Volkswagen e-Bulli: An all-electric 60s classic conversion you can buy
This is a 1966-model Volkswagen T1 Samba Bus. It has spent more than half a century on the roads of California, meaning it's probably got wild and woolly stories to tell about Woodstock and the Summer of Love, and unspeakable things have surely taken place in its roomy interior. Lives have likely begun in this humble little people mover, and now it's getting a second life of its own.
Volkswagen has pulled out its 4-cylinder boxer engine, which was good for a very relaxed 43 horsepower when absolutely thrashed, and replaced it with a much more sprightly electric drive system that can silently and effortlessly output 82 horses and 212 Nm (156 lb-ft). This raises the T1's top speed from 105 km/h (65 mph) to a more freeway-friendly 130 km/h (81 mph), electronically limited. The battery is a 45 kWh pack good for around 200 km (124 miles) between charges.
Minimal changes have been made in the cabin; it's still got its mildly scary-looking schoolbus steering wheel and the interior has all been re-covered in lurid orange and white leather to conceal the sins of the past. There are a few new buttons, a simple battery charge level meter cut into the old-school speedo, and the gearstick has been replaced with an electric drive selector.
There's a Bluetooth system for music hidden away in what looks like an old-school radio, and this can also be used to check in on a range of vehicle stats and parameters through a smartphone app. But otherwise, it looks and feels super classic, with a touch of the marine world about it.
That doesn't mean the chassis has been left stock; VW has taken aim at the handling with new multi-link axles and adjustable suspension front and rear. There's a new rack-and-pinion steering system to correct any case of the wanders it might've been having pre-conversion, and the drum brakes have rightfully been turfed out for ventilated discs all-round. This old gal will drive like a racecar in comparison to how it used to. The headlights have been swapped out for LED units, although not so you'd notice when they're not switched on.
Renamed as the e-Bulli (not to be confused with the current-model T6.1 electric Bulli van) Volkswagen is calling this a concept car, but it's making it clear that you can have one if you want, either as a kit, as a conversion from your own old T1, or as a complete car through e-classics in Germany. The latter will start at about €64,900 (a little under US$70,000), which is ten grand more than the new mid-engined Corvette Stingray costs, but then you can only fit one of your hippie friends in that, and there's no room for guitar or bongo playing on the highway, so the choice is yours.