Forty years ago, the first vehicle designed and assembled by Volkswagen entirely in America rolled out of the factory in Pennsylvania. Officially and simply called “Volkswagen Pickup,” the compact truck built from the Rabbit chassis offered an economical alternative to full-size pickups in a time of fluctuating gas prices. Over five years, Volkswagen sold 77,514 Pickup models in the United States and exported several thousand more, before the U.S. market shifted away from small trucks. This week at the New York International Auto Show, Volkswagen has brought a 21st century take on the Pickup of years past. Aside from having a bed, the Volkswagen Tarok concept1 offers a far higher level of capability and refinement, with seating for five, an innovative bed and ample payload for its size. While it’s not designed for American buyers, it’s here to ask the question: Is America ready for a smaller pickup again? Most pickups pair big engines with ladder-type chassis that use leaf springs, a setup great for hauling and towing (just like the westward pioneers found with their Conestoga wagons). Over the past several decades, many automakers have experimented with using a more car-like unibody chassis with a pickup bed as a solution that’s designed to be more space- and fuel-efficient, while still offering additional load-carrying capability. Volkswagen’s first pickups in the United States were versions of the Bus sold in single and double-cab models in the 1950s and 1960s. Thanks to the rear-engine Bus chassis, these trucks had fantastic features like fold-down beds and a sizable storage compartment between the engine and cab. Sold mostly as commercial vehicles and never quite as popular as the Bus, these pickups fell victim to tariff rules in 1971 and are now collectors’ items. Since the Volkswagen Pickup ended production in 1984, other car-based compact pickups have disappeared from the market; the last one ended production in 2006. Yet pickups account for 16 percent of all new vehicles sold in America so far in 2019, and as they’ve grown in popularity, they’ve also grown in cost and size. Even today’s “midsize” pickups are around 17 percent bigger than they were in their 1980s peak. Those evolutions may have created space for something new like the Tarok concept. Based on Volkswagen’s versatile MQB chassis that’s shared with the Atlas and Tiguan, the Tarok is 193 inches long, or about five inches shorter than the Atlas. Yet thanks to an innovative design that allows the front wall of the pickup bed to fold down into the passenger cabin, along with the rear passenger seats, the Tarok can hold items 73 inches long. of Four decades of design advancements and the MQB chassis allows the Tarok concept to have roughly double the payload capacity of the previous Volkswagen Pickup, at 2,200 lbs – which is also at least 1,200 lbs. more than the last compact pickup sold in America. With Volkswagen’s sharp, modern design, nine inches of ground clearance and 4Motion all-wheel-drive, the Tarok has the skills to match its looks when venturing off road. As it’s designed for South America and not the United States, the Tarok is powered by a 1.4-liter TSI four-cylinder engine making 148 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque, capable of running on ethanol fuel blends up to 100 percent, mated to a six-speed automatic. But because of its flexible MQB chassis, the Tarok could easily be adapted with larger TSI engines similar to what the Atlas and Tiguan have today. Whether there’s demand for a more versatile compact-plus-sized pickup remains to be seen. But based on the reaction to the Tarok concept in New York, Volkswagen has the potential to make one a reality – and bring another distinctive vehicle back to American roads.
From Vermont’s Kingdom Trails to Moab, Utah, mountain biking has grown in recent years to become a favorite outdoor sport of millions of Americans. The Volkswagen Atlas Basecamp Concept, on display at the 2019 New York International Auto Show, demonstrates how the Atlas could be transformed into a mountain biker’s dream touring machine. Concept vehicles are not available for sale. Specifications may change. Starting with a 2019 Atlas SEL Premium, powered by the 276-hp VR6 engine paired with 4Motion all-wheel-drive, the Basecamp bolsters the off-road1 presence of the Atlas with a new stance. Custom fifteen52 brand Traverse MX Concept wheels wearing 265/70R17 all-terrain tires debut on the Basecamp ahead of the anticipated production at fifteen52 this fall. The Basecamp Atlas also rides 1.5 inches higher thanks to coil-over springs from H&R Special Springs. The Basecamp Concept wears a combination of matte-finished Platinum Gray and Black Uni paint, with orange accents and a rugged body kit from Air Design. There’s a 40-inch LED bar up front and a 10-inch light bar on the rear with fog lights for extra illumination. The roof sports a FrontRunner Slimline II expandable roof-rack system with a low profile that’s easier to load bicycles onto and creates less wind drag than taller basket-type racks. of To complete the touring setup, a custom HIVE EX trailer could provide tow-along lodging in the wilderness. Wearing the same wheel/tire combo as the Basecamp, the HIVE EX trailer holds a queen-sized bed with a mini-kitchen to store and cook food in the wilderness. With heating options, portable toilet and hot shower, along with a roof-mounted bike rack, the HIVE EX has almost every need covered. Alex Earle, Exterior Design Manager at the Volkswagen Design Center California and avid cyclist, envisioned the Basecamp concept as the answer to what a perfect, mountain-biking-friendly SUV might look like. “Whether you are taking on a series of challenging single-tracks with your favorite mountain bike or enjoying a relaxing evening under the night sky, the versatility of the Basecamp Concept provides ideal mobile solutions for just about any adventure,” he said.
One of the great success stories in recycling may lie under the hood of your car. In the United States, 99 percent of all lead-acid automotive batteries are recycled, making them among one of the most-recycled goods you can buy. When your battery wears out, you can easily turn it in when buying a new one; that old battery can then be shredded or melted down, and its raw materials reused. The new generation of electric vehicles will bring a massive increase in the number of batteries on the road – and already there are some concerns about how those advanced lithium-ion batteries will be recycled after their 10 or 15 years of use. Volkswagen plans to build one million electric vehicles a year by 2025, including at the Chattanooga plant and is already working on how to develop a robust second life for the batteries that will power them. Why is recycling such a concern? Start with cost: Electric vehicle batteries are one of the most expensive parts on such cars, due to their complexity and the rare metals they require, like cobalt and manganese. As electric vehicles become more commonplace, digging those metals out of discarded batteries can be cheaper than digging ores from the Earth. More importantly: Helping reduce the carbon impact of transportation – not just from the vehicles when they are driven, but over their entire lifespan, from raw material to junkyard – requires tight control over how batteries are recycled. To tackle the challenge, Volkswagen is working towards two approaches: Portable rechargers, and energy-efficient recycling. Charging when you need it An older lithium-ion battery that’s been on the road a decade or more may not be suitable for powering a vehicle, but it could still have a sizable energy capacity. (The battery pack in the 2019 Volkswagen e-Golf can store as much energy as the typical American household uses in a day, and then some.) And electric vehicles may need charging in many places where there may not be chargers or even power outlets available. Those two problems have the same solution. Volkswagen Group plans to produce this portable quick-charging station. Designed to hold up to 360 kilowatt-hours of energy, the quick-charge station can charge up to four vehicles at a time, with a maximum quick-charge output of 100 kW. Like a portable cellphone charger, the Volkswagen Group charger can be used until it’s depleted or connected to a power source to keep itself recharged. And it’s small enough to be deployed in hard-to-charge locations, such as music festivals. The charger has been designed to use the same battery packs as Volkswagen’s MEB electric vehicle chassis, so that when those packs reach the end of their useful life, they can have a second career as a recharge station. The first of these Volkswagen Group portable quick chargers is anticipated to be installed in Germany next year, and Volkswagen Group expects to begin full production in 2020. At some point, all batteries lose the ability to hold energy. That’s where a new project at the Volkswagen Group’s component plant in Salzgitter comes into play.An electric car battery shredded by a Volkswagen process into its components: copper and aluminum, steel, insulation/packaging and “black powder” – raw and rare metals. Salzgitter is expected to be the home of Volkswagen’s first center for electric vehicle battery recycling. Next year, the center plans to have an initial capacity to recycle roughly 1,200 tons of EV batteries per year, equal to the batteries from about 3,000 vehicles. Using a special shredder, the individual battery parts can be ground up, the liquid electrolyte can be cleaned off, and the components separated into “black powder.” This contains the valuable raw materials cobalt, lithium, manganese, and nickel – which, while requiring further physical separation, are then ready for reuse in new batteries. In the long term, Volkswagen wants to recycle about 97 percent of all raw materials in the battery packs. Today, it’s roughly 53 percent, and the plant in Salzgitter expects to raise it further to about 72 percent. Volkswagen expects the plant in Salzgitter to be followed in the next few years by further decentralized recycling plants. Given how many electric vehicles Volkswagen plans to sell, handling recycling internally will be a priority for cost and environmental reasons — even though it will be at least a decade before the battery shredders have much to do.
Planes and trains will get you where you’re going in a hurry. But when the journey is just as important as the destination, nothing beats the open road — in your VW, of course. Put each of these only-in-America stops on your next itinerary. A Different Kind of Fest Each October, VW enthusiasts descend on the Bay State (a.k.a. Massachusetts) for Volkswagen Day Transporterfest, an all-VW car show at Larz Anderson Auto Museum in Brookline. The museum, which sits on an expansive park with stunning views of downtown Boston, bills itself as “America’s oldest car collection,” and includes vehicles dating back to the late 1800s. But during Transporterfest, it is all VW — and all sorts of them, from retro-style vans to Baja Bug models, tuner GTI vehicles, and more. Boston not on the itinerary? Check out other VW-themed events: Highway 1 Treffen Cruise, a yearly trek that VW owners make from the Canadian to the Mexican border on Highway 1 (July) Waterfest in Atco, New Jersey (July) The Annual Volkswagen Weekend in Eureka Springs, Arkansas (August) Volksfest in Central Ohio (August) Great Ape What’s a road trip without a genuine roadside attraction? There’s the world’s largest brick in Alabama; a giant, toothy-grinned peanut in Georgia; and even the pride and joy of Cawker City, Kansas — the world’s largest ball of twine. But there’s a draw in New England that uses remarkable size, an otherworldly animal, and a VW to make it a selfie-worthy trip. Queen Connie in Leicester, Vermont, features a 19-foot-tall, steel-reinforced concrete gorilla holding a real Volkswagen Beetle high above her head. Luckily for road trippers, the other hand stretches down so people can sit in it and take creatively staged photos. Queen Connie was erected in 1987 to advertise a local car dealership. The business has since closed, but Queen Connie remains, proudly hoisting her Bug to the sky. Drag On If you’ve never watched with bated breath as two Beetle drivers rev their engines, waiting for their cue to peel out and fly down a racetrack straightaway . . . well, it’s time to revamp your life goals. The South Eastern Volkswagen Association (SEVWA) — an East Coast, Volkswagen-only drag racing association — holds races throughout the year in states including Georgia, Florida, and the Carolinas. Many of the events also feature car shows and swap meets. A Peek into Production There’s no better way to gain a deeper appreciation for your beloved ride than to see how much work and care goes into the making of a new Volkswagen. At the Volkswagen Chattanooga factory in Tennessee, you get an insider’s look at assembly — from start to (gleaming) finish — of both the updated Passat and the Atlas SUV. The nearly 2-million-square-foot Chattanooga facility resumed guided visitor tours in 2017 after a major expansion. To schedule a free tour, email email@example.com. Old School Both sides of the country offer a little auto memorabilia. Both the Automobile Driving Museum (in El Segundo, California) or the Lane Motor Museum (in Nashville, Tennessee) are wonderlands of automotive history, and each features some VW gems. In the collection of the Lane Motor Museum, you’ll find a black 1956 Beetle as well as the futuristic, bright yellow 1981 Volkswagen Rabbit “Rocket Car” (outfitted with twin canopies that the museum says are “allegedly” sourced from Talon T-38 fighter jets). The Automobile Driving Museum has a 1959 Beetle and a 1971 Volkswagen Squareback, and it occasionally hosts VW-friendly events, including an annual summer show for air-cooled German vehicles and vintage scooters.
From Humble Beginnings The arrival of Volkswagen in the United States wasn’t the grand-slam welcome that would foretell its future success. In 1949, the Volkswagen Type 1 (later known as The Beetle) came ashore — and just two were sold. By 1959 that had changed as the Beetle, and VW, cemented its place in American culture. A Platform to Love “Coachbuilders” is a term used for people who design and manufacture the bodies of cars. For years, car fans have been producing various styles to fit on the chassis and platform of the VW Type 1. Visitors who attended this year’s Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, held in March, were able to see a VW Custom Coachwork class devoted to these coachbuilt Type 1s. That included a number that had never been seen in public in the U.S., including the 1965 Karmann-Ghia Type 1 concept. To celebrate its 70th anniversary in America, there also were Beetle models bodied as coupes and cabriolets, as well as four-door taxis. DID YOU KNOW: One of these coachbuilt cars has been lost to history. The missing Type 1-based sedan prototype, known as the Volkswagen Sun Valley, was designed in 1960 by Pietro Frua. Unlike earlier coachbuilders, Frua intended his prototype to offer a blend of style and practicality with increased passenger room and luggage capacity. Most other builders leaned towards a sportier variant. The Concours founder started his search back in 2008 and now has brought it back! He is hopeful that a fellow VW enthusiast will offer information about the long-missing Sun Valley prototype and the missing will finally be found. Riding for Rights In the 1950s and 1960s, many African-American residents of St. John’s Island, South Carolina, got a free ride to work or school in nearby Charleston with a local United Methodist minister and civil rights activist. During the commute, passengers also received an education on voter registration and rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. The 1968 VW bus sported the motto “Love is Progress, Hate is Expensive” on the rear panel; you can see it yourself as part of the permanent exhibit Defending Freedom, Defining Freedom: The Era of Segregation 1876-1968 at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture in Washington, D.C. Beetle Mania The Type 1 model got the moniker “Beetle” in 1969, and later that same year the VW would get another famous boost, thanks to its appearance as a vehicle that came to life in a famous movie. In fact, the 1963 white Type 1 with a racing-style 53 on the hood and doors became the most popular VW in film history, even starring decades later in a 2005 reboot. In 2018, one of the cars used in the movies sold at auction for $128,700. Seeing the Light It was 1969 and every music fan within driving distance gathered in a rural New York setting to hear acts of the day — for days. There are lots of famous visuals from Woodstock, but one has a specific VW tie. Called Light, the art piece — of a 1963 Volkswagen Tye 2 Microbus — catapulted to fame when a news agency published a photo and its likeness was later printed onto the liner of the official Woodstock album in 1970. In anticipation of the festival’s 50th anniversary this year, the original artist — along with several others — spent six weeks creating a replica, painting a 1963 VW Bus by hand. That piece will set out on a cross-country tour from California and end at Woodstock’s August 2019 celebration and gathering. An Ad for the Ages Sixty years ago, in 1959, a New York advertising agency created now-legendary ads for Volkswagen. Forty years later, that same campaign was named the best of the 20th century. Relying mostly on white space — a graphic design revolution at the time — was a single, small Beetle with the headline “Think small”. The ads are still considered to be a point in advertising where everything changed and got a whole lot more interesting. A Crew-Cab Hidden in Plain Sight Ever heard of a Doka? Even the most dedicated VW fans might have trouble describing this hybrid vehicle, a Vanagon on the front and a truck bed on the back, which created a double-cab pickup. Volkswagen imported a few Dokas in the early 1980s, but it was never sold in the American market. Instead of getting shipped back to Germany, however, the Dokas were drafted as members of the Port of Houston’s hard-working fleet. Although the Dokas toiled for decades in obscurity, a Volkswagen Group employee eventually rescued one. Its interior was worn and weathered, the suspension was shot, the body was rusting, and the bed was a total loss. They sent the truck to Cerritos, California, for more than 3,000 hours of work to remove the rust, fabricate a new bed, reupholster the interior, and tailor a new canvas top. When the restoration work was complete, the restored Doka made its outside-the-port debut in August 2018 at an all-German marque Concours d’Elegance held in Monterey, California. A few weeks later, the Doka was a big hit at one of the largest all-European car events on the west coast.
A one-of-a-kind car celebration calls for a one-of-kind car – or 12. To celebrate the 70th anniversary of the first Volkswagen Type 1 sold in the United States, a dozen Beetle-based cars with coachbuilt bodies were presented at the prestigious Amelia Island Concours d’ Elegance. Having a custom body tailor-made for your car was a power move among the wealthy from the start of the auto industry through the 1930s. Following World War II, the European carrozzeria (or karosserie) builders looking to rebuild their business had few options until the arrival of the Volkswagen Beetle – an inexpensive model engineered with an easy-to-remove body shell. Several shops, mostly in Germany, offered limited-production, hand-built bodies based on the basic Beetle chassis. Volkswagen itself embraced the movement with higher-volume production of the Karmann Ghia and the original Karmann-designed Convertible, but many of these vintage cars from coachbuilders are now extremely rare and collectible. Along with those of the collectors, Volkswagen brought a few examples from its own collection, including the unique 1965 Karmann-Ghia Type 1 concept and a Wedding Beetle. We talked to three collectors about their coachbuilt creations and what drew them to their cars. Ned Gallaher, 1957 Rometsch Lawrence Convertible At age 20, European car specialist Ned Gallaher spotted his dream car in a vintage Volkswagen book. Labeled a rarity, he presumed he would never see the curvaceous coach-built in his lifetime, let alone own one. But when the uncommon model rolled into his shop in 1994, he knew he had to have it. “There’s only five driving in the world and I’ve never seen another one,” says Gallaher, who owns Gallaher Restorations in Landrum, S.C. He worked seven days a week for six months to get the two-tone car in presentable shape for Amelia Island. “They are really hard to restore because they are not like a normal production car,” Gallaher, 74, explains. “Nothing fits like it would on a standard Volkswagen. For example, I spent 16 hours replacing chrome around the windshield.” But Gallaher says his efforts were worth it after seeing its positive reaction from the crowds at Amelia. “There was so many people inquiring about the car – what is was and how it was built –that I had to have two friends with me to help answer questions,” says Gallaher. “It was crazy!” Lloyd Kee, 1954 Dannenhauer and Stauss coupe Lloyd Kee refers to his maroon 1954 coupe as the “holy grail” of cars. It’s a fitting label, as there are only 19 known Dannenhauer and Stauss coachbuilt models in existence and his is the lone surviving coupe. “While beautiful and handmade, these cars were never made to last,” Kee, 56, explains. German winters were harsh, and salt would often cause car corrosion and rust. Plus, the two-door coupes were considered “the ugly duckling” of the prettier convertibles, says the Danville, Calif.-based car collector. So, the fact that the sporty wheels have survived and is still in drivable condition today – largely due to its relocation to the States in 1962 – is astonishing. His 1954 coupe was purchased in Germany by a wealthy tobacco dealer and outfitted with special Porsche parts, including an engine from a 356 and 16-inch slotted rims. The unique car made its way to the United States when an American serviceman imported and sold it the Roberts family in 1962 for $200. They used it as their main family car until 1973 and stored it in a barn next to their Oregon home until Kee purchased it in 2011. Although Kee rarely has time to drive his “work of art,” the Volkswagen enthusiast calls it the “pride” of his collection. To honor the vehicle’s storied past, he opted for a preservation, rather than a full restoration. “The car’s history is told in what it is now,” he says. Kevin Jeanette, 1959 Rometsch Lawrence Coupe and 1951 Tempo Matador A Porsche aficionado, Jeanette has been collecting cars since 1975 and has a habit scouring rare and unusual finds on the Internet. The race-and-restoration shop owner bought his unrestored Rometsch Lawrence coupe in 2007 and a blue Tempo Matador shortly after. Shortly after acquiring the coupe, he added the Tempo to his collection. Originally owned by a Finnish carpenter in Sweden, the VW-powered truck was only recently reassembled in America. “We finished putting the car together three months ago,” Jeanette, 65, explains. The technology of the 23-window, front-wheel Tempo was “way ahead of its time,” says Jeanette. “It had a 4,800-pound payload and a dependable 25-horsepower Volkswagen motor.” For Amelia Island, he rebuilt the carburetor, cleaned the steel tank and put a new fuel pump on it. “Once we did that, it started right up and drove perfectly,” he said. of
At 15 years old, Tiera Powers vowed she would one day own a 2005 Volkswagen New Beetle GLS convertible with an Aquarius Blue coat. Never losing sight of her goal, she saved for over a decade to buy her dream baby blue Beetle. “I always loved how the Beetle stood out in a crowd … It’s so unique,” said Powers, now 27. Powers was inspired to start her Beetle fund after spotting her ideal ride while out shopping with her mother for a family car in 2006. The Upstate New York teen couldn’t keep her eyes off the shiny new Bug parked across the street in the lot of a Schenectady County Volkswagen dealership. Even though Powers didn’t have a job — or even a driver’s license — at the time, she was committed to making her vision a reality. “I decided right there I was going to get a job to buy that car,” she recalls. And she didn’t hesitate. From the VW lot, Powers headed straight to a local church where she secured her first job as a part-time administrator. Since then, her career has taken her from dentist’s offices to TV newsrooms, though she never stopped pinching pennies throughout. She even kept a 1:12 scale model on her desk to keep her eyes on the prize. “Having a goal makes it easier to save,” Powers explained. “You don’t realize how much money you can actually put away until you really want something.” Last summer, she had finally saved enough funds to buy her dream Bug and started scouring listings from across the state. Lucky, her boyfriend found a match at a used car dealership in Latham, New York – just down the road from her home in Schenectady – in January. On top of that, she was able to secure a good deal on the used convertible since it was wintertime. “After I went to the dealership and test drove the car, I took a week to think about it,” she said. The following week, after a huge snowstorm, she decided to make an offer — $5,100 — and drove the car home two days later. The “Dream Beetle,” currently unnamed, is sitting in Powers’ garage with 84,000 miles on it. She’s also keeping her previous car to brave the Northeast’s wintry conditions. Powers plans to christen her new car with a name and celebratory first drive this spring.