Fleetline?

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What is a Fleetline?

Post by fig » Tue Sep 16, 2008 10:20 pm

A lot of people in South Africa refer to any split windscreen Volkswagen bus as a Fleetline. In fact, the name Fleetline refers to a very specific split screen bus: the Brazilian split buses sold by VWSA as budget models for one year only, 1975.

Fleetlines were assembled by VWSA from Brazilian-built kits, either CKD (completely knocked down) or SKD (semi knocked down). They were built for one year only, the 1975 model year. According to the Commercial Vehicle Data Digest:
Fleetline introduced: January 1975
Total number sold in 1975: 4,957
Fleetline discontinued: March 1976

It’s unclear whether the number 4,957 is the total number of Fleetlines sold, or the total sold in 1975, in which case as many as another 1,000 could have been sold until production ended in 3/76.

Total Fleetline production of 789 has also been widely quoted, but this is an error, which I am responsible for propagating. It comes from a misprint in a particular edition of CVDD.

Fleetlines came in three flavours: panelvans, 15-window Kombis, and wide-body single-cab pick-ups. The only option was the colour. The range of colours was similar to VWSA's standard 1975 catalogue. Panels and pick-ups came in one colour, while the Kombis were two-tone -- either white roof with colour below, or white roof and top half, with colour from the top of the swage line down. They did not pick out the swooping V swage line in two-tone the way German two-tone buses did.

Fleetlines were sold in VW showrooms as budget models alongside German-built 1975 baywindows.

Spec across all three Fleetline models was purely commercial. Interiors featured brown vinyl seats and brown-painted masonite interior panels. The Kombis had perforated vinyl headliners, but that was as luxurious as they got.

Fleetlines (like all Brazilian splits) were a hodge podge of early and late split parts:
pre-55 style cargo doors, but mirror-image for RHD; 58-style engine hatch, but with pushbutton lock; early-type pull-out door handles; pre-64 corner windows on Kombis (must be the only 15-windows that aren't deluxes); small (pre-64) rear hatch, though both panels and Kombis had the bigger back window; sway bar on front axle; 12V alternator electrics; 1600 DP engine; big-nut transmission; etc, etc.

They also had a few Brazil-only quirks, like a pressed-in VW emblem on the front panel (try steal that!) and no slots in the dash for the radio speaker (just three slots each side of the radio hole).

All parts came from Brazil except window glass, which was made in SA (there were import duty rebates for local content, which was measured by weight). The instruments (speedo and fuel gauge) were also Brazilian, but made by VDO.

Fleetlines:
Image
Image
Image
Image

1976 saw VWSA replacing the Fleetline at the bottom of its bus range with the later Brazilian bay/split hybrid. The bay/splits were known simply as "1600" or "Brasilia" (as I have seen it on some aftermarket parts lists). These were assembled and sold in SA from 76-78. They were mechanically a splittie, except they had 72-78 taillights and a bay front grafted on to the splittie rear body. They had reduction gearbox transmissions, but with double-jointed axles, with universal joints instead of CVs.

Bay/split:
Image
Image

Re the name Fleetline: VWSA used the name only for the 1975 Brazilian splits, not for German-built splits and not for the fugly bay/split hybrids. I have no idea why they chose that name. Fleetline has been used as a model name by Chevrolet, and also on Leyland and Daimler buses.

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Re: What is a Fleetline?

Post by fig » Tue Sep 16, 2008 10:48 pm

Interpreting Fleetline VIN plates

The VIN plate is found on the bulkhead behind the driver’s seat.

Typical Fleetline VIN plate layout:
214B EA 001 XXXX
X-XXXX/XX/67
2051 XXX XXX

Where:
214B = Panelvan RHD, Brazilian; 234B = Kombi RHD, Brazilian; 264B = pick-up RHD, Brazilian
EA = ??
001 = ?? (This number is the same on all Fleetlines)
XXXX = sequential production number

The numbers on the middle line and their pattern vary, but the last number is always 67, which has led many Fleetline owners to incorrectly assume their buses are 1967s.

The bottom line is the VIN, where:
2 = Type 2
0 = ??
5 = 1975
1 = panelvan, 3 = Kombi, 6 = pick-up
XXX XXX = sequential production number
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Re: What is a Fleetline?

Post by Pine » Tue Sep 16, 2008 10:55 pm

Interesting info, thanks Fig. A few questions:

I often hear that Fleetlines were more prone to rust than their German counterparts, and that some were even shipped from Brazil on top of the deck of ships?

There is a Bay/Split pickup standing at a scrapyard near De Deur, I can't recall ever seeing another one - rare?

Were there no d/c Fleetlines?

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Re: What is a Fleetline?

Post by fig » Tue Sep 16, 2008 11:00 pm

Pine wrote:Interesting info, thanks Fig. A few questions:

I often hear that Fleetlines were more prone to rust than their German counterparts, and that some were even shipped from Brazil on top of the deck of ships?
I have also heard that Fleetline panels already had surface rust when they arrived at Uitenhage. I don't think Fleetline bodies were dipped in primer like German bodyshells. However, I don't notice my (high & dry inland) Fleetlines rusting any faster or worse than my German buses.
Pine wrote:There is a Bay/Split pickup standing at a scrapyard near De Deur, I can't recall ever seeing another one - rare?
Pick-ups were less plentiful than Kombis and panels from new. They also tended to work harder so there are comparatively fewer survivors.
Pine wrote:Were there no d/c Fleetlines?
No.
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Re: What is a Fleetline?

Post by fig » Tue Sep 16, 2008 11:15 pm

Fleetline panelvan:
Image
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Re: What is a Fleetline?

Post by eben » Wed Sep 17, 2008 7:26 am

Thanks fig!Great post.
Were they also marketed as Fleetlines anywhere else (Brazil?) or only in South Africa?

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Re: What is a Fleetline?

Post by fig » Wed Sep 17, 2008 9:17 am

eben wrote:Thanks fig!Great post.
Were they also marketed as Fleetlines anywhere else (Brazil?) or only in South Africa?
AFAIK, Fleetline was a name applied to Brazilian buses only in SA. However, I notice that many in the UK and on thesamba are now (mis)using the term to describe any Brazilian split bus.
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Re: What is a Fleetline?

Post by Blitzkrieg » Wed Sep 17, 2008 9:28 am

Thanks fig! I've always wanted to know the true history of the Fleetline for a while now.

Were Fleetlines also available in Orange?
If it's too low, you're too old :twisted:

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Re: What is a Fleetline?

Post by fig » Wed Sep 17, 2008 11:30 am

Blitzkrieg_Beetle wrote:Thanks fig! I've always wanted to know the true history of the Fleetline for a while now.

Were Fleetlines also available in Orange?
Yes.

AFAIK, Fleetlines were available in the following main colours (my names and descriptions, not what VWSA called the colours):
White
Red (very rare)
Orange
Acid yellow
Biscuit yellow
Avocado green
Light blue
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Re: What is a Fleetline?

Post by fig » Wed Sep 17, 2008 8:48 pm

White:
Image

Red:
Image

Orange:
Image

Acid yellow:
Image

Biscuit yellow:
Image
Image

Avocado green:
Image

Light blue:
Image
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Re: What is a Fleetline?

Post by hifibug57 » Thu Sep 18, 2008 1:12 pm

fig wrote: Light blue:
Image
but surely the white to the beltline (right) is incorrect?
resident VW exporter

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Re: What is a Fleetline?

Post by fig » Thu Sep 18, 2008 1:34 pm

hifibug57 wrote:
fig wrote: Light blue:
Image
but surely the white to the beltline (right) is incorrect?
No, refer to the description in my first post.

Fleetline Kombis were the only model to come in two-tone paint, always white above and colour below. Panels and pick-ups were single colour

There were two patterns as shown in the pic of the light blue buses:
1. White roof and colour below.
2. White to the top of the swage line and colour below.

This evening I'll dig up more pics of original paint Fleetline Kombis with white to the swage line.
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Re: What is a Fleetline?

Post by Blitzkrieg » Thu Sep 18, 2008 1:38 pm

Image

Nice! The Orange Fleetline looks the best, the colour is very similar to the Porsche GT3 Orange :wink:

I believe that you have an Orange Fleetline, fig?
If it's too low, you're too old :twisted:

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Re: What is a Fleetline?

Post by fig » Thu Sep 18, 2008 1:53 pm

Yes, that's mine in the pic, taken before it went to the body shop two years ago. It is now ready to be painted, as soon as I pay more money.
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Re: What is a Fleetline?

Post by Hubcap » Thu Sep 18, 2008 2:10 pm

The blue Fleetline Kombi brings back memories. I attended a fairly small school and we never had a school bus - always depended upon parents to give lifts. In 1975 the headmaster made the massive investment and brought a blue/white Fleetline kombi as a school bus. He referred to it as the Bluebird. When I matriculated in 1978 the school still had it - wonder if it is still around.

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