Yesterday, I allowed myself to have a little public love-fest with one of my favorite VW-based specials, the Brubaker Box. Happily, it seems that I wasn't alone, as many of you shared my enthusiasm. Even better, our little Brubaker love-in attracted the attention of the man himself, Curtis Brubaker. He's got some good news.
Even though I only knew of Brubaker through his eponymous Box, the man is an extremely accomplished industrial designer, and has worked with many car (among other) companies on many notable projects. He may even have pioneered the modern version of the curved greenhouse design, with work he did for Chrysler back in 1984.
I spoke with Curtis Brubaker on the phone. Brubaker did clarify a few details for me about the Box, notably that the rear glass is from an El Camino, not a Pinto (I should have looked at it more carefully before just parroting what I found online. It seems so obvious now!) and the windshield was an AMC part.
He also explained the reasoning behind the wooden bumpers was to fit in with the aesthetic of the surfer/old VW Bus-driving crowd that was his original target market, and he lamented the litigiousness that was the root cause of preventing VW from selling him bare chassis, an issue that modern small-volume car makers still face today when trying to source parts from large companies.
The original Box was full of compromises, mist arising from the switch from a kit-car-based product to a finished vehicle, and Brubaker has many ideas of how he's do it over if he could. And the big news is he just might get that chance.
See, Brubaker is currently working on a project he describes as "revolutionary," an automotive technology project he's working with Tesla and Ford on. He wasn't in a position to give me any details just yet, but he did say that a modern Brubaker Box would make a "perfect platform to showcase the new tech."
He absolutely agreed that a Tesla platform could possibly have the same sort of customization potential that the old VW Beetle platform offered decades ago. We also found ourselves in agreement that a luxurious, fast, good-handling premium van is a category of car that needs to happen. And that's where he's picturing a reborn Brubaker Box.
Now, I'm not sure what his new technology project is (though I did get him to promise to tell us first once it is able to be revealed) but I'm sure as hell excited about the idea of a modern Box, even if it's just a concept car. And I think the Premium Sports Van concept is the way to go.
The idea of a van that's appealing, handles well, and is luxurious is one that I've suggested to automakers, and even if they tended to treat me like a man with severe head trauma, I think it's an idea who's time has come.
Something with the fundamental aesthetic of the Brubaker Box and with a modern, advanced (Tesla?) drivetrain could be just what's needed to knock fancy, bulky SUVs on their ass.
Brubaker told me that most modern cars "have too much shit going on" and that simplicity is the hardest to do right, but is always the best path. I think he got that right with the fundamental design of the Box.
I'm very excited to see what comes next.