Volkswagen’s announcement of a new dune buggy-inspired electric concept is absolutely fun and exciting, but the real news isn’t about this concept itself—it’s how its built. It’s built on VW’s new MEB modular electric platform, and for the first time in decades, Volkswagen seems to have—and, even more importantly, appreciate—that they may have something as flexible as the old Beetle chassis, which spawned a whole industry of kit cars and dune buggies.
I can say this because Volkswagen pretty much says it, right in their press release:
“The concept of the fully electric buggy is based on the vehicles that were created in the 1960s in California. Back then, the Beetle chassis served as the basis for these buggies; now, the MEB is proving to be just as flexible...
The new MEB concept vehicle shows that this fully electric platform can be used for more than just large-scale series production models. Like the Beetle chassis of yesteryear, the MEB has the potential to facilitate the development of low-volume niche vehicles.
The history of recreational vehicles and Volkswagen technology is a long one. From the Beetle convertible and special bodies produced by companies such as Hebmüller and Rometsch to dune buggies like the Meyers Manx, the Beetle chassis allowed for creative custom solutions for decades. Globally, around 250,000 individual vehicles were built as one-offs or at low volumes through to the 1980s.”
This is a big deal. This suggests that the MEB could potentially be the basis of “low-volume niche vehicles” like, perhaps, a reborn Karmann-Ghia or Thing or dune buggies like these, or, perhaps at a larger volume, another resurrection of the Beetle. They’re already planning on a new Microbus, so why not?
Man, you better follow through on this, you cowards!
As a start, this vaguely Meyers Manx-inspired Dune Buggy is pretty good. Volkswagen has been inspired by such dune buggies before, of course, such as their 2011 Buggy Up! concept:
...but hopefully this time, with the MEB platform, it may actually happen.
The design of this MEB Buggy looks pretty damn good; it’s got the floating-over-the-huge-wheels look of a classic Manx, big, graphical headlamps that, oddly, remind me of wartime KdF Wagen blackout headlight covers, though I can’t imagine that’s the intent:
That aside, this thing looks really fun. It may be a stretch to think it’ll make production, but it would be amazing if it did, of course. The electric motors would have great torque, and with the battery weight low in the chassis and possibly AWD, this thing could be a formidable beach crawler.
I’m eager to see more of this when it’s revealed in March at Geneva, and even more excited to see if VW will follow through on the potential for the MEB platform to host many types of interesting, niche cars. If so, that would mean a Volkswagen renaissance that I’ve been hoping to see for years.
I’ll try not to get my hopes up, but it’s tricky.