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Hemmings Motor News has been around since 1954. We're proud of our heritage, but we're also more than the Hemmings full of classifieds that your father subscribed to. Aside from new editorial content every month in Hemmings, we have three monthly magazines: Hemmings Muscle Machines, Hemmings Classic Car and Hemmings Sports and Exotic Car.

While our editors traverse the country to find the best content for those magazines, we find other oddities related to the old-car hobby that we really had no place for - until now. With this blog, we're giving you a behind-the-scenes look at what we see and what we do during the course of putting out some of the finest automotive magazines you'll ever read.

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Which had Better Aerodynamics, the Volkswagen Beetle or the Volkswagen Bus?

Posted May 23, 2022 10:56 AM by dstrohl

While the "barn door" nickname for early Type 2 Transporters refers specifically to the back end of Volkswagen's utility vehicle and the massive hatch to access the engine compartment, over the years many people who've heard that nickname sans context have mistakenly believed it referred to the aerodynamics of the Type 2. Indeed, the shape of a Volkswagen Type 2 doesn't cut through the air like a land-speed racer, but it's much better than it could have been and even surpasses its seemingly slipperier sibling, the Beetle.

As numerous histories of the Type 2 have pointed out, its first prototypes - besides having dismal structural integrity - also posted coefficient of drag figures of 0.75. Yes, that's better than a brick (0.82) but worse than an elephant in a headwind (0.65, according to an article that includes more math than I care for this early in the morning). Volkswagen's executive in charge of developing the Type 2, Alfred Häsner, found that initial figure absurd, so he and his engineers took the prototypes over to the wind tunnel at the Technical University of Braunschweig and discovered that by peaking the leading edge of the roof and correspondingly splitting the windshield (leading to the "Splittie" nickname) they could push the Type 2's coefficient of drag down to 0.44, better than the Beetle's at 0.48. The second-generation Bay-Window Transporters reportedly knocked that number down to 0.42. For comparison's sake, both a Jaguar D-Type and a Dodge Viper have a coefficient of drag of 0.45, a Lamborghini Countach scores the same as a Plymouth Duster at 0.42, and a Lincoln Town Car comes in at 0.46. The average modern production car has a coefficient of drag somewhere in the neighborhood of 0.30. Granted, a lot more goes into figuring out a vehicle's aerodynamic efficiency than just the coefficient of drag; something with greater frontal area, for instance, will have a higher total amount of drag because it needs to push that much more air out of the way.

Still, it's rather counterintuitive that the boxy and upright Type 2 does a better job and slicing through all that air than the Beetle, which always looked like Volkswagen had taken a regular car and run it through a rock tumbler. Kudos to the Type 2 engineers who made that possible.

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#1

Re: Which had Better Aerodynamics, the Volkswagen Beetle or the Volkswagen Bus?

05/24/2022 8:11 AM

Interesting! Who would have guessed that?

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Re: Which had Better Aerodynamics, the Volkswagen Beetle or the Volkswagen Bus?

05/24/2022 4:31 PM

It seems that aerodynamics can be rather surprising sometimes. I suspect the spoiler above the windshield deflects the air above the big structure on the top.

As mentioned in the article, having a lower coefficient of drag, CD, doesn't mean less drag. Drag = Area x CD x speed squared. CD is a function of shape alone, not size.

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#3

Re: Which had Better Aerodynamics, the Volkswagen Beetle or the Volkswagen Bus?

06/10/2022 6:54 AM

Cd=0.29

"Vorsprung durch Technik".

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Re: Which had Better Aerodynamics, the Volkswagen Beetle or the Volkswagen Bus?

06/10/2022 7:56 AM
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