Geet Jurgens and sons Dirk and Riek emigrated from the Netherlands to South Africa in 1952, the same year they started Jurgens Caravans SA. The brand was an instant success, becoming the country’s largest caravan manufacturer.

In late 1973 they decided to design and manufacture a coachbuilt motorhome based on the rear-engine air-cooled ‘Bay Window’ VW Transporter. This was retrospectively referred to as the T2, although you can find out about the latest version (the T6.1) and the upcoming T7 in our guide to the best van for converting to a camper.

Jurgens asked VW to produce a reinforced floor-pan, which endowed the Autovilla with a reassuringly solid feel. Early models were similar to their touring caravans and didn’t have an overcab. In 1977 they added the options of a high-line Luton overcab containing an extra (transverse) double bed or a low-line version with more storage. All had a similar rear-lounge layout.

Parallel lounge seating inside a 1978 model
Interior of 1978 example, pictured a couple of years ago at Camper Jam

By 1980 the first VW T3 ‘Brick’ models were used, still with the rear engine, but offering a useful uplift in torque on petrol-powered examples, plus a diesel alternative for the first time. Autovilla sold well in South Africa and Europe. Around a thousand were made in South Africa, and some were built under licence in Germany and Brazil. Many survive, including a surprising number in the UK.

Looking for your own VW ‘van? Our guide to the best VW campervans is sure to help, as we share our top picks from the many models we’ve reviewed.

An overview of the Jurgens Autovilla

  • Jurgens Autovilla on VW Transporter.
  • Built by W Jurgens 1974-1985 (mostly) in Gauteng Province, South Africa.
  • Its rounded shape and modest hill-climbing ability gave rise to the nickname ‘Skilpad’ (Afrikaans for tortoise).
  • Overall length: 4.99m/16’ 4.5” (dependent on fitted options)

Catch up on my other recent additions to the Practical Motorhome Hall of Fame, the Mini Wildgoose (1963-1968) and the Bailey Approach SE (2012-2014).

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