The Iconic Beetle Was Tried and Tested by These Successors That Never Were


The year is 1935, and the Automobile Manufacturers’ Association of the German Reich commissioned Ferdinand Porsche to design a “People’s Car.” One year later, the first prototype of the famed Beetle hit eye sockets with a 700 cc flat-four engine with 22 hp. 86 years later, and I have an ornament in my room with the Beetle itself.

As the story goes, everyone is still driving the Beetle. That alone should tell you enough of its level of design and values. However, along this ample history, the Beetle was tried and tested by its own maker, in the process developing several vehicles meant to one-up the VW icon. Here are a few of those.1955/56 EA47-12

Between 1953 and 1956, 15 prototypes were produced, the 12th of which was VW’s very first attempt at a “modern successor” to the Beetle. Designed by Italian automobile designer Ghia, a long hood and engine compartment offered a very similar look to the Karmann Ghia, thus, no go. Two doors and seating for four with leather interior screamed Italian. A 1,192 cc four-cylinder boxer air-cooled engine produced 30 hp and achieved a 50-mph top speed.

1955 EA48With a focus on reducing size, performance, and ultimately price, Volkswagen popped up with the in-house EA48. For this vehicle, designers and engineers wanted to start from scratch and so a completely none-Beetle vehicle was born. Sporting a front-mounted 700 cc air-cooled engine with 18 hp, this bugger squeezed out a noticeable top speed of 60 mph.1960 EA97

The EA97 is a project that saw 200 pilot cars, all assembled by hand. Here, VW came up with a two-door that offered a long body line with era headlights and massive front-end trunk. These days, I’d be caught driving something like this. Overall, it had a 1,100 cc engine, and that’s all VW says about that one. The automaker seems to be treating this car in the same way workers abandoned assembly line prep; nothing else has been revealed. But why? It was positioned too close to the Beetle and Type 3. But not all was wasted. In 1969 it provided the basis for the Brasilia compact.1961 Type 3 Cabriolet

Why would anyone not want a VW Type 3 Cabriolet? This one is a rather short story as the car was feared to create competition for Karmann Ghia convertible. These days we welcome competition. However, whoever owns this, if it’s not in a museum, please post some photos on social media. Have a look in the gallery, find the image marked “Cabriolet,” and leave your opinion on its looks.

1963 EA128What we have here was meant to be VW’s luxury vehicle. Here, VW tried their hand at a four-door and even tried pushing it as a six-seater…riiight. But the twist was that it included the fresh Porsche 911 2,000 cc air-cooled engine. Enough for six folks for sure.1966 EA142

In 1968 VW squeezed out the Type 4. Along the way, in 1966, the German automaker had developed the EA142 body style. Here, a rear engine hatchback was equipped with a 1,700 cc engine. Any other details, you may be pressed hard to find. At least we have this image from the Volkswagen AutoMuseum to remind us of the company’s progression.1969 EA276

After seeing the EA 276, some people may think the Golf was released in 1969. However, what you are looking at is, as VW calls it, “the inspiration for the original Golf.” This squared off front-wheel drive hatchback was fit with a flat-four engine just like the Beetle. Looking at it, you can understand why I started this paragraph the way I did.

1969 EA266The final option the VW considered before seemingly giving up trying to replace the Beetle, was the frog-like EA266. Here, VW called upon the assistance of Porsche once again to develop a mid-engine hatchback with a 1,600 cc four-cylinder engine, mounted under the rear seat on a longitudinal axis to save space. Just like the EA97, assembly line issues destined the car for a pay-per-view experience in museums.

The only vehicle I ever want to see possibly replacing the Beetle, better yet, running alongside, is the 1961 Type 3 Cabriolet. But not all was in vain, as some of these vehicles played an important role in future vehicles to come, some even looking like near carbon copies.