August 15, 2016
A TALE OF TWO VOLKSWAGENS
by Jim Corbran, Automotive Columnist
I’ll admit that for decades I’ve had a soft spot in my heart for Volkswagens. Having owned two of them over the years (Only two? How’d that happen?) — a 1972 Super Beetle and a 1978 Scirocco — I’m well acquainted with their craftsmanship and reliability, not to mention the accompanying marketing acumen (current problems notwithstanding).
Just recently, two heretofore unknown (to me) VWs popped up on my radar.
Let’s take them in age-before-beauty order:
It was with much anticipation that I opened a recent edition of the Hemmings Daily Blog. The title “What if Volkswagen built the first Mini? VW’s EA-48 prototype” really grabbed my attention. The Beetle was still in its worldwide infancy when the EA-48 project got underway in 1953. It was a complete 180° turn for the German manufacturer, being a front-wheel-drive car with an engine up front, wrapped in unibody construction.
Although it’s hard to tell from the photo, the EA-48 (tentatively to have been named the 600) was quite a bit smaller than the Beetle, but the interior was quite a bit roomier due to its design and the use of a van-like body style. Two were built, but the 600 never made it past the testing stage.
Some think, including me, that it was the same old VW story which kept the Beetle in production long past its best-used-by date: the powers-that-be feared losing Beetle sales to anything else which might show up in VW showrooms. So as the automotive world modernized around it, the Beetle carried on for decades, making minor improvements to a pre-WWII design.
The EA-48 in the photo can be seen at the AutoMuseum Volkswagen in Wolfsburg, Germany.
The other just-discovered (again, by me) VW is the relatively new BUDD-e concept which was unveiled at last January’s Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas.
This one’s not just another teaser like the ones VW’s been waving in front of our noses since the Microbus Concept showed up at the 2001 Detroit Auto Show, and the Bulli concept of 2011. This time VW is telling us we should see this one in production within the next few years. We’ll see.
The BUDD-e, VW tells us, is expected to get an EPA-estimated 233 miles per charge cycle. Power will come from a 101 kWh battery which lies flat over most of the floor area. And, being introduced at the CES, you just know the BUDD-e comes packed with a slew of high-tech toys (all of which you can read about in the above CES link).
Hopefully, this one’s for real!
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