Car Crush: VW Variant

Cars

Take a look at this lovely VW Variant: The Japanese do European cars better than the Europeans do.

It strikes me, after spending a week in Tokyo, that the Japanese even do European better than Europeans do.

You can see evidence everywhere. There are immaculate G Wagons all over the place, customised and wrapped and rocking nice alloys and upgraded exhausts. You see numerous Porsches – 911s, 928s and even 914s – that far outstrip even well-rendered native versions.

Mercs, Beemers – every Euro Marque that has been run through the Japanese aesthetic goes somehow beyond what you’d expect to see closer to the car’s homes.

There’s just something about the aesthetic of the Japanese that adds a certain dash of something…indefinable.

Nowhere is this exquisite way of doing things exemplified better than this lovely 1968 VW Variant wagon we spotted yesterday (above).

The Variant has always been a dyed-in the-wool favourite of ours – a mid century classic that has leant itself perfectly to every thing from extreme slams, chops and hop-ups to subtle tweaks, like this one.

My father owned a 1971 version, a 1600 E in royal blue with creme vinyl interior, during the mid seventies. God knows how many times I mind-surfed the customisation of this car.

I know it’s a fact, too, that we crammed thirteen of our family into the car one summer on a day trip to Clacton on the Essex coast. I’m not sure how it’s possible, but it’s true.

The Variant and the fastback original is of course a mainstay of the dub/bug scene all over the world. And it’s easy to see why. It’s a unique, unusual shape that bears the hallmark of the VW – a strength and a malleability that creates a real presence. So what if that engine noise, reminiscent of an off-colour food mixer, is a bit tiresome?

With the engine stashed below the loading bay, right over the rear axle, there was a real lightness of steering and a fun drive, even with the typically low power output afforded by the 1600 engine.

If only he hadn’t sold the thing….

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