Illustration for article titled This Old VW Vanagon Brochure Contains An Interesting And Unintentional Hidden Brain Teaser

In these trying times, you should do whatever you can to soothe yourself, bring yourself quiet, almost meditative joy. However you go about it is your business, whether its yoga, large amounts of gin, vigorous, almost violent masturbation, whatever. For me, it’s digging through huge stacks of old car brochures (and maybe that other one there). While looking through a 1982 or 1983 (the year is not mentioned anywhere!) Vanagon brochure, I happened across a fascinating little automotive mind-bender.

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The (I assume) unintentional brain teaser is on this spread, describing the Vanagon Camper:

Illustration for article titled This Old VW Vanagon Brochure Contains An Interesting And Unintentional Hidden Brain Teaser
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Specifically, this bit in the lower left corner:

Illustration for article titled This Old VW Vanagon Brochure Contains An Interesting And Unintentional Hidden Brain Teaser

Okay, so VW is talking about the overall packaging of the Vanagon Camper, and saying that their use of an underfloor engine mounted with a transaxle at the rear is the best layout for this sort of vehicle.

And, I may be inclined to agree—it is a remarkably space-efficient package here, and the use of space inside the Vanagon camper is excellent—but what I’m most interested here is the assertion that there are “12 possible variations for engine, transmission, and drive train placement for this type of vehicle.”

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Twelve? Is that right? That seems like a lot. Let’s see if we can figure out what VW is thinking, here. I’m going to use some simplified schematics to work this out. We’ll have three boxes, one for engine, one for transmission, one for the differential. If we need a driveshaft, I’ll put one in.

If the transmission and differential overlap, that’s because it’s a transaxle setup, like on the actual Vanagon.

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Speaking of the actual Vanagon, we may as well do it the way VW did to start:

Illustration for article titled This Old VW Vanagon Brochure Contains An Interesting And Unintentional Hidden Brain Teaser
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Okay, that’s one. Let’s crank out the other obvious options:

Illustration for article titled This Old VW Vanagon Brochure Contains An Interesting And Unintentional Hidden Brain Teaser
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That’s longitudinal front engine/FWD. Here’s transverse front/front:

Illustration for article titled This Old VW Vanagon Brochure Contains An Interesting And Unintentional Hidden Brain Teaser
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Here’s traditional front engine/rear drive:

Illustration for article titled This Old VW Vanagon Brochure Contains An Interesting And Unintentional Hidden Brain Teaser
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Okay, so that’s four. Let’s consider mid-engine options:

Illustration for article titled This Old VW Vanagon Brochure Contains An Interesting And Unintentional Hidden Brain Teaser
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Up there is transverse front-mid-driving front. Below is longitudinal front-mid-FWD:

Illustration for article titled This Old VW Vanagon Brochure Contains An Interesting And Unintentional Hidden Brain Teaser
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This is front-mid-rear:

Illustration for article titled This Old VW Vanagon Brochure Contains An Interesting And Unintentional Hidden Brain Teaser
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No one would do a transverse front-mid-rear. That would be insane, and not really possible without some weird extra 90° gearboxes. But we can do this kind of mid-rear:

Illustration for article titled This Old VW Vanagon Brochure Contains An Interesting And Unintentional Hidden Brain Teaser
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And, I guess we can do transverse mid-rear:

Illustration for article titled This Old VW Vanagon Brochure Contains An Interesting And Unintentional Hidden Brain Teaser
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Okay, we’re at 8. Oh, we could do transverse rear/rear!

Illustration for article titled This Old VW Vanagon Brochure Contains An Interesting And Unintentional Hidden Brain Teaser
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That’s ten. Now we need two more. They couldn’t possibly be counting this, could they?

Illustration for article titled This Old VW Vanagon Brochure Contains An Interesting And Unintentional Hidden Brain Teaser
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Longitudinal rear/front drive? Could they mean that? That would be insane. Maybe, though? That takes us to 11. One more. One more. What other options are there?

I mean, I guess we could talk AWD, but if we get in to that, that’s more than 12, because you could do AWD front, rear, mid-front, mid-rear all longitudinal and transverse, and that would be eight more options.

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So, if we’re sticking with 2WD, what’s the last one? I can’t imagine it’s anything transverse that isn’t driving the wheels it’s closest to, because that’s not even a rational option, right?

I guess it could me mid-rear driving front, like the rear driving front, but I’m not even sure I want to count that, since it’s so absurd and useless. Really, I think we’re at 10, as I’m sort of not dignifiying the rear/FWD or rear-mid/FWD combos with two.

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Oh, wait! A front/rear transaxle design! Like a Corvette! Yes! That’s it!

Illustration for article titled This Old VW Vanagon Brochure Contains An Interesting And Unintentional Hidden Brain Teaser
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Of course, they still can’t have meant rear/FWD, yeah?

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

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