One of my favorite things about the old air-cooled Volkswagen platform is how astoundingly flexible it was. The same basic drivetrain and chassis was the basis for an absurdly varied collection of vehicles, from the original Beetle to the sporty Karmann Ghia to the jeep-like VW Thing to the Brasilia little wagon to three-box sedans and on and on. VW’s South African branch even had plans to turn the Beetle into something that looks a lot like an SUV. That one didn’t quite make it to production but, incredibly, there’s one for sale right now.
The car in question is known as Project 1021, and is one of a handful of prototypes that were built by VW South Africa in the late 1970s.
I’ve covered the history of this project before, which was intended to be a Beetle successor for the South African market. Under the fiberglass bodies, it’s a normal Beetle chassis and 1600cc air-cooled flat-four, but the boxy look of the SUV and truck versions look like something completely different, down to the fake grilles up front.
Really, only the fuel filler location and odd vents on the sides hint at what’s really going on below the surface.
Only a few of these 1021 prototypes seem to have been built, and it appears that the one we noticed still in regular use back in 2018 seems to be the same one currently for sale.
The license plate is different, but the color, wheels, roof rack, and even that sticker under the rear window are the same.
The car is especially interesting because the driver’s side just has one door, but the passenger side has two! It’s not clear if this has something to do with its prototype status (maybe they hadn’t decided to do a two- or four-door?) or it could just be a novel design.
I think this is an absolutely amazing car and a bit of barely-known VW history. The seller is asking R50,000 for it, which only comes to bout $3,600 American, which seems like a steal to me.
With just normal, everyday VW mechanicals there’s no reason this can’t be kept running until the heat death of the universe or the Great Old Ones awaken, whichever comes first.
Shipping to America would likely double the cost, but still, seems worth it. Volkswagen itself should be buying this thing! You know what Indiana Jones said about this sort of thing, right? VW of America, come on! Buy this thing and then let me drive it, and I’ll make sure everyone forgets about that Voltswagen thing.
I reached out to the seller to try and find out how the hell they got ahold of this thing, and I’ll update when and if I hear back. I’m very curious.