Throughout the history of the automobile, you would be hard-pressed to find a vehicle that has been more modified, “enhanced”, experimented with, or generally altered, than the Volkswagen beetle. Part of it is simply the longevity of the vehicle. Part of it is the simple platform that lends itself to easy modification. Part of it is how inexpensive the vehicle is, which allows for failed experiments not to lead to bankruptcy. Add it all up, and you get one of the most modified vehicles on the planet. However, among the sand rails and the V8 transplants, and the resto mods, and the drag race cars, is a variation that seems truly strange.
It is the station wagon or the work van or the pickup. This variation is strange because it is a modification which mimics products that Volkswagen already has. The type III and IV variant, and the fastback have been around for a long long time, and were specifically developed to answer the needs that some of these modified beetles are aiming for. There may have been some logic in immediate postwar Germany where you used what you had, but this phenomenon carries on even today. The beloved type II bus was the answer to those who wanted a people carrier or more cargo room. The camper satisfied those who wanted to live in their Volkswagen vehicle. Why then, when you go to the trouble of crafting such variations by using the beetle as a starting point? And, with the engine in the rear, and an air cooled one at that, why would you want to add anything to the back of that vehicle? Perplexing questions, I know.
The answer is found in the gearhead lobe of the brain. One school of scientists is convinced that this small appendage developed once man no longer needed to devote 100% of his attention to finding food, shelter and someone with whom to reproduce. He began to devise different types of spears, and pteradactyl wing gliders, and began to bench-hunt with his buddies. In other words, he had time on his hands, always a dangerous situation throughout history. The other school of scientists maintain that these behaviors are merely extensions of the courtship ritual. A sort of peacock plumage dance for the modern age. I can tell you that based on seeing some of the less well-executed variations in question, they are welcome to whatever version of the opposite sex that they attract with such plumage. But I digress.
To be honest, the beetle is not the only utilitarian car of the people to suffer such treatment. One could argue that the 2CV has activated that same lobe. There is even a slight resemblance. The versions of the wagen are many, including those aimed at work and play. The beetle limousine was inevitable, but the attempts at an estate/shooting brake/stationwagon, woody, and shop van were not. Neither were the pickup or the 10 window. And the motor home ? As long as we are being honest, a few of these activate my lobe too. Of course, some of them are just beetle appendages grafted onto other vehicles, which is a real testament to the appeal of the beetle. This is behavior usually reserved for Ferrari and Porsche Slant Nose exotica. Interesting, but that discussion requires a whole new school of scientists…