The tale of Volkswagen's Bulli goes back to Wednesday, April 23, 1947. That's the day Dutch VW importer Ben Pon drew a rough sketch of the now internationally famous Transporter 1, or T1, van. In the States, it was known as the Microbus. In Germany, marketers labeled it the Bulli. And this year, in concept form at the 2011 Geneva show, the Bulli has returned with a retro-inspired design, modern usability, and a zero-emission electric powertrain.
The latest six-passenger Bulli is a reinterpreted reinterpretation of what's been billed as the world's first van. VW showed a retro van in 2001 at the Detroit auto show, and like that concept, the more evolved Bulli has a variety of simple, attractive, and classic traits.
The slightly extended nose, for instance, sports an extra-large "VW" badge in the middle of a distinct V-shape. Flanking it are bright L-shaped wraparound LED headlamps and dominant lower fog lights that add a bit of personality to the front clip, while slight intakes provide cool air to the electric powertrain.
The two-tone paintjob divides at the beltline and runs the vehicle's entire 156-inch length. Body panels were machined to portray a seamless look, and blacked-out pillars add a sense of size. The tailgate spans the Bulli's 68.4-inch width, making it ideal for loading cargo. Each corner sits on a chrome-dipped retro-look 18-inch alloy, and, as you can tell, the overhangs remain stubby.
Interior designers continued to meld modern style and classic cues by incorporating twin bench seats. Both can be folded down to maximize passenger comfort during trips, and if need be, the rear bench can completely stow, increasing overall interior space.