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I feel like Stephen Hawking is a guy who shouldn’t really require an introduction at this point. But his 1988 Volkswagen van might. Stephen Hawking is one of the most well-known and well-respected scientists of the past century. His book “A Brief History Of The Universe” is a cultural icon that has sold over 25 million copies. Let’s see if we can make his badass Volkswagen van an icon

Stephen Hawking’s 1988 Volkswagen Caravelle van

exterior shot of 1988 Volkswagen van
1988 Volkswagen Caravelle | Images courtesy of Silverstone Auctions

Like “A Brief History Of The Universe,” Hawking also got his VW van new in 1988. I guess that book money hit, and Steve decided to do what all new celebs do when they get money – buy a car. 

Although Hawking’s Caravelle doesn’t look like the Flower Power machines from Woodstock, it is closer than you think. Silodrome reports that this 1988 Volkswagen Caravelle is just the third generation of the hippie bus that debuted in 1949. The Americans called it the Vanagon. In South Africa, they called it the Microbus. And in Europe, the Caravelle. 

The Caravelle came with a surprising number of engine options ranging from 1.6 liters to 2.6 liters and a choice between gasoline or diesel. These VW vans also came with either a 4- or 5-speed manual, and it could even be ordered with a 3-speed auto. 

Of all the VW vans, the T3 generation models are among the most plentiful and least expensive because they were made from 1979-2002. However, the Synchro model – which came with 4WD and off-road suspension – is much rarer and has become popular with camper van builders. 

Stephen Hawking needed space, not performance

Stephen Hawking Volkwagen Caravelle Van interior with wheelchair platform
Stephen Hawking Volkswagen Caravelle Van interior | Images courtesy of Silverstone Auctions

Space pun aside, Stephen Hawking famously had a severe motor neuron disease (MND), which eventually paralyzed him, opening the door for his now iconic wheelchair and his wild wheelchair driving habits. Supposedly, he was known for burning up the hallways across Cambridge’s campus.

Hawking needed a specially modified vehicle to accommodate his high-tech chair and, as such, went with the spacious VW Caravelle. He drove the van for years. It became a regular sight around Cambridge, where he taught. This VW van was even his wife’s and his wedding vehicle. 

Sadly, as his MND progressed, his chair needs became increasingly specialized and high-tech, making his VW no longer suitable. He gave it to his nephew, who kept it for years. 

Stephen Hawking’s van is for sale

Stephen Hawking's Volkwagen Caravelle driving away from wedding
Stephen Hawking’s Volkswagen Caravelle driving away from wedding | Images courtesy of Silverstone Auctions

His nephew is now selling his uncle’s van. Silodrome notes that the van was bought new by Hawking and has never left the family. The van is unrestored and completely original based on the Silverstone Auctions listing. 

If you want to see more images or learn more about this van, or maybe you want to buy it, check out the Silverstone Auctions listing here


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