1950 VW Type 2 Pickup
The first-generation of the iconic VW Type 2 bus was built from 1950 to 1967 in the U.S., and though it may have been most recognizable in its standard Kombi trim, the company also offered two pickup variants: a flatbed model, and a standard single cab trim.
Unfortunately, the “Chicken Tax” – which curtailed the importation of light work trucks from Europe into the U.S. – eventually killed the Type 2 pickup stateside in the late ‘60s, but the second-gen Type 2 pickup lived on for a number of years in markets like Brazil and Mexico.
1971 VW Karmann Cheetah Concept
The VW Karmann Cheetah concept isn’t so much a pickup truck as it is a sporty cabriolet with a usable bed. With El Camino-inspired cues, the Karmann Cheetah concept debuted at the Geneva Motor Show in 1971. It was a result of a collaboration between VW and German coachbuilder Wilhelm Karmann GmbH, and since it was based on the Beetle, it came powered by a 1.6-liter engine producing 50 horsepower (37 kilowatts). Unfortunately, it never made its way to production.
1979 VW Rabbit Pickup / Caddy
Even though the current Caddy has transformed from a pickup into a cargo van, the first-gen, Golf-based Caddy – or Rabbit Pickup – remains an icon. Introduced in 1979, and built at VW’s Westmoreland Assembly Plant in the U.S., the original pickup was available either with a 1.5-liter diesel engine or a 1.7-liter gas unit, and in two trims: LX and Sportruck. Production of the original version, surprisingly, continued on until 2007 in emerging markets like South Africa.
1991 VW Vario II
Like the Karmann Cheetah before it, the Vario II was less a pickup truck and more a modular, sporty vehicle with some extra space in the rear. Unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show, the strange-looking concept was proposed by Swiss student Alexander Guye of the Art Center College, before being transformed into a full-size scale model for Frankfurt by then Chief Designer Herbert Schafer.
2000 VW Advanced Activity Concept (AAC)
Y2K marked the arrival of the AAC – or Advanced Activity Concept. It was based on the yet-to-be-released first-gen Touareg, and came powered by a V10 turbodiesel producing 313 horsepower (230 kilowatts), 553 pound-feet (750 Newton-meters) of torque. All that horsepower was mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, with four-wheel drive, and air suspension available.
2008 VW Pickup Concept
The aptly named VW Pickup Concept was unveiled in 2008, and was essentially an Amarok in disguise. Sharing nearly all of the same cues with the production version that would arrive less than two years later, the Pickup concept did have a few unique features. Things like bigger off-road tires and rear roll bars made their way to the concept, as did some added roof lighting for lifeguard duty – notice the beachside photoshoot and door markings.
2010 VW Saveiro Rocket Concept
Like a handful of other so-called "pickup trucks" on this list, the Saverio Rocket concept from 2010 is more of a ute. That is, a car-based front – in this case, the third-generation Gol – and utility in the back. The two-seater sports ute made its debut at the Sao Paulo International Motor Show in 2010, but never made its way to production.
2012 VW Amarok Canyon Concept
Based on the production Amarok pickup, the Canyon concept in 2012 previewed an even more enticing trim option to the already capable truck. Making its debut at the Geneva Motor Show, with a bright red finish, big wheels and tires, roof-mounted fog lights, and a roll bar, it was the off-road-ready Amarok fans had been lusting over. Sadly, it was never produced.
2014 VW Tristar TDI Concept
Based on the T6 Transporter platform, this plucky little pickup was introduced in 2014 – two years before the T6 – and came powered by a 2.0-liter turbodiesel engine rated at 201 horsepower (149 kilowatts) and 332 pound-feet (450 Newton-meters) of torque. Unfortunately, with the arrival of the T6 Transporter in 2016, the pickup concept as pictured did not come along with it. Emerging markets did get a Transporter pickup, but it was far less refined.
2018 VW Atlas Tanoak Concept
Of course, this list wouldn’t be complete without the inclusion of the new Atlas Tanoak concept. Making its debut this week at the New York Auto Show, the SUV-based pickup comes with a few added capable cues like larger tires, a bumper-mounted skid plate up front, and a large usable bed, of course. We won’t hold our breath for this one – it has little chance of reaching the production line.
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