This van was used in Western Australia by linesmen and for mail pickup between 1972 and 1991. When transferred to the collection, it was the very last surviving vehicle of its type owned by the company. Despite its age, the van is in excellent condition having been reconditioned in 1987.
This Volkswagen Transporter, 2nd generation, is commonly known as a kombi van; named as such after the German word Kombinationskraftwagen, meaning multi-purpose vehicle. This van is believed to have been used by linesmen and for mail collection from 1972 to 1991 in Western Australia, before being donated to the, then, Telstra Collection. Conflicting accounts from John Moynihan, PMG Engineer and author, suggest the van was used by cable jointers from the 1960s. Owing to this unclear use, the van’s historical significance is low though provenance from the Postmaster General’s Department to Telecom, then Telstra, is established.
In 1987, the vehicle was extensively reconditioned and some original parts were presumably replaced. It is not, however, in working order or in good condition; the body carries several areas of rust, rubber seals have suffered plasticiser migration, a mirror is missing and there are marks from use. The hand lettered “P.M.G.” inscription is indicative of a Postmaster General fleet vehicle, as is the red colour of the vehicle paint. Though it is in poor condition, the van’s aesthetic style is of some significance.
The van is representative of the type of Volkswagen vehicle used by the Postmaster General’s Department and other private businesses and government branches of the era. The vehicle may, therefore, carry social significance for those that lived in this era, where their communication service provider travelled in a Volkswagen van. Indeed, Volkswagen vans were used into the Telecom era, as evidenced by an image (6681153) in the National Archives of Australia collection. While many of these vehicles may exist today, there are few to no examples which survive in museum collections.
In 1966, the Post Office (Postmaster General’s Department) had the largest fleet in Australia, totalling nearly 11,000 vehicles (The Canberra Times, 29 September 1966, p. 34). Though in the late 1960s Volkswagen vehicles accounted for just over 500 of these vehicles, with the remainder represented by Ford, General Motors, Chrysler, and others, the multi-purpose nature of the van is significant as a metaphor for the multi-directional services of the Postmaster General’s Department. Archival images show a variety of models and adaptations including roof racks, bull bar and door configurations. Its conflicted history of use may in fact attest to the vehicles variety of application in the duties of the Postmaster General‘s Department.
Red Volkswagen Kombi van with stencilled gold lettering on doors. Scratches on bumpers indicate duck-egg blue undercoat. Single sliding door on left side of vehicle body with secondary opening at rear with horizontally divided doors. Mirror missing on right front. Western Australia registration sticker in front windscreen.
Inscriptions & markings
.1: "PMG" .2: "ROYAL" .3-.4 "PMG" .5-.6: "MAIL" .7,.8: "ER" .9: "C OF A / ZEH 622"