When we think of innovative automotive design, we imagine sleek, futuristic machines, as if plucked from the screen of a science fiction movie. With the lineage of the Volkswagen ‘MicroBus’, it seems as if German Engineering received their inspiration from a freshly baked loaf of bread and the calculations happened to magically make sense after wind tunnel testing (which was utilized). Known by purists as the ‘Type 2’, cemented in popular culture as a ‘hippie van’, the legendary Volkswagen MicroBus is scheduled to return sometime in 2021. We know the VW ‘Type 1’ as the popular and very loved ‘Beetle’. The Type 2 Light Commercial Vehicle was introduced in 1950, becoming legendary as a jack of many trades. The original design had a rear-mounted, 1200cc, air-cooled, flat-4 (opposed cylinder) engine, producing a mere 30 horsepower and was purposed as a utility/cargo transport and people mover. The simplicity of the engine, in both its design & the ease of maintenance by the owner/operator, resulted in the same reliability (plus having common parts availability) as the Beetle.
The MicroBus had many variants, including an incorporated flat bed, extended crew cab (with removable seats), medical ambulance and several ‘camper’ configurations. Some of the popular camper series included the ‘Westy’, featuring a pop-up rooftop (for making enough headroom for standing), the ‘Deluxe’ with it’s skylight windows and cloth sunroof (for touring the Alps) and the ‘AdventureWagon/Weekender’ with its high roof and removable seats to accommodate camping/RV amenities. Aftermarket kits and home built creations further enhanced the capabilities of the VW MicroBus through the years, all across the globe.
Over time, engine horsepower was steadily increased throughout year models, an automatic transmission becoming an available option (1973), improved crash safety design/features (also 1973), Electronic Fuel Injection (EFI in 1975) and an electronic ignition system becoming standard in 1978. MicroBuses were in service amongst civilians and governmental agencies on every continent since production initially began, then expanded, due to cost to benefit and overall capability. Beginning in 1990, the traditional air cooled, rear-mounted engine gave way to a front-mounted, liquid-cooled platform, known as the ‘Transporter’ in Europe and the ‘Eurovan’ in the US Market. The newest 6th generation MicroBuses have been in production since 2015, yet purists wondered if VW would return to their Type 2 ‘roots’. Popular culture has been influenced by both the first and second generation Type 2 MicroBuses. It was an icon of the 1960s counterculture movement in the USA, known as the ‘hippie van’, used and seen as a transport to major historical events of the time. Type 2’s adorned with hand-painted murals, including philosophical & political statements, were just as legendary as the concerts of Monterrey Pop Festival of 1967 and Woodstock of 1969, of which they travelled to. It is difficult to deny this level of iconic status not being considered, in both function & form, for the next generation of MicroBus that VW was envisioning.
A new concept vehicle utilizing the Modular Electric Propulsion Platform (MEPP) recently came to life- the ID ‘Buzz’. At first look, the Buzz returns to its Type 2 roots in its color, shape and structure. Yes, its a finely sculpted aerodynamic ‘bread loaf’, but nostalgia is right on par with VW’s leading edge with innovation. Being a platform without internal combustion power, the Buzz is meant to be the modern icon of the electric age. The front and rear axles utilize electric motors, making a combined 369 horsepower coming from 225 kilowatts of system power, allowing for an estimated 300 mile range before charging. VW says, that with the use of a DC ‘fast charger’, bringing the onboard battery system to 80% of peak charge would only take 30 minutes- your average road trip break to stretch your legs and enjoy sit-down dining. Modular components for the drive system are to make replacement/repair of systems both timely and affordable, due to the sharing of design and technology across VW’s subsidiaries, partners and even competitors, including Audi, Ford SEAT and Porsche. The interior of the Buzz’s three rows of seating are modular and can be configured for several combinations of passenger & cargo. There’s even a table in the center console, which can be moved about the interior of the cabin, thanks to tracks incorporated into the flooring. Due to the lack of an internal combustion engine, Buzz also has a trunk for cargo storage.
Buzz will be loaded with current and developing technology, including a fold-away steering wheel (assuming possible driver-assist or ‘auto pilot’) and a Heads Up Display (HUD) unit utilizing ‘augmented reality’ to assist during less favorable driving conditions, traffic and night time driving. The incorporation of Apple & Android products/software are a safe bet to be available via Apple CarPlay & Android Auto, in VW’s proposed ‘infotainment’ system, and the latest version of their CarNet software is expected to be supported (with possible WiFi hotspot), along with a conventional dash-mounted touchscreen as a driver information display. 2021 is the slated return for production of this automotive icon.
The VW MicroBus has come a long way in its over 50 years of service and is slated to take us even further into the future. Stay tuned to Payne Mission Volkswagen, Payne Brownsville Volkswagen and PayneAutoGroup.com for the latest & greatest in the current (and upcoming) line-up from Volkswagen. We have what you want… REGARDLESS!!!