The Cult Following of Classic Volkswagens: The VW Bus
The Cult Following of Classic Volkswagens: The VW Bus

The Cult Following of Classic Volkswagens: The VW Bus

August 31, 2022

Undoubtedly, the audience is held spellbound. Will they do it? Will they not? For a bit, it felt like a highly anticipated movie franchise!

As an ode to the classic Volkswagens, let’s look at their bus concepts through the years:

Volkswagen Type 2

VW Type 2 which became popular in the 1960s is one of the most iconic vans in history. The numerous VW bus versions that have been manufactured over the decades reinforce that air of mysticism that surrounds this classic German vehicle.

It was the second model in the history of the Volkswagen brand after the famous Beetle, the first generation of the Volkswagen Bus that was marketed from 1950 to 1967.

It was called different names: Microbus, Samba, Bulli, Transporter, Combi, and Camper. But initially, it was called Type 2, simply because the Beetle was called Type 1.

Its signature is of course the large V at the front, originally drawn to simply reinforce the sheet metal panel, with a large VW logo. This vehicle helped rebuild Germany and, paradoxically, became a symbol of the counterculture of the 60s.

The 1960s VW buses continue to impress. The highest price has recently been paid for a 1963 VW bus at the firm Barrett-Jackson’s 2020 Scottsdale auction.

The vehicle in question, a 23-window model with two-tone khaki and white paint, had gone through a meticulous restoration and appears to be in absolutely immaculate condition.

In 2014, another Volkswagen of the same type found a buyer for US$235,000. We are not talking about a Lamborghini or a Ferrari, but an old Volkswagen bus!

Microbus: the Return

Let’s go back to the Detroit Auto Show in 2001. The wave of the retro design was in full swing and the New Beetle, presented three years earlier, was selling like hot cakes. Volkswagen offered a concept that used the same recipe as for the New Beetle: nostalgic design, modern platform, and the water-cooled engine placed at the front. The external dimensions were similar to those of the Transporter T5 (length 4.72 meters).

The neo-retro vibe continued inside with an interesting placement of the gear lever. Volkswagen was betting on technology by installing screens!

At the end of the show, everyone was very excited and rumors about future commercialization began to circulate. Volkswagen confirmed in June 2002 that the Microbus would be produced at the Hanover plant, on a T5 basis. But in 2003/2004, the brand went through a difficult period and the project was put on the shelf indefinitely.

Bulli: the Sequel

Bulli is the return of the Microbus 2. And this time, it’s electric! Ten years later, at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show, Volkswagen was trying the experiment again. The two-tone color and wide front V were still there, but the hood was more pronounced than the Microbus.

The Bulli is more compact, with a length of only 3.99 meters. Yet it offers room for six, in two rows of seats. The touch screen in the center cannot be ignored. More interesting was the switch to electric.

VW was clearly talking about mass production back then. We heard about hybrid versions with 1.0 or 1.4-liter gasoline or diesel engines that would serve as generators. Again, the reception was positive, and, again, nothing happened.

BUDD-e: Redemption

It was at CES in Las Vegas on January 5, 2016, that Volkswagen unveiled BUDD-e. The brand needed to regain its integrity which was at stake due to the “Dieselgate” polluting emissions scandal broken four months earlier. So they manufactured a Combi.

Yet, aesthetically, it’s the least retro of the entire series. The length is 4.60 meters, closer to that of the original Microbus. But the most important thing is the unveiling of the MEB platform (for ModularerElektrischerBaukasten in German) which serves as the basis for the massive plan to electrify all the subsidiaries of the Volkswagen group by 2030.

IDBUZZ: the Final Chapter

Volkswagen presented the IDBUZZ concept at the 2017 Detroit Motor Show putting an end to therumorsand suppositions: it is indeed the first taste of the production version, scheduled for 2022.

The interior remains very “prototype” with a dashboard designed around a retractable steering wheel, meant for autonomous driving, which could appear in 2025 according to Volkswagen.

The platform is extended (renamed MEB-XL) and the length, increased to 4.95 meters. The two engines combined offer up to 369 horsepower, authorizing 0 to 100 km/h in almost 5 seconds.

Volkswagen specifies that with the MEB architecture, it would be very easy to have a two-wheel drive version with a smaller battery (268 horsepower and 83 kWh) as needed. The manufacturer also announced a range of 430 km according to the American EPA cycle. A utility variant called Cargo was presented at the IAA Hanover Motor Show in 2018.

And today, here we are!

The first production versions are available in a short-wheelbase, rear-wheel-drive variant, in passenger or utility applications. Extended models, four-wheel drive, and even motorized caravans will follow. The IDBUZZ will arrive in 2024! Are you excited?

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