Childhood memories spurred the Opios to repair their 1975 VW Kombi

To the Opios, the restoration was not just about reviving an old vehicle; it was about integrating it into their lives and work .  PHOTOs/Roland D. Nasasira

What you need to know:

According to the couple, the restoration was not just about reinstating an old vehicle; it was about integrating it into their lives and work, making it a mobile extension of the art they both love.

In 2018, Geoffrey Opio Atim acquired a 1975 Volkswagen Station Wagon Kombi T2, a classic vehicle that not only promised to reignite his cherished childhood memories but also introduce an era of creativity and shared adventures with his wife, Doreen Natukunda Opio.

Opio’s love for the Volkswagen Kombi is deeply rooted in his childhood experiences in Namagunga, Kampala, where he grew up. The image of a humble, yet commanding vehicle, with its engine at the rear, just like the iconic VW Beetle, and an engine sound that commanded attention, left a lasting impression. These memories were the driving force behind Opio’s desire to own and cherish such a piece of history.

Until 2023, the Kombi had been parked at his sister’s house in Kampala, rotting away. The plan to restore it started when Natukunda opened an art studio on October 9, 2023, which also marked the first edition of Chai and Art at Art Kadowaz, Natukunda’s studio. 

“We saw the Kombi not just as a vehicle but as a companion to our creative endeavours. Restoring it became a joint project, culminating in its debut at the studio’s opening event. The restoration was not just about reviving an old vehicle; it was about integrating it into our lives and work, making it a mobile extension of the art we both love,” Opio recalls.


Despite the Kombi’s significance, much of the car’s history before Opio bought it remains a mystery. It, however, runs on a 1600cc air-cooled engine that is surprisingly fuel-efficient even during long trips. For instance, a full tank is enough to make the journey from Kampala City centre to Jinja in eastern Uganda (a distance of about 78.5kms) without the need for refuelling.

The Kombi is a comfortable on and off-road performer, including highway stretches, though its preference for the open road over congested city traffic where it is fast, stable and reliable is quite evident, one of the aspects that inspired Opio to restore it.

The journey

The decision to restore the 49-year-old vehicle came at a pivotal moment when Opio’s wife Natukunda opened her art studio.

“Before restoration, the car was just a shell with no functional parts. I had to start from scratch. The restoration sparked the idea that the Kombi could complement Natukunda’s work and become more than just a mode of transportation. It could be a symbol of our shared passions and creativity. It took approximately three months to restore and I cannot put a cost to the process since there was a lot of panel beating, importing many spare parts, redoing some works, painting and a lot more,” Opio says.

Performance and practicality

With its 1600cc air-cooled engine, the Kombi has proven to be a reliable companion on the road, although the fuel gauge is not functional. It’s on and off-road performance is impressive, although it shows a preference for the open highway over congested urban roads.

“The original shock absorbers still offer remarkable comfort, making every journey a pleasure, especially for children who delight in the engine’s rumble and the warmth it brings to the cabin,” Natukunda says.


Since restoration, the Kombi has not required frequent servicing since it is not the couple’s daily drive; it is only used on special occasions. However, sourcing for spare parts has been a challenge, often requiring importation from places such as Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. Fortunately, a network of vintage enthusiasts and the acquisition of a second engine have made maintenance manageable. Visiting the garage depends on what needs to be done.

“Owning a vintage Kombi is not without its challenges, particularly when dealing with regulatory aspects such as maintaining the vehicle’s original number plate, UVR 791, which is a significant part of its identity. These challenges are overshadowed by the joy and attention it brings. Wherever I drive, enthusiasts only admire the car while others wave at me,” Opio explains.

The Kombi was put through its paces during a trip to Mbale in eastern Uganda, where Opio wanted to confirm, among things, its reliability and efficiency. The Opios are also planning a road trip to Nairobi, Kenya. The Kombi’s air-cooled engine and caravan-like interior sets the stage for camping and exploration, with no need to pay for a hotel.

This 1975 Volkswagen Kombi T2 is more than just a vehicle to the Opios. It is a canvas for their creativity, a repository of memories and a testament to the enduring appeal of classic design.

“As we continue this journey, the Kombi stands as a symbol of our shared experiences and dreams, driving us forward with the same humility and sound that captivated me as a child. It is a reminder that some things in life are worth preserving, cherishing and passing on to future generations,” Opio concludes.


According to, on the market, the Type 2 was more widely known as Transporter, Kombi or Microbus. Many people simply called it bus. Predictably, its unprecedented combination of high people capacity, flexibility and low prices was found to be hugely popular in an era young people pursuing new lifestyle, as you can see its presence in many Hollywood movies filmed during that period. In 17 years, the first generation (dubbed T1) sold 1.8 million copies. After that, the German plant at Hanover switched to build the second generation (T2), which was boxier and less attractive. Overseas production in Brazil continued until 1975. The Type 2 opened a new era in automotive history.