Volkswagen Crafter celebrates its 45th anniversary

5 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineMay 6, 2020

The high roof panel van offered not only the standing height in the cargo area but also more space for goods

In April 1975 the Volkswagen Crafter was unveiled in Berlin as a van to fill the gap between its iconic Transporter model and a heavy truck – a cargo vehicle in the 2.8- to 3.5-tonne segment. Since then, more than 1.5 million Crafter models have been produced and sold worldwide across four generations.

Initially called the LT – short for Lasten-Transporter, which loosely translates as heavy load Transporte – it was available in two wheelbases, two roof variants, as a panel van, station wagon, bus, platform and double cab.

The LT ran from 1975-1996 and clocked up total worldwide sales of 470,000.

With a focus on load space, engineers designed the original with a front engine between the driver and front passenger seat above the front axle, while maintaining rear-wheel drive. This space-saving design meant the LT was just 33cm longer and 20cm wider than the T2 Transporter, but with a 50% increase in cargo volume to 7.85m3

An independent front suspension system provided driving comfort, while power came from a 2.0-litre 75PS 4-cylinder petrol engine (which featured in the Audi 100), or a 4-cylinder 2.7-litre 65PS diesel. In 1979, Volkswagen introduced its first 6-cylinder, a 2.4-litre adding 8PS and a much smoother drive.

In 1983, the dashboard was redesigned and new engines were added to make the LT the most powerful van in Europe. A third seat was added in the cabin. A 4.6m wheelbase was made available for platform conversions.

Two years later, a 5.6-tonne variant was added, along with switchable four-wheel drive and a new rectangular headlight design replacing the circular lights. The original LT underwent its final facelift in 1993, with a new radiator grille and rear light design, plus a revised turbo diesel engine.

In 1996 the LT was superseded by the LT2, which ran for 10 years and 340,000 units.

The LT2 was the first new vehicle to be launched by the newly founded Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles brand and was developed in partnership with Mercedes-Benz. It was available as panel van, station wagon, bus, platform, double cab and chassis, with three wheelbases, and weight options between 2.6t and 4.6t.

The LT2 featured diesel engines fitted lengthways under a short bonnet, a lower door for easy entry and the option of getting into the load bay or passenger compartment between the front seats. In 2002, the LT2 got the new 2.8-litre 4-cylinder diesel, delivering 158PS, a record for the sector, and maximum torque of 331Nm.

The LT2 was produced from 1996 to 2006

The third generation ushered in the name Crafter and again sold for 10 years, 2006-2016.

The name was chosen to stand for ‘someone who helps‘, with the Crafter designed ‘to make life easier in everyday work and life‘. Total worldwide sales were 480,000.

The Crafter was produced in a wide variety of variants – box, station wagon, bus, platform, double cab and chassis. In 2012 VW released the Crafter 4MOTION with all-wheel drive. The vehicle was fully equipped with a raised ride height, off-road tyres and a full underride guard. 

The third-generation debuted the Crafter name and was produced between 2006 and 2016

In 2016 the latest Crafter debuted and in just three years racked up sales of 260,000 (end 2019). A completely new model built from the ground up by Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles engineers, it was designed in partnership with customers, with specialists spending time with drivers in their everyday life to find out how they used their vans and what they required from them.

The fourth generation introduced the choice of front, rear or all-wheel drive for the first time and an unprecedented number of safety and driver assistance systems. It received the title of ‘Van of the Year 2017‘ from the international jury of commercial vehicle journalists from 24 European countries, confirming its status as the benchmark of the sector.

The new Crafter has been produced at the Wrzesnia plant since 2016