Variations of the engine were produced by Volkswagen plants worldwide from 1936 until 2006 for use in Volkswagen's own vehicles, notably the Type 1 (Beetle), Type 2 (bus, transporter), Type 3, and Type 4. Additionally, the engines were widely used in industrial, light aircraft and kit car applications.
Like the Volkswagen Beetle produced after the war, the first Volkswagen Transporters (bus) used the Volkswagen air-cooled engine, a 1.1 litre, DIN-rated 18 kW (24 PS, 24 bhp), air-cooled four-cylinder "boxer" engine mounted in the rear. The 22-kilowatt (29 PS; 29 bhp) version became standard in 1955, while an unusual early version of the engine which developed 25 kilowatts (34 PS; 34 bhp) debuted exclusively on the Volkswagen Type 2 (T1) in 1959. Any examples that retain that early engine today are true survivors – since the 1959 engine was totally discontinued at the outset, no parts were ever made available.
The second-generation Transporter, the Volkswagen Type 2 (T2) employed a slightly larger version of the engine with 1.6 litres and 35 kilowatts (48 PS; 47 bhp).
A "T2b" Type 2 was introduced by way of gradual change over three years. The 1971 Type 2 featured a new, 1.6-litre engine, now with dual intake ports on each cylinder head, and was DIN-rated at 37 kilowatts (50 PS; 50 bhp).
The Volkswagen Type 3 (saloon/sedan, notch-back, fastback) was initially equipped with a 1.5-litre engine, displacing 1,493 cubic centimetres (91.1 cu in), based on the air-cooled flat-4 found in the Type 1. While the long block remained the same as the Type 1, the engine cooling was redesigned reducing the height of the engine profile, allowing greater cargo volume, and earning the nicknames of "Pancake" or "Suitcase" engine. This engine's displacement would later increase to 1.6 litres.