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Старый 20.06.2013   #1
Kosov
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Kosov
По умолчанию VW MUSEUM: COOL AIR


We thought what better way to kick off our mini VAG theme this month than with a brief tour through some of the group’s history. And with that as a focus, then surely there’s no more appropriate starting point than the world of air-cooled Volkswagens. In this day and age where you have manufacturers with modular bases and model lists longer than a giraffes neck, it’s refreshing to walk in to the VW Museum in Wolfsburg. Instantly you’re reminded that this global force in car manufacturing was born out of one model. The Beetle.

Sure, there were wartime variants and I love the bare bones feel of them. When I look under the front end of this Kubelwagen I recognise a front suspension beam similar in design to the one on my own beach buggy. It’s also got that same stripped-down purity to it, which is what I love about VW – its lineage is so clear throughout history.

I don’t honestly know why I’ve never been to Wolfsburg, even though I’ve driven past it before, but as the sign comes into view the excitement of visiting a new (to me) museum builds. I love all of them, big or small, as you never know quite what gems you’ll find.

The musuem is located on Dieselstrasse. I’m not sure you could have a more industrial name. Maybe Ironworks Way? Forge Crescent? I do have an urge to drive along to Zeppelinstrasse and see if one of my all time favourite bands have got a B&B there. That’s Wolfsburg for you though: industrial through and through, and yes, that’s a kind way of saying it’s all a little bit grey.

Arriving my enthusiasm is dampened a little bit. At one end of a single storey building this is the entrance to the museum – no dazzling glass work, bright lights or other fancies. In fact, aside from a few stencil car outlines on the wall, there’s very little at all to give away what is inside.

The entrance is strangely normal too: no big signs or dancing, wild graphics and impressive light shows. Just a corridor with printed information guiding you through the last 75 years as you walk along. It makes for fascinating reading by the way.

To be honest I’m a little confused by now. Maybe I’ve got used to big flashy showrooms and plush design interiors, but this all seems a little basic. Am I really in the museum of one of the worlds largest car manufacturers? This piece of photo realism art hangs alone on the wall at the end of the corridor. I can’t tell which way around it’s meant to be but the Mustang, VW Type 3 mix-up is indicative of when the ‘people’s car’ took on the muscle cars of California.

Turning to my right there’s this Beetle dashboard with familiar bud vase – a popular accessory available in loads of different styles which allowed you to have fresh flowers on display in your VW. Like an actual organic air freshener, instead of some chemically dipped cardboard.

Now I promise I’ll get to the museum in a minute, but the way you enter a space can tell you a lot about it. For example, just next to the entry door which takes you in to the large exhibit area are these lockers. There is no obvious signage or clue as to their purpose, but I assume they’re for visitors to deposit anything unwanted, take the key and enjoy the scene. VW relying on people’s initiative to figure it out, how wonderfully simple.

Now we’re here. Luftgekuhlte means air-cooled and if you don’t understand that, the outlined shape and engine position should leave you in no doubt.

It really is such a simple design, but it is a design. I’ve always thought that. Some utilitarian machinery is left as such in appearance, but the Beetle is a good looking car that’s proven itself over and over.

The subtle differences between models aren’t always obvious, but they’re there. This number plate light and decklid would have an early Beetle enthusiast doing back flips – not that you’ll find them anytime soon given the rarity of this model from the ’40s. Just so you understand model designations as we go through the museum, the Beetle is the original Typ 1. That’s Typ 1 not T1 – it can get confusing.

Early cars had the split back window and looking through it now – without the rest of the Beetle in view – you get a real sense of nostalgia. The inside really does look like it’s from an entirely different age.

This is what made the Beetle so successful for me: the simplicity of the design. This floorpan is pretty much driveable as you see it here – wiring, steering and seat aside, of course. But this platform meant any number of body styles could be bolted on and construction was kept simple, which made it ideal for export.

Further up the line is this model from the ’70s, which makes for an amusing choice in its role as a roadside assistance car. In fact it was the last one ordered by European outfit ADAC. Why so funny then?

Well can you imagine having to lean over the back seats to get to your kit every time you needed it? What a massive pain that must have been.

This is a Typ 147 or ‘Fridolin’ van, seen here in its most common German Post Office guise. The back end kind of looks like a smaller Transporter van, but this particular model was still built on a floor pan similar to the one above, albeit modified to suit.

I’m fast realising the museum is a simple place. Slanted glass panels in the roof illuminate everything perfectly and littered in between what are mainly Beetles, there are treats like this model, of what I assume may depict an early factory layout.

Over the decades Beetles and their simple flat four engines have been used for so many things. I’m looking at the engine as though we are stood at the back of the car with the lid up, so you can see the heads opposing each other, keeping the weight nice and low. But yes, that is a prop bolted to the crank; the induction on this one is different to a standard engine too. To be honest I’ve had my fair share of engine failures, but I’d be more than happy to rely on this simple design.

Here’s a standard engine for you to compare it with, although this one has got twin carbs. A single, centrally-mounted carb is more common, of course.

So if they’re good enough for air, what about water? This door confused me at first as I fancy my knowledge when it comes to geography. I was trying to figure out what piece of land this car had traversed, then my pidgin Italian kicked in and I realised Stretto means strait as in water. This thing is a boat?

Yup, walking around the back I spy the propeller, once again mated to the engine. The black pipe on the right of it…

… is an exhaust, with the carbs mounted in the cabin behind the rear seat. You can just see the top of the air intake here. Good thing it’s a sunroof model, but seriously, this was 20 years old when the crossing took place and without a second look you’d be hard pressed to notice anything out of the ordinary.

Unlike this one. Modified by the respected tuner Oettinger (pronounced oot-inga), I’m sat here in stunned silence. I can usually find the good in everything, but hmm…

There it is! Massive banded steels. The kind you could use as a dog kennel if you wanted. And yes, those are Testarossa-style side strakes.

The panel fit is almost as good as the contact patch. If you look on this as a Euro VIP-style treatment, does it work? Care to discuss?

Parked alongside is the ubiquitous Herbie; an original film car, it’s synonymous with just why the Beetle is so enduring.

But did you ever notice why Herbie has that slightly more purposeful stance? The use of over-wide tyres gives it an increased footprint and that signature look.

Most tuners have got crosses to bear somewhere in their past and Kamei had a pretty interesting take on aero work when it came to the Beetle. Already a slippery shape, this is an actual accessory that you could buy with your own money.

How many museums can you name that rely on one model to guide you through nearly a quarter of their exhibits? Like I said though, that floorpan design meant coachbuilders like Karmann could add its styling easily and create more desirable metal for customers.

Even these smaller run models saw big changes in their lives. The Typ 34 is more commonly known as the Razor Edge Ghia for obvious reasons. This 1960 prototype features a raised swage line that breaks up the rear quarter on an already complicated body shape.
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Старый 20.06.2013   #2
Kosov
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Something that you can see here never made it in to production.

Check out the rear over-rider too, sharper and more fin like.

By the end of the decade it had become chubby and rounded. No rubber dressing just yet though.

As with any successful company, VW tried to innovate over the years and develop new models for the masses. Looking around the museum you can see just how many different attempts it made – many of which made it to production but never quite hit the same spot as the Beetle.

I’d say the nearest one in terms of air-cooled success was probably the Typ 3.

I might be biased, but my parents took me home from hospital when I was born in a fastback like the model above. The really cool thing about these – which often caused confusion amongst onlookers – was the way you could lift the bonnet at the front and load it up, then lift the bootlid at the back and add more luggage in there, thanks to the engine being mounted below the load compartment.

But you can see even with the Typ 3, VW tried to mix it up and change the style around. The headlamp design here did come to market in the later 411 bodystyle.

Sometimes not even the good stuff makes it though. I’ve heard of the 1500 convertible but have never actually seen one until now. I reckon the lines are gorgeous, but then you have to remember…

… that the Beetle convertible is a very good looking car, even with its pram-like look when the hood is down.

Sometimes it would appear that VW didn’t bother with a roof at all. Whether it ever seriously considered selling this model is another question. Having owned some ‘bay window’ models in the past, and knowing how they like to rust, I was interested to see how this one had been strengthened. To be honest though, I couldn’t see how VW had done it. It reminds me of the early to mid ’90s when we used to buy a car solely to cut the roof off and fit a four-foot gearstick. If in doubt, get the grinder out.

Of course the vans are just as big of a part of the history as the Beetle. This ’49 barndoor T1 (Transporter 1) is the definition of purity to me. It always seems to be that the first iteration is the best with a manufacturer piling on additions and modifications as production goes on. The barndoor bit is a reference to the large engine cover you can see here.

Look inside and you’re straight back to the late ’40s like the Beetle at the top.

Again the subtle differences are there, like the nose badge – here with the ‘V’ and ‘W’ separated.

This early pair are easily worth well in excess of 100K in any currency you care to name, not that they’ll be for sale anytime soon.

Still in the early ’50s, you can see the badge has changed slightly. The other thing that really sets the early split vans aside is the leading edge of the roof.

Here’s the barndoor.

With a later model showing the air intake designed to give a little cooling to the interior. This is just one of the many, many reasons I love a good museum. It gives you a chance to brush up on your car knowledge and learn new things.

So what about my ultimate vehicle in here then? Believe it or not, this is probably the one I’d take home: the four-wheel drive, late model bay window camper. Again I knew of its existence, but had never seen one in the metal. Word is, VW made five prototypes but I’ve only ever seen pictures of what would appear to be this one, then and now. The later T3 Syncro models aren’t exactly everywhere, but this bad boy is downright rare. Incredibly it was in private ownership for many years before VW managed to buy it back, and it even looks as though it’s been left in ‘as found’ condition. Get the kettle on mother, we’re going off road.

The other thing that inspires me for when I get home are the simple seats in the Kubelwagen pictured at the top. The worn leather could be recreated using old jackets and the simple frames and wouldn’t take much to knock up.

The curved inserts would prove a little harder, but I reckon they’d make a great alternative to all the ‘bomber’ style seats you see in hot rods everywhere. I might have to do something about this one.

There are some things that are best left in a museum though. I can see where VW was going with this, but a four-door Beetle just doesn’t work for me.

And I’m hoping this has got more than the stock 1200cc motor in the back.

Truth be known, the museum is fast growing on me – its straightforward, no nonsense approach really reflects the cars inside. This ’46 Beetle could quite easily be my favourite ever. It’s probably time I should explain I’m not actually a Beetle fan. VW yes, but Beetle no. I’ve owned plenty of air-cooled stuff but the original has always been a bit too cramped for me, although there’s space in my garage for this one. Imagine turning up at the Baja 1000 in a replica, complete with grey painted cage and hot motor hidden in the back.

Incredibly there are 52 years between that Beetle and this T2 bus. Even with all its modern luxury and water-cooled, injected engine, you can still see where it came from.

VW has also played its part in grass roots motorsport over the decades, with Formula Vee being popular the world over.

Remember when racing was simple? No? Us neither.

Oh, and ecology is nothing new either. Electric power? Yes please, this is 1979 after all.

As for development over the years, I’m not always a fan of that. Take this early Typ3 indicator….

Slowly it spreads around the wing, getting larger…

… before it finally dominates that beautiful curve, being joined by an ugly rubber bump strip too.

VW may have given its models bigger lights because we all became a bit more blind and ignorant as the years passed.

But they’re just add-ons; the basic principle seems to have remained the same. Keep it simple.

Because that works the best, an everyman car for every man, woman and child.

Wandering back down the corridor as I leave the building – which incidentally now reminds me of a ’60s warehouse or design studio – I spy these models on the shelf of an office. As if working in the museum wasn’t enough, a simple daily reminder of the heritage which VW has and is rightly proud of.
Next up: the water-cooled.
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Старый 20.06.2013   #3
Kosov
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I believe that car design directly charts the shifting tides and styles of humanity itself. So would you agree that as they become more and more complex, so do our lives? Is it so bad that I crave cars from a time gone by? Or is it a good thing that I recognise what kind of person I am? Simple.

Hmm… having wandered the air-cooled section of the VW Museum in Wolfsburg here, I’m now turning right at the entrance and becoming immersed in the water-cooled generation.

Often lauded as the original hot hatch, the Golf Mk I has a lot to answer for. Just like the Beetle before it, the last four decades have been shaped for VW by the success of the Golf. You can see here how the shape has slowly grown and flared out under the waistline, hugging the ground.

The 1975 model that VW has lined up here is what’s known as a ‘swallowtail’, which is in reference to the rear panel, which has a dipped swage line under the registration plate area. If you find one for sale cheap, pick it up as they’re amongst the most desirable models.

Just like the ’40s era Beetle I looked inside, the Golf has all the internal hallmarks of a ’70s car. Green vinyl is such a good look when coupled with the bright yellow exterior, don’t you think? When did we all become so introvert and pseudo-aggressive with our black interiors and tinted windows? Make with the happiness people – get some colour in your life.

You can only look at it subjectively, but this styling exercise named EA 276, from 1969, could have been the Mk I Golf.

Imagine if the distinctive shape that we all know hadn’t come to be – if it had looked different.

With all the market research in the world, a manufacturer can never be 100 percent sure of its design choice until the public start voting with their cash. You can see the plastic arch trims, hatchback and thick C-pillar here that made it to the Golf. Even the bold red colour is more ’70s than ’60s.

The same goes for this styling exercise from 1972. Can you guess what it might have been?

Maybe the back end will give you a better idea? Angular five-door, mid-sized (for the ’70s) saloon. Anybody?

Yup, it was nearly the Passat. I don’t know about you but I think it looks more modern than the shape VW settled on. Maybe they thought we weren’t ready for it 40 years ago?

As well as body styles, every other aspect of the design is open to change and experimentation too. These steel wheels would be an amazing coup for an early water-cooled restorer to stumble across. Again, I’d like to think there’s a random set out there that slipped through the net, hiding in the back of a retired engineer’s shed. Maybe, just maybe…

The Passat went on to greater things of course. I’ve always thought it’s like the quieter brother to the Golf. The silver one is the millionth made and to celebrate…

… VW stuck the names of every employee at that time on it. Just another one of those slightly random things a manufacturer will do to mark an anniversary. It’s not even a VR6.

Back in the ’70s again. As I learnt at Ingolstadt, this was actually an Audi 50 before VW used the design for the Polo, which itself has transformed over the years. It’s very cool to see these shapes you think you’re familiar with but realise you haven’t seen in so long.

Can you guess what this is?

It’s a 1975 Chicco, or if you squint a bit it’s actually a Mk II Polo about five years before it debuted. VW has made a big push over the years at the small car market, which is natural given its history with the Beetle. The Chicco name seems to be one that’s never made it to production but has been used on prototypes.

Here’s a later attempt with less C’s in the name. Square it off and you have the Lupo. Pick out elements like the C-pillar treatment and it could be the Polo 6N. Just the other side of it is something I can’t really relate to production at all.

I seem to remember a school teacher having a ski suit in this fabric, from 1990. This open-top roadster was obviously aimed at the lifestyle sector.

In car entertainment was, err… basic. Although I’m guessing the idea was you could take it with you wherever you went after arriving. That sounds like a pretty good idea huh? Oh I see…

I’m not really sure what kind of adhesive they used on that interior, but it must have had pretty strong mind-altering qualities to it. A blown neon plastic instrument binnacle? I like it but I can’t imagine the bean counters ever giving it approval.

We’ve got an imposter here! Shhh… it’s actually an air-cooled T3, but I had to include it and my previous air-cooled post was getting a bit heavy. Plus it looks incredibly futuristic for the time. Remember that this was the first year of T3 production.

The reason why I love it so much? That sci-fi like exterior. I’ve always had a fondness for custom vans and this one is painfully cool in my slightly bleary eyes. Again it’s a vision from my childhood: somebody very important would have sat in the executive leather seats and made important decisions about important things, whilst parked importantly. They were wearing polyester and could well have been talking about a Buck Rogers episode.

Let’s face it, that 7 could be an 8.

Here’s the Scirroco TR prototype – the TR standing for Targa Roof. We don’t see enough removable roof panels any more. Why not? Did people lose them or something? Everybody from Triumph to Pontiac had a go in the ’70; a sadly lost option in my book.

When you look closely so many things smack of the birth of the digital age. These Mk I Golf office chairs with the familiar red flash may well have been inspired by flashing lines on a screen.

Some concepts look more familiar than others of course, and I think the Corrado convertible works pretty well. The lines are similar to a Renault Megane of the same era, which would make sense as no doubt it was styled by Karmann, which also did the Renault. The Caddy Vantasy (I see what you did there VW) was an attempt to tap in to the smaller motorhome market.

For obvious reasons this Vento/Jetta got my attention. Although, as it was lined up with a bunch of safety orientated models I wasn’t expecting coilovers or air ride. Looking closer those wheels are pretty funky huh?

The tyre appearing to be an integral part of the wheel. I can’t figure the safety aspect of this, but it looks pretty cool.

Turn around and we’re right back up to date again with this 2008/09 (perhaps) Touareg Dakar racer. I’ve always loved off-road racers so it was pretty cool to compare it to the Iltis sat alongside from 30 years earlier.

An ill what?

The Iltis, which was also built for the Paris Dakar. It looks to have taken quite a beating on the nose too, perhaps having flown through the air and landed on that bull bar at some point.

So it’s a good thing that there’s such high-level safety equipment fitted. You can bet the guys probably wore bandanas around their faces to keep the dust out too. Heroes.

As you’re probably gathering by now, the museum is pretty random and you can see from the pictures, often the exhibits are loosely parked with large areas left empty. It’s almost like a well-lit car park in here.

Because look what’s sat next to the Scirocco race car: a Touareg on rubber cat tracks of course. Take a closer look at the plate and you’ll see 2001, which is interesting because VW didn’t commercially release the Touareg until 2002. I think it’s pretty cool that they were doing stuff like this to a model that hadn’t even been released. Maybe it was lined up as an obscure option in snowy climates?

VW even has its own take on ‘do not touch’ stickers – rather apt given the dedication of many VW owners. This one was stuck to something pretty cool.

The VW Noah: a kind of people carrier but with bulbous flanks and cool matt bodywork mixed with painted panels.

I’m not the only one that thinks it could sell some of those, am I?

It’s almost time for me to leave, but not before a few more obscure models, like this Golf Country.

There’s been some stuff in here that’s really opened my eyes and some which I could leave behind – but all of it I found interesting.

Looking around it really hits home just how many VW models are true motoring icons.

Most people having a memory or story attached to one or more of the line-up. For me it was pretty cool to see this early ’90s convertible. In 1996 I drove from NY to LA in an old Cadillac that died somewhere north of Flagstaff. Three weeks later in Santa Barbara I collected a Rabbit just like this one and delivered it to Boston for a lady who was moving back east. Loaded with three months worth of kit, my best friend and I covered 3700 miles in it and I wrote what became my first ever print-published article about the trip. That article directly led me to this career and in turn now standing here today. A knowing smile and I wheel on my heel to leave.

So if the Beetle defined the early period in VW history, then the Golf more than took over from it and has lead the way since then. You’ll notice that there aren’t any development cars from the last 10 or so years in here, which when you consider what is on show makes sense, as they’d give strong indications of what VW have got planned for us. If you follow the VW mantra, sometimes the simple ideas really are the best. Just like its museum.
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