Meet the Barndoor-Mafia

Dear VW-friends,

I never was really deeply into Barndoors, but of course things changed when I found the Samba in May 2017. I was always wondering what the meaning of the term “Barndoor-Mafia” might be. I guess now I know. It must be this scary society here:

Sure the Barndoor-Mafia drives nothing less than a early ´50 Microbus. Did you expect anything else?

I would never call any dealer selling super-rare Barndoor parts a member of a Mafia. These bits are extremely hard to find and nobody is forced to buy this parts for an extraordinary price from a professional dealer. In fact nobody is REALLY in the need to buy these parts at all. Life will go on without them and you won´t starve if you don´t buy. Let´s face it, it´s just a pure luxury item! And there is still an alternative if you feel you really, really want this damned little taillight and don´t have the money to buy it right away at this shop for rare VW-parts: you just need to go to every little swap meet in Europe for the next 30 years   -you will find it someday for small bugs, it´s just a matter of time. And luck.

Anyway in Spa August 2017 I felt I don´t have so much time, so I spend a lot of money for this taillight here:

I posted my find right away proudly in the blog here, but Florian George replied that this taillight is wrong for 1951. He was right and I was too exited when I checked out the taillight in Spa, so I spend a lot of money for a rare part that is still not correct for my Samba. Now I know this taillight is correct for 1953 – 1955, but the earlier Busses had a flat red lens without any marking or logo while the chrome housing is the same.

To make it even more complicated the flat lens existed in plastic and in real glass. I don´t know yet for sure the exact application of glass and plastic, but I will find out.

Since then I tried to find the correct taillight, but to avoid the next expensive, but wrong purchase I collected information about it first. There are some pictures of ´50/´51 taillights in the net, but none of them are very exact. Anyway I didn´t see any taillights even close to this pictures, none in the swapmeets and even none at the professional dealers. Seems these little bastards are really hard to find!

But last week I found some a collection of strange Hella taillights, sure not VW taillights, but at least the lens looks to me at least similar to the ´50/´51 lenses I checked in the net. Just have a look:

This baby was for sale pretty cheap, so I went for the risk that the lens might be wrong again

I thought: “OK, they are definetely old Hella and the size of the lens seems to be correct….
These units I found far away from any VW-related area, so they were not expensive at all

After disassembling the first of the four (yes, I found four of them!) units I could compare them to the ´52 – ´55 lens. At least it is the same size. Have a look:

There is even a small gasket around the lens:

So here is my call for the experts: did I find the correct lens for my ´51? Or are these four glass (not plastic) lenses wrong again for ´51? Are they for Busses earlier than mine maybe? If so is it just the material that´s different? This would be OK as I could use the glass one to manufacture a plastic repro. That´s not such a big deal, the opposite way would be much more complicated.

Please feel free to leave a comment and share your knowledge with us. Can´t wait to receive a result!

Have a nice weekend!


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12 thoughts on “Meet the Barndoor-Mafia

  1. Hello,
    I have the same old flat thing as OLD PLASTICS lens (no repro), as well as yours coming from such an old aftermarket motorbike / tractor taillight unit.
    I suppose that they injection molded the flat lenses of thermoplastics for a short period, before they moved on with the new signed ones (in order to meet StVZO requirements from 01/01/54 on).
    BTW: The repro lenses made of PU or EP resin can clearly be determined by their “sound” behaviour when you drop them on a table. The PU or EP resin made ones with react with a dumb *kloklok* noise while the originals made of polystyrene will make a bright bell-like sound *clinglingling*.

  2. Hi Florian,
    mein 02/51 Kastenwagen hat auf jeden Fall Rücklichtgläser aus Glas.
    Da ich nur eines hatte, hab ich bei “TenFoot Doug” (sein Facebook-Name) aus Kalifornien ein Repro aus Plastik gekauft. Sehr gutes Repro, nicht zu unterscheiden, ausser man klopft drauf. Nur falls du eine Reproduktion planst, gibts schon.
    VG Gunar von Ralfs-VW-Teile

    1. Hallo Gunar,

      das ist eine wirklich interessante Information! Bislang konnte niemand den Übergang von Glas auf Plastik genau terminieren. Ist das eine Rücklicht aus Glas verbrieft die ganze Zeit an Deinem Bus gewesen? Ich werde hier veröffentlichen, wenn sich der Übergangszeitpunkt weiter eingrenzen läßt.
      Ich hätte übrigens noch ein originales Glas aus Glas übrig….

      Gruß aus Bonn


  3. Florian, I have been checking your site on daily basis, impatiently waiting on another update. Amazing work so far. Keep it up

    1. Hello Martin,

      don´t worry, there will be an update next week. Mark has done some awsome work again, but it was my fault to forget that I have some certain piece of the engine compartment still here in my mess, but Mark was just reconstruction the engine compartment and so he had to fit this piece in later. This caused a dealy. More details next week.

      best regards


  4. As far as I’m aware. They were glass up to 20-012342. Then plastic (two types). And all the Barndoor bezels and housings were the same.

    1. Very interesting, but what what kind of experience or proof is this information based on? Even in the very exact and VW-internal us only “progressive refinements”-list there is nothing listed to be changed in the group E (= electricity) at this chassis #. In group A (body) there is a change listed, but it hasn´t any connection to the taillights: the type 21A got its rear window.

      1. To be honest, I can’t remember. But it must have been well supported for me to go with it. All my records are currently boxed up unfortunately. But a quick search reveals Tonny has the same chassis number for the change on

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