VW turns iconic ’66 Kombi into an EV: awesome or an insult to its heritage?
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Purists may recoil in horror, but Volkswagen has reimagined a classic 1966 T1 Samba Bus as a pure-electric vehicle using its latest EV technology. It’s called the e-Bulli.
It’s not simply a conversion, though. It’s a thorough reboot, with rack and pinion steering, multi-link suspension, disc brakes and a new interior that’s been “sensitively” modernised.
Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles (VWCV) and partner eClassics have confirmed that customers will be able to order their own customised versions of the e-Bulli in the near-future.
The e-Bulli was to have been unveiled at the Techno Classica show this year. But with the cancellation of the event due to the global Covid-19 crisis, it chose instead to share its creation for the first time online.
The base for e-Bulli was a real Samba Bus, produced in Hannover in 1966 and formerly resident in California for 50 years.
In turning the Samba Bus into an EV, VWCV has doubled outputs. The original boxer petrol engine made 32kW/102Nm, whereas the new electric motor delivers 61kW/212Nm.
That makes it the most powerful “official” T1 ever produced.
The e-Bulli can hit 130km/h, compared with 105km/h top speed for the original Samba Bus.
As with VW’s new-generation EVs, the batteries are mounted in the centre of the vehicle.
The battery is good for 200km range says VWCV, and can be recharged on a DC station to 80 per cent in 40 minutes.
The new interior is the work of the VWCV design centre, VWCV Vintage Vehicles and the communications department.
The interior is also two-tone: Saint Tropez and Saffrano Orange. The cabin conveys a “maritime feel” with solid wood floor and there’s plenty of fresh air from a full-length folding roof.
Minimalist, but if you want to go next-level digital there’s a tablet integrated into the roof that gives full VW We Connect functionality.
On-board music (Mamas and the Papas, Hendrix, whatever you like) comes from a retro-style “radio” head unit with full digital functionality, linked to a sound system with high-powered out-of-sight components.
The new model is being offered by eClassics for a start price of 64,900 euros (NZ$122,000). Not so bad when you consider that the latest Transporter-based California starts at $139,000.
There are also conversion packages for the T2 and T3 coming from eClassics, as well as a “ready to fit” parts kits for selected VW dealers in Europe.