That Time Design Legend Raymond Loewy Phoned In An Updated Volkswagen Beetle

Illustration for article titled That Time Design Legend Raymond Loewy Phoned In An Updated Volkswagen Beetle

Raymond Loewy was an legendary industrial designer, one of the few who have had great successes in industrial design, graphic design and automotive design. But that doesn’t mean he didn’t occasionally phone in an effort, like this wonderfully half-assed redesign of the iconic Volkswagen Beetle.

Our friends over at Car Design Archives unearthed these images in the Raymond Loewy archives, which appear to be simply re-touched photos and not actual photographs of a physical vehicle.

Illustration for article titled That Time Design Legend Raymond Loewy Phoned In An Updated Volkswagen Beetle

These images seem to be from 1962; it’s well known that since the 1950s Volkswagen was reaching out to automotive designers and firms to commission design studies for possible updates to the venerable Beetle or even Beetle replacements.

While many of these resulted in some interesting results, Volkswagen never pulled the trigger on any Beetle redesign, allowing the car to look essentially the same from 1938 until its demise in 2003.


Loewy’s design is notable for how economically it could have been achieved, had Volkswagen been interested. All Loewy did was replace the front hood and the rear decklid, replacing them with larger, more squared-off designs that look a hell of a lot like the goofy fiberglass aftermarket Rolls-Royce hood kits you could buy for your Beetle in the back of car magazines.


The result is pretty clunky, especially when you remember that this is coming from the same mind that gave us the lovely Studebaker Avanti. It would have transformed the Beetle into a sort of archaic-looking-for-1962 three-box design, a bit more conventional, and would have had the non-trivial added benefit of nearly doubling the amount of trunk space, and providing enough room under that engine lid for, say, a massive turbocharger.

It’s not clear if Volkswagen commissioned Loewy for some cheap and quick redesign options, or if Raymond just doodled these for the hell of it. Maybe he was planning his own custom Beetle? Loewy was known for redesigning his own personal cars, having taken the cutting torch to such design legends as the BMW 507 and Jaguar E-Type, with decidedly mixed results.


We don’t really know, of course, but it doesn’t really matter. It’s still an interesting little artifact of design, so let’s just enjoy it for that.

Senior Editor, Jalopnik • Running: 1973 VW Beetle, 2006 Scion xB, 1990 Nissan Pao, 1991 Yugo GV Plus, 2020 Changli EV • Not-so-running: 1977 Dodge Tioga RV (also, buy my book!:

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wbizarre - OEM fetishist

Unpopular opinion time: I’m not a fan of Loewy’s automotive work. He’s very significant in industrial design, including trains and product design. But his cars... that Beetle redesign is not an anomaly in his body of work.

I’d consider the Starliner to be his best automotive work. It was well-proportioned and clean, without many of the additive chrome flourishes prevalent in the ‘50's. It was also one of the first designs to do away with the vestigial fender bubbles on the sides, instead featuring a single, uninterrupted feature line running from headlight to taillight.

The Avanti though... There are some interesting details, like the front fender wings, but overall it just seems awkwardly proportioned to me. The greenhouse is really big compared to the body. The biggest culprit of that seems to be the upper rear corner of the side daylight opening, which visually pinches the roofline upward. That means the roofline doesn’t flow smoothly into the fastback glass in the rear, and the side glass looks extra tall and square from the front perspective. Combined with the squared-off front and back, the car looks less like a sleek sports-coupe, and more like an entry-level compact.

I’m not going to go into Loewy’s BMW 507, Lancia, and Jaguar, which I think he utterly ruined.

unpopular opinion time over.