The Volkswagen Microbus, also known as the VW Type 2, the Kombi, or simply the Bus, has become a cultural icon for several reasons. Introduced in the 1950s, the Microbus quickly gained popularity due to its unique design, versatility, and association with various social movements.
One of the main factors contributing to the Microbus’s iconic status is its distinctive design. The rounded, boxy shape, large windows, and sliding side doors make it instantly recognizable and set it apart from other vehicles of the time. This unique aesthetic quickly became associated with adventure and freedom.
The Microbus was designed to be versatile and multifunctional, catering to a wide range of needs. It could be used as a family vehicle, a cargo transporter, a camper, or even a mobile office. This adaptability made it appealing to a broad audience and allowed it to be a part of various aspects of daily life.
During the 1960s and 1970s, the Microbus became closely associated with the counterculture movement, particularly the hippie subculture. Its affordable price, spacious interior, and easy customization made it popular among young people who were embracing alternative ways of living. The Microbus became a symbol of peace, love, and freedom, often adorned with colorful artwork and slogans.
In addition to its connection to the counterculture movement, the Microbus was also embraced by surfers who appreciated its spaciousness and adaptability. It provided ample room for surfboards and gear, as well as a place to sleep after a long day at the beach. The Microbus became synonymous with the laid-back, adventurous spirit of the surf culture.
The Volkswagen Microbus has made appearances in various popular movies, which has further solidified its status as a cultural icon. Some notable films featuring the Microbus include:
- Little Miss Sunshine (2006): In this comedy-drama film, a dysfunctional family embarks on a road trip from New Mexico to California in a yellow and white Volkswagen Microbus. The journey is filled with humorous and heartwarming moments, and the Microbus plays a central role in the story.
- Forrest Gump (1994): The iconic Microbus makes a brief but memorable appearance in this classic film when Forrest Gump encounters a group of hippies during his cross-country run. The Microbus symbolizes the counterculture movement of the 1960s and 1970s, which is an important aspect of the movie’s historical backdrop.
- Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982): This coming-of-age comedy features a blue Volkswagen Microbus driven by Jeff Spicoli, a laid-back surfer portrayed by Sean Penn. The Microbus represents Spicoli’s carefree attitude and the surf culture of Southern California.
- Field of Dreams (1989): In this fantasy-drama film, a Volkswagen Microbus is used by a group of baseball enthusiasts who travel to Iowa to visit the magical baseball field built by the protagonist, Ray Kinsella. The Microbus serves as a symbol of adventure and camaraderie throughout the movie.
- Cars (2006): In this animated film by Pixar, the character Fillmore, voiced by George Carlin, is a Volkswagen Microbus. Fillmore is a laid-back, peace-loving character who embodies the spirit of the 1960s counterculture movement.
With the exception of the last one (where the car itself is a character), one thing you’ll notice about VW Buses is that you almost never see one in a film or TV show carrying just one person around. Whether it’s configured as a camper to carry a couple around, or it’s carrying a whole family or group of friends around, shared adventure seems to be at the heart of the vehicle’s character.
VW Gets This
From the very beginning, the ID.Buzz prototypes and concept cars embodied this concept. Instead of being designed around the idea of a boring drive from Point A to Point B, alone and sipping coffee, the Buzz was made for shared adventure from day one. The interior configurations of the ID. Buzz prototypes and renders were designed with versatility and social interaction in mind, making it an ideal vehicle to enjoy with friends.
The ID. Buzz features a flexible and modular seating arrangement, allowing for multiple configurations depending on the passengers’ needs. The seats can be easily moved, rotated, or removed, creating a customizable space for various activities. One notable configuration is the “lounge” setup, where the front seats can be rotated 180 degrees to face the rear seats, creating a comfortable and social environment for passengers to converse, play games, or share a meal. This setup fosters a sense of community and togetherness, reminiscent of the original Microbus.
Another interesting feature of the ID. Buzz prototype was the retractable steering wheel, which could be tucked away when the vehicle is in autonomous driving mode. This kind of setup allows passengers to fully utilize the cabin space without any obstructions, further promoting a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere.
Additionally, the ID. Buzz prototypes had ample storage space and integrated connectivity features, such as USB ports and wireless charging stations, which enable passengers to stay connected and entertained during their journey (something you couldn’t do in the ’60s). The large windows and panoramic sunroof also contribute to an open and inviting interior, perfect for enjoying scenic drives with friends.
Things Have Changed, But Expect More Of This On June 2nd
Since the original prototypes and renders were shown, things have changed in the industry. The quick march to fully autonomous vehicles didn’t pan out quite like many in the industry had hoped, for example, so the retracting wheel isn’t going to happen so fast.
But, the other aspects of the original designs, where socializing and going on shared journeys was the center of the design philosophy, are likely to carry over to the versions of the final ID.Buzz with a higher seat-count. Sure, the vehicle will still be useful for things like cargo (like the commercial version of the vehicle) and camping, but adding three rows of seating probably means we’ll see some serious efforts to show off the full social capability of the vehicle in all of its versatility.
But, this is just my educated guess. Volkswagen could surprise us with a boring, utilitarian, A-to-B minivan design, but I don’t think that’s what we’ll see revealed in the livestream on June 2nd!
Featured image: a picture of the interior of the original ID.Buzz prototype. Image provided by Volkswagen.
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