The Rumors Were True! Volkswagen Really is Making a New Beach Buggy, and It Comes to Geneva
Don’t jump for joy just yet! It’s still a concept with a no clear path to productionby Kirby, on
Fifty years after the Beach Buggy took the U.S. by storm, Volkswagen is reaching back into its retro vault to introduce a new buggy concept at the 2018 Geneva Motor Show. The new concept will sit on VW’s Modular Electric Drive Matrix (MEB) platform and will carry the identity of an all-electric dune hopper. Specific details are still scant at the moment, but if anything, the new concept is the perfect shot in the arm for those who have been waiting for a new buggy to come out of Volkswagen in the last five decades. The yet-to-be-named concept — for now, Klaus Bischoff, Head Designer at Volkswagen, calls it the “e-buggy” — will make its debut at the 2018 Geneva Motor Show this coming March.
We’ve been (justifiably) hard on Volkswagen for some of its recent business decisions, but there’s no going around it. If Volkswagen needed good vibes sent its way, this is how you do it. Granted, I wasn’t old enough to understand the dune buggy madness that enveloped the U.S., in the ’60s, but from what I’ve been told, it was a phenomenon unlike any other. The lion’s share of that credit goes to California-based engineer and artist Bruce Meyer, who created the Meyers Manx in 1964 using a shortened chassis of a Volkswagen Beetle. In fact, the Beetle played a big role in the emergence of the buggy, which actually took its name from the Beetle’s own “Bug” nickname. The Meyers Manx is regarded as one of the most popular dune buggies of its time, and it proved as much as B.F. Meyers & Co. built around 6,000 units of the Manx from 1965 to 1971.
Today, dune buggies are still popular recreational vehicles.
It’s taken different forms over the years, but Volkswagen’s association with the vehicle remains intact, in part because people still associate dune buggies with the German automaker.
Volkswagen has taken pride with that distinction. It hasn’t shied away from rapping the dune buggy world when it gets the chance as it did back in 2011 when it unveiled the Volkswagen Study Buggy Up! Concept at that year’s Frankfurt Motor Show. The concept was unique, in part because it wasn’t actually based on the Beetle as most buggies of the ’60s were. Instead, Volkswagen used the underpinnings of the Up! compact hatchback, including its underbody, running gear, and drive technology. The Study Buggy Up! Concept also featured a unique design that was independent of the aesthetics of the Up! It was 1.73 inches longer, 1.22 inches wider, and 7.5 inches shorter than the Up! At first glance, the Study Buggy Up! Concept looked like, well, a dune buggy dressed up in hot orange paint. Unfortunately, the Study Buggy Up! Concept never amounted to anything. Volkswagen shelved the concept, and the rest of the world moved on.
Who would’ve thought, then, that eight years later, the German automaker would be introducing a new dune buggy concept that looks like it’s primed and ready for the sand and beaches? We don’t get to see the concept in full view — blame the shadowy teaser images for that — but we do get to see its curves, and, boy, oh boy, it has a lot of them. The concept has no roof and no doors, as well, exactly like what a proper dune buggy should look like. We do get a good look at the front section of the concept, and all the distinctive design details of a dune buggy are all there, right down to the round headlamps and the bulbous hood. The massive and ridiculously threaded wheels are there, too. It’s not a dune buggy without the big wheels, right?
The new dune buggy concept looks like a proper dune buggy, but its most important feature is the one that we can’t see from the photos.
Underneath all the aesthetics is Volkswagen’s do-it-all, one-size-fits-all MEB architecture. If anything, the dune buggy concept is actually a showcase of what VW’s MEB architecture is capable of.
We already know that it’s scalable and that a host of Volkswagen models ranging from compact cars to crossovers use the same architecture, albeit scaled differently to fit the size of the model that’s going to be added on top of it. What we didn’t know — and what the concept is showing us — is that the platform can be also be used on novelty works like a dune buggy concept. The fully electric platform suggests that the dune buggy concept can run exclusively on electricity. Volkswagen didn’t explicitly say that it does, but we can connect the dots from here.
The big question at this point is whether Volkswagen has plans for its new dune buggy concept beyond its debut at the 2018 Geneva Motor Show this coming March. Is Volkswagen considering building a production model that’s based on the concept? Or is the new dune buggy concept simply a showcase of the MEB architecture’s all-around versatility. I can’t tell for certain, but I do know that I can’t wait to see the concept when it makes its debut in Geneva. Whatever happens beyond that is already icing on the cake.
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