The story behind each VW bus tells a special part of history. Among the van’s travels, destinations, and drivers, the VW represents freedom and individuality; and, his/her name depicts the story and personality of each owner.
The history of nicknames given to the Volkswagen Type 2 bus originates back to its production in Germany in the 1940’s. The official name for VW bus models was "Bulli", however the name was mistaken for the Lanz Bulldog tractor company. VW was forced to change its name, but the nickname "Bulli", or "Bully", stuck. "Kombi", later translated to "Combi", was short for the German Kombinationskraftwagen (isn’t the German language fun?), or “combined-use vehicle”. Other names we have heard thrown out while are on the road are "Tin Can and "Tin Top". Our personal favorite, "Breadloaf", was popular in various countries, because the bus resembles a loaf of bread.
As we travel to the U.S., the popular nicknames were "Vee-dub", "Hippie Van", "Hippie-mobile", and "Hippie Bus". Obviously, these names follow a trend that represented “the icon of counterculture movement” and may make you question, “I wonder who drove them?”
You get the idea: various countries nicknamed their vans unique but relevant names. That’s actually how the trend of nicknaming the VW bus became so popular among its owners and created this everlasting, historical tradition.
Honoring the name that a previous owner named their van is another common tradition among VW van owners.
When we purchased our beloved VW bus from the previous owners, one of the questions we asked was what is her name? The owners proudly said "Annapurna". The previous owners are big travelers too and so they named her after one of highest mountain ranges in the Himalayas, located in north-central Nepal. Jared and I have never traveled to Nepal so the name "Annapurna" didn't personally resonate with us, but we wanted to somehow honor the her previous owners by preserving her name, so we started calling her "Anna" for short and then eventually it morphed into "Anna the Vanna". When we decided to start our VW photo booth business, Vannagram & Co. just stuck because it worked so well with Anna the Vanna's name.
While some names are passed down from owner-to-owner, other bus owners name their van based on a personal connection. Here are some of our other favorite Van name evolutions we’ve found.
Gabbs is a lucky VW bus owner from Omaha, NE who shares her special story about naming her “beautiful Lucy Ann”:
“Ann was my aunt’s name. She had pancreatic cancer and one time on our way to go see her in the hospital, I saw my first VW bus and told myself I was gonna get one. So, when my aunt passed away, I knew I really had to get one for my first car. I found my rust bucket and wouldn’t trade her for the world.’ Love, Peace, VW Grease.”
Famous country musician Jake Owen faced heartache and divorce in his life, which not only inspired his recent album “American Love”, but also his newly-purchased, sea foam green “Love Bus.” The bus serves as the new album’s symbol and it's name represents Owen’s ability to spread love through his music and adventures on tour. To get an inside scoop on the beginning of Owen’s journey across the country, check out his travels in the video below.
Jake Owen's song “VW Van” on his new album can be heard HERE.
Below are of our favorite names and name evolutions we came across. Some come from van owners' personal interests or hobbies, some are based on the color of the VW bus, others are names that were passed down from the cycle of previous owners and some are just plain puns. I have to admit that my favorite names happen to be the clever ones that tend to have a play on words.
Pecan Sandy, the bus from Vanajeros
Other clever bus names that are our personal favorites would be: Van Halen, Van Wilder and Van Morrison. Maybe we will have to save these in our back pocket for when we expand our fleet!
If your new V-dub’s name was lost in the clutter of used and sold vans, naming your bus can be left to the imagination! Here are some tips to get you started:
- Tweak the van’s original name to one that’s personal to you
- Use a name that represents a theme you uphold in your own life
- Name your new van after an influential or special person in your life
- Think of a place or road you love or have yet to travel to for name inspiration
Hopefully these pointers provide leeway into the lengthy and intricate selection of your new travel partner’s nickname. Happy naming!
Let’s hear your story! Send us a picture of you with your van and a description of why you named it and we’ll add it to this post.