VW Bug

The VW Beetle is considered one of the great cars of all time, and the design an icon of automobile design. From a formal standpoint, it describes an almost primal arrangement that goes back to the origins of shelter: 4 corners (the wheels) describing a perimeter that shelters a center (the cabin). Of course, all cars have 4 wheels and a cabin, but the articulation of the wheels through the fenders in the Beetle, and the shape of the cabin reduce these forms to archetype. Its really beautiful in its simplicity.

When the new version of the VW Beetle came out in 1998, it jumped on the tendency of car designers of that period to ape an older design with a few tweaks for an "updated" look. The New Beetle was considered a success in terms of design, though maybe less so as an automobile. But i never liked it. There was something really clumsy about it and i could never put my finger on it until a few months ago (!). And no, i have no idea why it took me so long to discover what it was in that design that bugged me no pun there. i knew the new design was awkward/clumsy in a number of areas, but where it really fails is at the rear of the car. Here is the original:

Notice the flow of the roof line into the trunk, which acts to separate and define the cabin from the wheels. It flows, and is such a graceful line uniting the pieces into a whole.

Here is a view of the New Beetle. What a wretch. This is what happens when designers try to be too clever for their own good.

Notice how the flow of the roof line is interrupted by the fenders trying to unite themselves through a bent horizontal of sorts. This kind of interruption/distortion of the lines is typical of modern car design, where there is an obsession with "clever" lines that bend and connect in all directions, as if on a transformer toy. In this case, the fender line has disrupted the reading of the "4 corners" discussed earlier, a sad omission.

Of course, when you try to capture an aspect of the past by aping it, you are doomed to these kinds of comparisons, and are bound to fail (Mini aside). They should have gone the Golf route, creating a new design belonging to this age.

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