Look At This Proposal For An Updated Beetle From 1968

It's kind of like a taller Porsche 356, maybe with a little Citroën DS snuck in?

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Image: Car Design Archives

Volkswagen managed to build the original air-cooled Beetles with a fundamental design finalized in 1938 all the way to 2003 without any really significant major re-designs, which is pretty amazing for all you consistency fans out there. But that doesn’t mean VW never thought about changing it, or that really, everyone else who thought about car design wasn’t thinking about changing it. Occasionally, one of these re-design ideas will surface, and I’m always fascinated by them Like this one, from designer Tom Kellogg in 1968.

Tom Kellogg was the one of the key designers of the Studebaker Avanti, and was chosen for the project by famed industrial designer Raymond Loewy. Later, Kellogg started his own design studio, and this modernized VW proposal seems to be from that era.

I noticed this amazing rendering in one of Car Design Archive’s excellent posts:

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The description suggests that Kellogg did this as part of a magazine contest to design the next Beetle. I’ve encountered references to this contest before, which I think was held by a German magazine, though I’m still trying to get more information on this it and, hopefully, find the other entries.

Kellogg’s modernized Beetle, I think, is quite a lovely design, and feels like a natural evolution of the Beetle design from a 1930s-style separate fenders car to a more modern full-width body style.

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I think we can say the evolution is natural because it’s remarkably close to what Porsche did when they designed the 356, which was, in many ways, an update of the fundamental Beetle design.

Image for article titled Look At This Proposal For An Updated Beetle From 1968
Image: Car Design Archives
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Kellogg kept key distinctive visual hallmarks, like the embossings in the hood, a more integrated version of the iconic double-glass headlights, and, interestingly, the top-of-fender turn indicators, which here seem to sport a separate rear amber lens. He also retained and enlarged the oval horn grilles.

He also did something with the badge down where the hood handle used to be, but I can’t quite tell what’s going on there.

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The bumpers are dramatically simplified, the body is overall much cleaner from the lack of seams with rubber beading between the body and fenders, door hinges are now hidden, and the whole car has a much sleeker, upscale look.

It’s interesting that this is dated from 1968, as that was the year that in reality, the Beetle was given its most significant re-design:

Image for article titled Look At This Proposal For An Updated Beetle From 1968
Image: VW
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Pre-’68 Beetles had the sloping lights, the lower-mounted chrome bumpers with (in some markets) pretty elaborate guards and overriders, and shapes of fenders and engine lids and hoods that got altered and somewhat simplified in the 1968 facelift, which continued, with the usual lighting and other detail changes, until the Beetle’s demise in 2003.

It’s also interesting to look at Kellogg’s proposal in contrast to a 1950s Ghia Beetle update and an in-house design study for a possible four-door Beetle:

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Image: Car Design Archives/VW
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Kellogg’s is like the Ghia study in how it made a Beetle with a full-width, pontoon-sort of design. The in-house VW four-door study is similar in the way the designer attempts to simplify and modernize the Beetle’s outdated 1930s design details.

You know what else we can compare this too that would be fun? Kellogg’s old boss, Raymond Loewy, took a stab at a Beetle redesign in 1962, but it appears he really half-assed it:

Image for article titled Look At This Proposal For An Updated Beetle From 1968
Image: Car Design Archives
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It’s just a strangely squared-off hood and decklid, which would likely have almost doubled luggage space and made room for a big honking supercharger on the engine, but beyond that feels more like some fiberglass thing you could have ordered from a JC Whitney catalog in 1972.

I do like Kellogg’s sleeker Beetle design, and it’s possible such a re-design could have kept the Beetle more relevant into the later 1970s when the influx of modern Japanese cars was eating away at Beetle sales and pushing VW to the new front engine/FWD/liquid-cooled Rabbit/Golf path VW adapted from Auto Union and NSU.

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Still, part of the charm of the Beetle was VWs stubborn unwillingness to change its style, which clever ads turned into an asset by suggesting it helped VW focus on more practical changes, and the amazing parts interchangability, where you could bolt on parts to the same car that were decades removed:

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Image: VW
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That ad on the right may have also inspired VW’s Harlequin cars, too.

If anyone has any info about that magazine contest, by the way, I’m dying to see it.