This one-off VW T1 Bulli with FOUR axles has just been restored
It’s orange, because it should be “immediately recognisable in the countryside”. Heck, it'd be recognisable from Mars: welcome to the Volkswagen T1 Bulli you never knew you wanted until right now.
It’s called the ‘Half-track Fox’, and was conceived by a man called Kurt Kretzner back in May of 1962. Kurt wanted a car that was easy to drive but could still be driven up a mountain with no fuss. He couldn’t find something already on the market, so he went ahead and built his own.
VW tells us Kurt spent four years designing and building this orange Helpy McHelperson, turning an ordinary T1 funbus into the extraordinary quad-axle spider you see here. Under the Bulli’s body, he fitted a steered double axle at the front with dual 14in tyres, and another double axle at the back with a chain drive.
Said chains were then mounted onto 12in wheels and a “construction of his own design” built from aluminium and rubber blocks 2cm thick to “spare the asphalt”. It’s a half-track – hence the name – with chains only on the driven axles and an “almost standard, albeit doubled-up” front-wheel steering setup.
Each wheel got its own brake, there was a limited slip differential, and power was delivered by the Bulli’s 1.2-litre flat-four engine and its 30bhp. Yes, you’ve had sneezes more powerful than this.
Still, VW said it was “only slightly slower than the animal kingdom member from which it got its name”, thanks to a heady top speed of 22mph. Really, who cares when it could almost turn within its own circumference?
Kurt reckoned this was the off-roader to end all off-roaders. “Snow, sand, stony ground, mountain meadows, small streams and woods can all be driven through in this vehicle,” he said at the time of the car’s launch.
Sadly, only two were ever built, and this is the only one left standing. It disappeared from the public eye soon after it was finished, only to reappear in Vienna in 1985, before being bought by Porsche in the early Nineties. It was then acquired by the ‘Bullikartei e.V’, which is a Bulli appreciation club. They began early work to restore it but couldn’t finish it.
Enter VW. The Classic Vehicles dept bought it in 2018 and restored it from the ground up, even repainting it in this fetching shade of orange. And as you can see from these pictures taken in February 2022, it is ‘immediately recognisable’.