How do I Shift on a 71 VW Van?

Written by lizzie brooks
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How do I Shift on a 71 VW Van?
The Volkswagen van comes with a standard manual transmission. (minibus volkswagen, image by bacalao from

Volkswagen produced several varieties of vans in 1971, including the estate car, campmobile, delivery van, pickup and double-cab pickup. But they all had the same system for shifting gears when equipped with a manual transmission. Driving one of these classic vehicles can be a lot of fun -- once you learn how to shift gears.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • 1971 Volkswagen van equipped with a manual transmission
  • Flat, open area in which to practice

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  1. 1

    Locate the three pedals. From left to right, these are the clutch, brake and accelerator. The clutch is small and square, the brake is larger, and the accelerator is the largest.

  2. 2

    Locate the gearshift. It is a long, black metal shaft coming out of the floor to the right of the driver's seat.

  3. 3

    Read the diagram on the ashtray (on the dashboard directly above the gear lever) to familiarise yourself with the position of each of the five gears. If this diagram has worn off, know that the gears are organised in an H-shaped pattern. First gear is at the top-left of the H, second gear is straight down from 1st at the bottom left, third gear is at the top right and fourth gear is straight down from third at the bottom right. Reverse gear comes off the middle of the left side of the "H", then down beside third gear. The gearshift should be in first gear as this is the gear the van should be left in when it is parked.

  4. 4

    With the vehicle turned off, put your right foot on the brake pedal and with your left foot, push the clutch all the way to the floor. Practice moving the gearshift into each of the four forward gears. The space between the gears is your neutral gear. To put the van in reverse, move the gearshift into the space between first and third gear and then push down on the top of the gear lever as though you are trying to push the gear lever down through the floor. If the transmission is a bit sticky, this might need to be done forcefully. Once the gearshift has been pressed down, move it to the left, and then down in line next to third gear.

  1. 1

    With your right foot on the brake pedal, use your left foot to again push the clutch all the way to the floor. Move the gearshift into neutral. Turn the key and start the ignition.

  2. 2

    Move the gearshift into first gear. Move your right foot to the accelerator. Slowly release the clutch and give the van a little gas at the same time until the van is moving forward. If you let the clutch out too fast, the van will stall and you must go back to step 1 of section 2.

  3. 3

    With the clutch out completely, give the van more gas until you are moving at approximately 10mph.

  4. 4

    Let your foot off the gas briefly, press the clutch quickly to the floor and move the gearshift into second gear. Slowly release the clutch while once again slowly depressing the accelerator.

  5. 5

    Use first gear when driving at from 0 to 15mph; second gear for 10 to 25mph; third gear for 15 to 45mph and fourth gear for 30-68 mph. When decelerating, shift down into an appropriate gear for your speed.

Tips and warnings

  • According to the owner's manual, you can drive a 1971 VW van most economically at speed of: 10 to 20mph in second gear, 15 to 30mph in third gear and 30 to 45mph in fourth gear.
  • Do no shift into reverse while the vehicle is moving as this may damage the vehicle.

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