Eight prototypes that almost replaced the legendary Beetle

The Volkswagen Beetle (officially Type 1) has entered motoring history as one of the longest-produced vehicles ever. If we take into account the reborn variant, the original type was recommended in 2003, while the modern reincarnation was built on the basis of Golf only the year before. However, the original Beetle, loved by everyone, really had a total of eight times on the stove, and below you will find prototypes that were supposed to replace it.


Ferdinand Porsche took care of the birth of the people's car (then KdF-Wagen) and it must be added that he was strongly inspired by our Tatras V 570 (1933) and T 97. In 1938, a cheap round two-door car, equipped with a rear-engine, really saw the light of day. At the time, few people knew that he was embroiled in a revolutionary motoring hit.

KdF-Wagen (later Volkswagen Type 1) was strongly inspired by the Tatra V 570 and T 97
KdF-Wagen (later Volkswagen Type 1) was strongly inspired by the Tatra V 570 and T 97

Not only before the war but also in the post-war years, the car sold well and also received rich marketing support. In a short time, the Volkswagen Type 1 has earned the iconic nickname Beetle and the status of a nice and reliable affordable car. This driving engine took him to the shores of North America (1949), and in the 1960s, behind a large puddle, the Beetle became a symbol of the countercultural (in other words, underground) movement. Surely you will remember hippies, for example…


The distinctive two-door vehicle from Germany thus gained fame, broke sales records, and in 1972 even became the best-selling car in the world.

In 1972, the Volkswagen Type 1 became the best-selling car in the world
In 1972, the Volkswagen Type 1 became the best-selling car in the world

With the onset of 1974, there was talk of the gradual demise of the legendary Beetle, as an agile, efficient, and practical front-wheel drive hatchback arrived on the scene - the Volkswagen Golf (named Rabbit in the USA).


However, this did not really bother the original Type 1, because it lived in peace until 2003, during the epic life it was created in more than 21.5 million copies (more precisely 21,529,464). This is an admirable number, but an even bigger guy is the Toyota Corolla (since 1966), which has already multiplied in the number of more than 50 million cars.

The last produced original Beetle. A total of 21,529,464 were created
The last produced original Beetle. A total of 21,529,464 were created

The spiritual reincarnation of the New Beetle, built on the basis of Golf, made its debut in 1997 and did not make its Auf Wiedersehen in the guise of the Final Edition until 2019 on the line of an assembly plant in Mexico (Puebla).


But before Golf took on the role of Volkswagen's folk tug of war, Beetle seriously had a total of eight strokes. Eight very promising prototypes were created to replace it, but this did not happen. So let's take a look at what models were involved.


There were more than 70 prototypes to replace the Beetle, but 8 of them were closest to it.


EA42-12 (1955/56)


EA42-12 (1955/56) was structurally very advanced for its time
EA42-12 (1955/56) was structurally very advanced for its time

One of the first attempts to replace the Beetle was the twelfth prototype of the fifteen, which was gradually created during the years 1953 to 1956. It is the work of the Italian automotive designer Ghia and quite possibly you will see the well-known Karmann Ghia. EA42-12 received an air-cooled four-cylinder boxer type with a volume of 1,192 cm 3 with an output of 30 hp and a maximum of 80 km / h. The structurally advanced concept offered a fully synchronized transmission, torsion bar rear suspension, and a front axle with wishbones - very advanced features for its time.


EA48 (1955)

EA48 (1955) was created without the intervention of Porsche
EA48 (1955) was created without the intervention of Porsche

Since 1953, Volkswagen has wanted to develop a Beetle replacement that would be similar in size, performance, and selling price. The somewhat box-type EA48 with a front-engine and front-wheel drive could compete with the British Mini at the time if it went into production. The prototype in question was created internally, outside the involvement of Porsche, completely from scratch and without the use of any components from the Beetle. The self-supporting body concept hosted an 0.7-liter air-cooled flat twin-cylinder and a MacPherson strut front suspension.


EA97 (1960)

EA97 (1960) was very close to replacing the original Beetle
EA97 (1960) was very close to replacing the original Beetle

The EA97 sedan was very close to replacing the Beetle. The worker assembled about 200 pilot pieces by hand and gradually set up the production line, however, then the order arrived to interrupt the work. The two-door prototype with a 1.1-liter engine mounted at the rear was supposed to be too similar to both the Type 1 (Beetle) and Type 3 (VW 1500/1600). Sales success was therefore not expected, and therefore the car was never listed.


Type 3 Cabriolet (1961)

The Type 3 Cabriolet (1961) eventually gave way to the open Karmann Ghia
The Type 3 Cabriolet (1961) eventually gave way to the open Karmann Ghia

Volkswagen actually considered replacing the popular Beetle with a more luxurious alternative to the Type 3 model, as demonstrated in 1961 by the Type 3 Cabriolet prototype. Enthusiasts know that German engineers played with a notchback, square back, and fastback bodies, but the convertible was supposed to bring a fresh breeze to the motor sails. However, the elegant machine with a gracefully folding roof with a glass rear window eventually gave way to the open Karmann Ghia, whose sales could theoretically jeopardize.


EA128 (1963)

Volkswagen designed the four-door EA128 as a direct competitor to the Chevrolet Corvair, which, by the way, was to repel the beetle invasion of America. The six-seater (!) Prototype from 1963 hosted an air-cooled two-liter flat six-cylinder taken from the Porsche 911 and more. The iconic nineteen-eleven concept also lent some steering components and part of the suspension, which resulted in a maximum speed of 159 km / h. Inside the EA128 you could find a full leather interior including upholstery for door panels, seats, and dashboard. However, due to high production costs, Volkswagen CEO Heinrich Nordhoff ordered the project to be completed.


EA142 (1966)

Pininfarina is responsible for the body of the EA142 (1966)
Pininfarina is responsible for the body of the EA142 (1966)

The technical concept shown, designed by Pininfarina, was the final body design for the Volkswagen Type 4, which debuted in 1968. During development, the carmaker experimented with various body types, including a two-door, bearing the prototype code EA142 and notchback. This car was equipped with the same engine as the production Type 4 (411), ie petrol seventeen-engine.


EA276 (1969)

EA276 (1969) was the inspiration for Golf and the smaller Brazilian Gol
EA276 (1969) was the inspiration for Golf and the smaller Brazilian Gol

You are looking at one of the inspirations for the original Golf. Of all the serious candidates for the Beetle's successor, the EA276 had the most angular body, an air-cooled engine at the front and front-wheel drive. But Volkswagen already knew at the time that the future would be taken over by water-cooled powertrains.


EA266 (1969)

The Hatchback with the engine in the middle was one of the most innovative prototypes to dethrone the legendary Beetle. Not to mention that its development was led by the ingenious designer Ferdinand Piëch. The EA266 study had a water-cooled four-cylinder 16-cylinder engine stored under the rear seats, but despite the progressive design, it never went into production.


In the end, Golf played the note of the future, formally removing Beetle (Type 1) from the position of number one in 1974. You can also know the first generation of Golf under the names Rabbit (USA), Caddy, Jetta notchback, Caribe (Mexico), or Citi Golf (South Africa). While the second Beetle (New Beetle) retired the year before last, Golf - now the eighth generation - continues the commercially successful tradition of its predecessors…

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