A few years back, I got to go to Wolfsburg, Germany, for some Volkswagen event. While there I went to the Volkswagen Foundation museum, which is fantastic and full of obscure prototypes and all manner of wonders, and Volkswagen’s Autostadt, which is a sort of car museum/theme park right next to the huge VW factory. This morning let’s look at some cars from the Autostadt, specifically a few pairings of cars VW’s curators put together, and let’s see if we can figure out what the common threads are. I mean, why not? What the hell else are you doing?
Let’s start with that top one up there: we have, let’s see, a pretty unlikely pairing: a Trabant 601, the East German smoky wonder, and a C1 Chevy Corvette. What do these two have in common? Why are they paired up here? I think I know why: they’re both made of interesting and pioneering composite materials. The Corvette is fiberglass, at the time better known for boat manufacture, and the Trabant is made of Duroplast, a composite made of resin and old Soviet underpants that was occasionally snacked upon by goats.
Let’s look at another pair! How about this Lotus Elite Series II and a Matra Djet 6:
What do they have in common? Well, hm, I think maybe they’re just similarly-scaled European sports cars? Sort of uncompromising, pure sports cars? The Djet is mid-engined and the Elite is front-engined, so maybe showing two different approaches to the same problem? Maybe.
How about this one: a Chevy Corvair and a Porsche 911!
This one is easy! They’re both air-cooled, rear-mounted flat-six engines!
Here’s another odd matchup, a Tatra T87 and a Volkswagen XL1:
I’m thinking these two are sharing floorspace because they’re both sort of uncompromising aerodynamic examples, both approaching, as best they could, that ideal teardrop shape.
Next we have these two little fellas, an Autobianchi A112 and an Austin Mini:
I think this is another case of two similar cars solving the same basic problem. Both of these are transverse, FWD cars, though the Autobianchi has a more modern hatch compared to the Mini’s flip-down trunk.
Okay, the VW Thing there is pretty cut off, but you know what a Thing looks like. It’s matched with this Empi Imp dune buggy, something of a Meyers Manx knockoff:
I think these are just showing the off-road, fun-car potential of the basic Type 1 VW chassis, one from the original manufacturer and intended for military use first, the other an aftermarket kit just for fun.
This next one, a Delorean DMC 12 and a Alfa Romeo Alfasud Super 1.3, I have to admit I really am not sure why these two were paired up.
Is it just because they’re both sort of wedgy? I don’t get it.
This next one is a lot easier:
That’s a 1938 Beetle, the first year the Beetle design was truly finalized for production, and a 2003 Beetle, in fact the very last (Ultima Series) Beetle ever made. First and last. You can see a lot of detail changes and not a lot of big-picture changes there. Pretty incredible.