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#TBT: The Beetle successors that never were

The Volkswagen Beetle is an icon. Over the years, it has symbolized many different things to many different people, from a classic example of German ingenuity to the calling card for a counterculture movement to a reminder that the simplest of things can sometimes be the best. Above all, it set the standard by which…

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The Volkswagen Beetle is an icon. Over the years, it has symbolized many different things to many different people, from a classic example of German ingenuity to the calling card for a counterculture movement to a reminder that the simplest of things can sometimes be the best. Above all, it set the standard by which all other small, economy cars are judged.

From the beginning of the modern Volkswagen, the Beetle was a boom car for affordable transportation in Europe and elsewhere, and by 1952 it was sold in 46 countries. Eventually, it would be built in 14 countries around the globe. More than 21.5 million were sold before the final, modern-generation Beetle rolled off the assembly line in 2019.

Yet the longevity of the Beetle was far from assured. Starting in the early 1950s, Volkswagen considered more than 70 potential replacements and off-shoots of the Beetle – but found that the original offered a unique mix of values that couldn’t be easily replicated. It wasn’t until the Golf hatchback launched in 1974 that the true successor for the Beetle arrived. Here’s a look at some of the would-be heirs to the Beetle that never made it into production.

 

1955/56 EA47-12

Number 12 of 15 prototypes produced between 1953 and the end of 1956, the EA-47-12 was VW’s first attempt at creating a modern successor to the Beetle. It was the first of many Beetle replacements designed by Italian automobile designer Ghia, which is probably why it looks like the quirky Karmann Ghia. The car was powered by a 1192cc four-cylinder boxer air-cooled engine with a power output of 30 horsepower. In addition, it boasted a transverse link front axle, torsion bar rear suspension, and fully synchronized gearbox—unique technology for the time. Top speed was 50 mph.

1955 EA48

Volkswagen began toying with the idea of developing a car positioned below the Beetle in terms of size, performance, and price in 1953. The result was the boxy EA48. Some call it the first “City Car,” an accolade bestowed upon the British Motor Corporation (BMC) Mini because the EA48 never went into production. The EA48 was also the first prototype designed in-house without any input from Porsche. None of the components from the Beetle were carried over to the EA48; instead, engineers decided to start from scratch. The front-wheel-drive vehicle featured unibody construction, a front-mounted 0.7-liter air-cooled, flat-twin 18 bhp engine, and a McPherson-type front suspension. It had a top speed of 60 mph.

1960 EA97

Reportedly the EA97 project was abandoned while workers were prepping its assembly line, and after 200 pilot cars had been assembled by hand. The development of this rear-engine two-door vehicle began in 1957. It featured a more pontoon-shaped body and a 1.1-liter engine. What was the problem? “It was positioned too close to the Beetle and the Type 3,” according to the AutoMuseum Volkswagen website.

1961 Type 3 Cabriolet

The Type 3 released in 1961 gave motorists a more upmarket alternative to the Beetle. This elegant Cabriolet prototype was built for people who wanted a convertible. The folding convertible top featured a glass rear window. Sadly, it was shelved out of fear the model would create internal competition with the Karmann Ghia convertible.

1963 EA128

The EA128 was Volkswagen’s vision for a large luxury car. The four-door vehicle was marketed as a six-passenger vehicle (albeit a tight fit) and was powered by a 2.0 liter air-cooled horizontally opposed engine borrowed from the Porsche 911, which also debuted in 1963.

1966 EA142

While developing the Type 4, which made its debut in 1968, Volkswagen experimented with various body styles, including this elegant EA 142. The rear engine hatchback sported the same 1.7-liter engine that would appear in the production version of the Type 4.

1969 EA276

This was the inspiration for the original Golf, which was sold as the Rabbit in the U.S. The front-wheel-drive hatchback was boxier than many of the other Beetle replacements. Though this car is outfitted with the same air-cooled flat-four-cylinder engine as the Beetle, VW changed to a four-cylinder, water-cooled inline engine before releasing the Rabbit in 1974.

1969 EA266

One of the more innovative replacement candidates was the EA266. It was developed with assistance from Porsche and a team led by Ferdinand Piëch, the grandson of Ferdinand Porsche, who would later become Chairman of the Volkswagen group in 1993. The mid-engine hatchback features a water-cooled four-cylinder 1.6-liter engine mounted under the rear seat in a longitudinal configuration with the transaxle directly behind it to save space. Despite the sporty design and Porsche DNA, the EA266 fell short of the assembly line – destined for the museum floor instead.

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Toyota Motor Corporation works to develop and manufacture innovative, safe and high-quality products and services that create happiness by providing mobility for all. We believe that true achievement comes from supporting our customers, partners, employees, and the communities in which we operate. Since our founding over 80 years ago in 1937, we have applied our…

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Toyota Motor Corporation works to develop and manufacture innovative, safe and high-quality products and services that create happiness by providing mobility for all. We believe that true achievement comes from supporting our customers, partners, employees, and the communities in which we operate. Since our founding over 80 years ago in 1937, we have applied our Guiding Principles in pursuit of a safer, greener and more inclusive society. Today, as we transform into a mobility company developing connected, automated, shared and electrified technologies, we also remain true to our Guiding Principles and many of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals to help realize an ever-better world, where everyone is free to move.

SDGs Initiatives https://global.toyota/en/sustainability/sdgs/

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Orchard business blossoms with Hilux help

It’s late Sunday afternoon on one of the warmest spring days of the year. The ground looks dry and is already beginning to crack. Songbirds and bees compete for attention as the low sun gently warms thousands of blossoming apple trees on a south-facing hillside in the heart of Kent.But with unseasonably low temperatures in…

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It’s late Sunday afternoon on one of the warmest spring days of the year. The ground looks dry and is already beginning to crack. Songbirds and bees compete for attention as the low sun gently warms thousands of blossoming apple trees on a south-facing hillside in the heart of Kent.

But with unseasonably low temperatures in the overnight weather forecast, the race is on to protect a 75-acre orchard from frost damage. One way to do this is to make sure the grass between each row of trees is kept short. This helps to increase airflow and reduces the chance of cold air settling. 

Claire Seymour, 43, gently edges her Toyota Hilux between a row of trees at Tubslake Farm, near Hawkhurst in Kent. Her pick-up’s white paintwork and red signwriting match the flowering pink and white Braeburn apple blossom. Her husband, Steve Bowles, also 43, then sets about unloading a large green Fendt 209V tractor from an enormous six-wheeled flat-bed trailer behind the Toyota. He starts up the brand new tractor and then begins to set up and test the Fisher variable-width mower before handing it over to its new owner for an evening of urgent grass cutting.

Claire is managing director of NP Seymour Ltd, an engineering and agricultural machinery dealer set up by her family in 1974. Based in nearby Cranbrook, the company supplies and makes equipment for orchards, vineyards and fruit growers across the UK. 

“We’ve had other pick-ups in the past but I was impressed with the comfort of the Hilux. We bought it from Beadles Toyota, Medway, in the spring of 2019.

“It’s the Invincible model and is fitted with off-road tyres and a Truckman top on the back. We use it all the time for customer deliveries all over the UK, visiting growers and going to shows. The 3.5-tonne towing capacity is really important to us as lots of our kit is very heavy,” explained Claire.

Surrounded by apple blossom, NP Seymour’s Toyota Hilux delivers a tractor to an orchard at Tubslake Farm, Hawkhurst, Kent.

“We’ve been really busy since we’ve owned it. Covid didn’t really slow us down at all. We just had a few difficulties with staff numbers. But the demand for our machinery hasn’t stopped.

“The Hilux has already done 50,000 miles, and absolutely nothing has gone wrong with it. We’ll definitely buy another Toyota when it’s time to replace this one,” she said, just before hurrying off, leaving the orchard in a cloud of dust to go and enjoy the rest of her Sunday evening with Steve.

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Toyota Motor Corporation works to develop and manufacture innovative, safe and high-quality products and services that create happiness by providing mobility for all. We believe that true achievement comes from supporting our customers, partners, employees, and the communities in which we operate. Since our founding over 80 years ago in 1937, we have applied our…

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Toyota Motor Corporation works to develop and manufacture innovative, safe and high-quality products and services that create happiness by providing mobility for all. We believe that true achievement comes from supporting our customers, partners, employees, and the communities in which we operate. Since our founding over 80 years ago in 1937, we have applied our Guiding Principles in pursuit of a safer, greener and more inclusive society. Today, as we transform into a mobility company developing connected, automated, shared and electrified technologies, we also remain true to our Guiding Principles and many of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals to help realize an ever-better world, where everyone is free to move.

SDGs Initiatives https://global.toyota/en/sustainability/sdgs/

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