The VW 1.0 litre Up! is an award winning small car that What Car? described as the “..best city car on the market..” and made it their Car of the Year 2012. But when the Up! was launched at the Frankfurt Auto Show in 2010, Volkswagen also presented six concept vehicles under the Up! banner.
For one of these concepts, Volkswagen had clearly been delving back into the history books where they perused images of Cal Look Beetles and home-built beach buggies. Like all good manufacturers, they have took inspiration from this legacy and came up with the buggy Up! concept vehicle that gives more than a nod to the original beach buggy.
With no doors and an entirely waterproof interior complete with neoprene bucket seats, and drain holes to enable to buggy to be hosed down, the buggy Up! seems perfectly designed for Californian sun and sea spray – or British summers.
This two-seater has a roll bar behind the seats to compensate for the lack of a solid roof and rides on 18” alloys with 205/40 tyres. There is a fabric roof though.
The buggy Up! comes complete with a waterproofed sound system that is iPod-compatible and gives the owner the ability to remove the entire sound system, including speakers, for that impromptu beach party as the sun drops into the ocean.
VW say that one of the inspirations behind the buggy Up! is unsurprisingly Bruce Meyers, who famously designed the Meyers Manx dune buggy. This frog-eyed beauty was produced for sale by his company from 1964 until 1971.
The Meyers Manx had a fibreglass body shell, running on a Beetle chassis and powered by a Beetle flat-4 engine. I just love it, always have, and still crave after owning one of these for those rare, balmy summer days coasting along the Atlantic Highway (does any other British road have it’s own website?) in Cornwall, pulling into the beach car park at Watergate Bay..
Meyers produced around 6,000 Meyers Manx dune buggies and originals in good condition can set you back a fair bit. There’s a sting in the tail though to this story; although Meyers patented the Meyers Manx, he lost out in a court case where the judge decreed that the Manx was “unpatentable” and thus opened the floodgates for thousands of copies to be made.
A final twist saw Bruce Meyers back in the game once more in 2000, when he set up Meyers Manx Inc. to produce, among other vehicles, the Classic Manx based on his original concept and limited to a run of just 100 vehicles. I’m very pleased to say that the company is still going strong today.
Volkswagen have so far not said whether or not the Buggy Up! will actually make it into production, and sadly, I feel that in the present climate (economic that is) and with it’s limited appeal and practicality, the idea may be shelved for some time.
But at the very least, the Buggy Up! reminds us that without romance and history, cars would be just transport. It’s the inventor and innovator and re-inventor that keeps refuelling the industry as time and technology chug ever onwards. The brilliant thing about this vehicle and the beach buggy as a concept, is that it reminds us all in such a simple way that it can be fun to just drive.
Buggy Up! Images from netcarshow.com, Meyers Manx kitcar profile from precision-illustration.com