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Sammy Schmidt's 1956 VW Kombi split-window ute

By Carly Dale | Photos: Ben Hosking, 02 Jan 2020 Features

Sammy Schmidt's 1956 VW Kombi split-window ute

Eleven-year-old Sammy Schmidt may well be Street Machine’s youngest Young Gun

WE had a yarn with Sammy and his dad Scott to find out how he came to be the coolest kid on the block with his patina-clad ’56 Kombi split-window ute nicknamed Rusty.

This article was first published in the December 2019 issue of Street Machine

VW Kombi

How’d you get Rusty?

SAMMY: In December 2015 we were contacted by a property manager in Longreach to see if we were interested in a Kombi ute that they had sitting in their paddock; if we weren’t interested they were going to crush it. They’d found Mum and Dad’s Café 53 VW Kombi coffee truck on Facebook and sent us a message. We knew it was one of the first Kombis to come to Australia, but it was a 4000km drive from Newcastle to get it. So, we had a family meeting and I said that I’d like to build the Kombi and I could work in Mum and Dad’s café on school holidays and on the weekends to pay for it. I was eight years old when I bought it.

Read next: Phil Mizzi's blown 1954 VW Kombi ute

vw kombi interior

With Rusty home, what was next?

SAMMY: I pressure-washed him, then we bought a boat axle and tyres to move him around on, because he had no front suspension. Next, I cleaned the cab with Jif and found the original Dove Blue colour underneath the red dirt. Inside the dash I also found a bunch of cool stuff, including Matchbox cars, bullets and old marbles. Rusty also has the original speedo and steering wheel.

Watch next: Kids build a Kombi - video

vw kombi engine

What about the powerplant?

SAMMY: The original motor – which was crank-handle start – was seized and it took me ages to get it out, as it was rusted in. I replaced it with a worked 1641cc engine and gearbox out of a Beetle, which I cleaned and stripped myself – I even found a 13mm socket in the bottom of the engine! I was nine years old when I worked on the motor; you can see the photos that Dad took on my ‘Sam’s Rusty ’56 Kombi Ute’ Facebook page. Our friend Dokta then rebuilt the motor for me, teaching me along the way.

vw kombi

How was the body and chassis looking?

SAMMY: The Kombi started to split apart because the chassis was rusty, so our friend Klaus used his factory Kombi jig and re-did the metalwork, while I was also given a list of stuff to do. I learnt a lot of new skills, including how to cut out the floors, and I did all of that during school holidays.

vw kombi

Has Sam’s hard work paid you back yet, Scott?

SCOTT: One week we had a $2500 Kombi parts invoice and Sammy knew it was a big bill, so he asked to help on Saturday. After putting in a solid 12 hours, I let him know that he’d worked hard so we were pretty square with the bill. He said: “I think that I need to come back tomorrow, as you still need my help.” That’s the sort of kid he is, and our customers and VW peers know that. He hasn’t been gifted it – he’s worked hard. So, people like to support him by donating money, parts or time towards the Rusty Fund.

SAMMY: That’s why I started my Facebook page, to show people what their money is going on and say thank you. I also do tutorials on what I’ve been taught.

vw kombi

What are the plans for you and Rusty once you’re older?

SAMMY: Dad wants me to become a teacher, but I want to be a mechanic because I’ve always loved cars. When I do get to drive, I’m going to the beach and to Volkswagen car shows in Rusty. People always ask me if I’m going to fix Rusty, but I say that he’s already fixed as it has taken 60 years to look this good!

Sammy Schmidt

Aged around 21 or younger and have a neat ride? Send some pics and info to: Young Guns, Street Machine, Locked Bag 12, Oakleigh, Vic 3166 or email us at: younggun@bauer-media.com.au.