Volkswagen T2b “Martini Transporter” – Ixo

Martini Transporter
1978 Volkswagen T2b "Martini Transporter"
Ixo - RAC386X (diecast) 

Published 11/14/23

By 1948, the Beetle was a huge economic success for Volkswagen. In essence, it was cheap, reliable and easy to maintain. To the point that it played a big part in the economic recovery of Germany after World War II. The nation also strived for a commercial vehicle, something just like the Beetle, yet to haul cargo and people. Using an idea submitted by Dutch Volkswagen importer Ben Pon in 1947, Volkswagen even had a project for that. However, the production capacity at Wolfsburg was maxed out, with no room for a second production line. That changed in 1949, and Volkswagen started producing the Typ 2 – the Beetle (“Volkswagen Limousine”) was the Typ 1. The Typ 2 used the same boxer-4 engine and the chassis of the Beetle. Volkswagen called it’s transporter Kombinationsfahrzeug or Kombinationskraftwagen (combination motor vehicle or combine-use vehicle). However, people soon nicknamed it the Kombi.

Martini Transporter
Volkswagen adopted the nomenclature T1 through T6 only in 1990 – consequently, this is a T2b.

Just like the Käfer (Beetle in German), the Kombi became an overwhelming success. In 1967 Volkswagen introduced the second generation of the Transporter (nowadays we call it “T2”). The big difference was that Volkswagen replaced the split-window windshield and upgraded the power plant. It was also longer and received a 12v battery. Powering the T2 was a 1.6-liters boxer-4 that delivered 37 kW (50 hp). Very slowly and incrementally, however, Volkswagen continued evolving the bus, and in 1971 they released the T2b. With the T2b, Volkswagen introduced enhancements especially for the engine. By 1978 the T2b had electronic ignition and hydraulic valve lifters. Its 1970 cm³ boxer-4, with Bosch L-Jetronic electronic fuel injection, delivered 49.3 kW (67 hp) and 137 Nm of torque. From 1967 to 1979 Volkswagen produced a total of 2.14 million units of the T2. 

Martini Transporter
The 1978 edition of the Safari Rally was miserably wet.

In the late 70s, Volkswagen’s Kombi was possibly the most common small-size transporter worldwide. After all, it was cheap and reliable, with a simple and effective engine. And exactly because of those characteristics, Porsche bought a few. For the 1978 Safari Rally in Kenya, Porsche’s factory team (Martini Racing Porsche System Engineering) needed support vehicles. The T2b was perfect for the job, with a simple air-cooled engine that would work well in Kenya’s wilderland. With that, the Martini team arrived in Nairobi with (at least) five T2b, one Land Rover and three 911 SC Safari. The T2b and the Land Rover were used as mobile repair shops and as personnel carriers. While only two SC Safari raced, the third (chassis #911.8301446) was the “recce car”/quick service car. It was a brutal race, and 911 SC Safari #14 managed second while #5 finished in fifth.

Martini Transporter
All in all, the detail level on this T2b is quite good. Not Spark good, yet nonetheless pretty good.

I guess I don’t have to say, but I only bought this T2b because of the 911 SC Safari 😋. I have a soft spot for support vehicles, and in terms of Le Mans they’re pretty rare. So when I saw that Ixo produces this VERY NICE version of Martini’s 1978 T2b, I couldn’t resist. Info on this transporter in particular is essentially non-existent, and I found only one (black & white) photo. In the photo you can see five transporters, however maybe there were more. Ixo reproduces transporter #5, and as far as I can see, they did a great job. Oh yes, the model has that ugly antenna, but all in all I think it looks great. Altaya also makes this bus, however it’s a much cruder model, with a few inaccuracies. The bonus is that Altaya’s version comes with spare wheels and jerrycans on the roof rack.

Martini Transporter
Just awesome beside my 911 SC Safari! And an Ixo with nice headlights, for once!

So, the Martini T2b is not perfect, yet it gets pretty close. And not being expensive sure helps (the Altaya version is even cheaper). Adding all that up, this is a very nice buy, specially for the rally collector. Granted, I’m not a rally collector per se 🤨. However, I thought my SC Safari #14 needed a support vehicle, consequently… Well, you know how it goes 😁.


The Martini Unicorn.

I really liked my Transporter, however it had one detail that was bugging me. Specifically, that huge antenna on the roof. Come on, the thing makes the T2b look like a friggin’ unicorn…🦄 So it had to go. Fortunately, that was a REALLY easy fix using an acupuncture needle. Very probably, swapping aerials on a model is one of the easiest mods you can do. And a more realistic antenna does wonders for a model’s looks.

Easy peasy improvement: remove the ugly antenna and put a nice one in its place.

After removing the ginormous unicorn horn plastic antenna, I cut the needle to length and then filed the base to the right size. I had to file the base at an angle, since that part of the roof was not horizontal. Initially the idea was to paint the base black, though none of the paints I had adhered to the stainless steel of the needle base 🙄. So I left it shiny and using cyanoacrylate glue, glued both to the T2’s roof.

Unfortunately I don’t have the jerrycans to make the rack complete.

And since I was at it, I also added some tires to the roof rack. The real deal carried a set of six complete wheels, and not just the tires. Though I don’t have the correct wheels, I fortunately do have “mud” tires, so I placed six on the rack. On the rack there should also be some jerrycans for fuel (or water?), yet those I don’t have.

MUCH better now, IMHO.

Even though I only have tires on the rack, my Martini Transporter looks a little better now. Or at least I think so 😁. And a bonus fact. While (unsuccessfully) looking for pics of the Martini T2b support vehicle, I found a short video of the real 911 SC Safari #14 at the Porsche Museum. Interestingly, it sports traditional silver Fuchs wheels, and not the white ones (Fuchs?) that it used during the Safari Rally. Why 🤔?

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