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Unlike Jerry Garcia, Volkswagen’s Kombi Microbus isn’t dead … yet

Today marks not just the end of 2013 but the end of an automotive icon.

The Volkswagen Type 2 Microbus – also known as the Kombi – is well known as the vehicle of choice for hippies and surfers, and, despite being rendered obsolete decades ago, it’s been in production in Brazil clear through to today.

Safety regulations were supposed to finally kill the Microbus at the end of this year, but reports of its death may have been exaggerated.

According to Indian Autos Blog, Brazil is considering a regulatory exemption for the aged VW, which lacks modern safety equipment like airbags and anti-lock brakes.

Brazilian finance minister Guido Mantega argues that, since the Kombi/Microbus design dates back to the 1950s, it’s unfair to expect VW to equip with modern safety features; the design predates them, after all.

An exemption would essentially allow “grandfather” the van around the new regulations. This legal mechanism is typically exempts vehicles that are already on the road from new regulations, but it’s rarely – if ever – used to keep a dated design in production.

Volkswagen built what was supposedly the last Kombi on December 20, part of a run of “Last Edition” models meant to commemorate the Kombi’s 63 years in production.

While the 2013 Kombi retains the basic shape and rear-engined layout of its predecessors, there have been a few changes over the years. The current model lacks the clean styling of the original 1950-1967 version, and instead of an air-cooled boxer four, there’s a 1.4-liter water-cooled engine hanging over the rear axle.

Whether it gets a stay of execution or not, the Volkswagen Microbus has had a pretty good run.

But will anyone other than the ghost of Jerry Garcia miss it when it’s gone?

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