Friday, March 4, 2011

Bulli for Volkswagen

Unveiled at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show is the Bulli Concept as VW continues to tease baby boomers with the prospect of a resurrected Microbus
Remembering flower power
Small on the outside, big on the inside and extremely fuel efficient for its time, the original VW Microbus became the automotive symbol of the 1960’s counterculture.
Known internally as the Type2 T1, it might never have been created had it not been for a certain Dutch car importer by the name of Ben Pon. During a visit to VW’s Wolfsburg factory in 1947, Pon came up with the idea for a vehicle for small businesses and families that needed something bigger than the Beetle.
A year later, the newly-appointed general director, Heinrich Nordhoff took “what the Americans call – a calculated risk” and approved the project that officially launched on November 12, 1949 and went on sale to the general public in March of 1950.
During 51 years of production, Volkswagen made nearly 3 million of what Americans called, among other things, a VW Van, Microbus and hippie van. The Type 2 was originally supposed to be named the Bully and even though it was introduced as the Volkswagen Transporter, the nickname – often spelled Bulli – stuck in Germany.
It’s alive!
Attempts to revive the Microbus have been around since it ceased production in Europe and the U.S. in 1979. In 2001, Volkswagen unveiled the Microbus Concept at the Detroit Auto Show. In 2002, VW announced that production would begin the following year. That launch was put off and production was officially cancelled in 2005.
Earlier this week, however, Volkswagen revived the hopes of aging flower children everywhere by unveiling an even smaller version officially dubbed the Bulli Concept at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show.

Volkswagen Bulli Concept
The concept is front driver powered by an electric motor located ahead of the front axle that produces 85 kW (114 horsepower) and 270 Newton meters (199 lb.-ft.) of torque. Powered by a lithium-ion battery located behind the side sills, the Bulli is said to have a range of 300 km (186 miles) with a 0 to 62 mph time of 11.5 seconds on its way to a top speed of 87 miles per hour.
Interestingly, although the concept is an electric, VW notes that “the concept can also incorporate Volkswagen’s extremely efficient petrol and diesel direct injection engines as alternative drives. Engines with 1.0 or 1.4 litre displacement that are fuel efficient yet strong”, indicating that there is hope, yet, that a production version will be available to an audience with wider tastes.
Dimensionally, although nearly identical in width, the Bulli is nearly a foot shorter in length and gives up 5 inches in height to the original Type 2. In its favor, a wheelbase of just over 103 inches is over nine inches more than the Microbus. Its weight, including battery, is 3,190 lbs.

Looking the part
Its looks, however, are enough to make any aging hippie swoon. Beginning in front with a large interlocking VW logo placed squarely in the middle of a stylized white “V” shaped background on the hood, the Microbus theme is carried through all the way to the back. A two-tone color scheme is split just below the beltline with white on top and red on the bottom.
The theme is carried through to the wheels, with a white band surrounding a bright chrome inner circle containing the interlocking VW logo set against a small white center circle. A narrow headlight band sits atop the fenders, with large round fog lights set into the front bumper, mimicking the large front headlamp housings of the original Microbus.
In back, narrow LED tail lamps set just below the color split flank another smaller (but still large) VW logo, while the large, curved rear window again reminds us of a 15 or 23 window Kombi.
Inside, another bow to the Microbus is the Bulli’s bench front seat with the capability of 3-across seating, matching that of the rear seat. Even with both benches fully occupied, VW says there’s just over 13 cubic feet of storage between the rear bench and the tailgate.
A center console-mounted iPad serves as a multi-function touchscreen and, with its internet-based applications, a media center as well. Apple’s device also handles the Bulli’s Bluetooth telephone and navigation requirements, while the concept’s climate controls and hazard warning switch are located on the iPad mount.
The Bulli is equipped with a Fender sound system With VW noting that Jimi Hendrix was using a Fender Stratocaster when he played “The Star-Spangled Banner” at Woodstock in 1969.
As if that isn’t enough to bring tears to the eyes of baby boomers everywhere, there’s more: The outer and middle sections of the front seat can be folded down. And while the rear bench seat can be completely stowed, the “seat system can be transformed into a large reclining surface with just a few manual movements. This turns the compact MPV into a compact camper – the ultimate companion for a weekend trip.



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