It carried hippies through the 1960s, hauled surfers in search of killer waves during endless summers, and serves as a workhorse across the developing world, but the long, strange trip of the Volkswagen van is ending. A factory on Sao Paulo's outskirts is the last place in the world still producing the iconic vehicle, or "bus" as it's known by aficionados, but VW says production will end Dec. 31. Safety regulations mandate that every vehicle in Brazil must have air bags and anti-lock braking systems starting in 2014, and the company says it cannot change production to meet the law.
Although output will halt in Brazil, there should be plenty of VW vans rolling along for decades if only because there are so many, and they are so durable. VW produced more than 10 million Volkswagen Transporter vans globally since the model was introduced 63 years ago in Germany, though not all resemble the classic hippie machine. More than 1.5 million have been produced in Brazil since 1957. And while in the US the van is most closely linked to the Grateful Dead and the legion of touring fans that followed the rock group, in Brazil it's used by the postal service to haul mail, by the army to transport soldiers, and by morticians to carry corpses. Cool side note: Steve Jobs is said to have sold his van in the 1970s to buy a circuit board as he built a computer that helped launch Apple. (Read more Volkswagen stories.)