In 2019, Volkswagen said the final goodbye to the Beetle after more than eight decades on the production lines (if we include the modern-generation Beetle). For now, there’s no direct replacement for what is a true automotive legend with more than 21.5 million sales. It’s a real success story, though things might have been different when the automaker started considering replacements for the original Beetle in the 1950s.
The so-called EA-47-12 prototype was the brand’s first major attempt at creating a successor to the Beetle. It was designed by Ghia and probably that’s why it strongly reminds us of the Karmann Ghia. Under the hood was a 1.2-liter four-cylinder boxer air-cooled engine with a maximum power of 30 horsepower, mated to a fully synchronized gearbox. This setup was enough for a top speed of 50 miles per hour (80 kilometers per hour).
VW Beetle replacement prototypes
The EA48 project was probably even more interesting. It was designed without any input from Porsche and shared no common components with the Beetle. It was designed from scratch as an FWD unibody construction and used a 0.7-liter engine sending power to the front axle, which featured a McPherson-type suspension. The top speed was 60 mph (96 kph).
In the 1960s, Volkswagen toyed with the idea of replacing the Beetle with a larger and more luxurious vehicle. The EA128 prototype from 1963 offered room for six passengers and was powered by a Porsche 911-sourced 2.0-liter boxer engine. Then, six years later, the Germans came up with the idea of a boxier FWD hatchback, which eventually became the production Golf, known at the time in the United States as the Rabbit.
It was the first-generation VW Golf that the company considered the true ideological successor to the Beetle. All previous projects and ideas didn’t make it to production as the automaker found that the original Beetle offered a unique mix of values that couldn’t be easily replicated.