flat4 -  "The Brubaker" - Teil 2
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Brubaker Van
Zitat: Dune Buggies & Hot VWs, Sommer 1972
The Brubaker

By Chuck Nerpel

It could put the FUN in functional!

Every once in a while a bright and talented automotive stylist with the mechanical talent and
engineering know-how to transpose the lines on his drawing board into working hardware, has the guts to do more than hang his renderings on the studio wall and dream. Curtis Brubaker is such a man. His dream, a practical mini-van designed for the auto enthusiast who wants something different than the run-of-the-mill vehicle, is now in test form with two prototypes running final tests while tooling for production is ready to turn out the finished product.

Originally conceived as a kit car, something for the homebuilder to build up in his spare time on a VW Beetle chassis, market research revealed that there were a lot more customers out there interested in a complete vehicle than a do-it-yourself kit. This is a major undertaking for any private car builder, considering the Federal safety requirements, plus the need to start with a complete VW running gear, belly pan, and power plant. Volkswagen does not supply bodyless cars to anyone, and the source of supply for a builder like Brubaker is to buy complete cars from any new car outlet he can, strip off the body and hope to become a good source of supply for specialty repair shops that might need such parts.

Besides, the Brubaker mini-van is a great deal more than a fabricated box bolted to a VW belly pan. Safety is a major part of the design and construction, with the body unit itself composed of inner and outer fiberglass panels, riveted and adhesive bonded together and to a floor pan whose edges are rolled up and similarly bonded to the upper assembly. The result is a very rigid body that has built-in roll-over protection, and when bolted to the VW pan, stiffens it as well. To protect the shell and the sub frame from damage of low speed bumper-to-bumper
contacts with other vehicles, shock absorbing bumpers are incorporated into the design.
Currently, these have not been finalized to Brubaker's complete satisfaction, although the
several prototypes tested have proven successful.

Another safety feature, one that adds to the rigidity of the body or passenger envelope, is the single door, a rather ample one on the right side that slides rather than swings open. This design follows the latest thinking of some "safety car" engineers as a way to better protect passengers by eliminating weak areas around the door openings and the number of those openings. While there has been some thought given to the addition of a door on the driver's side to ease entry and exit, current plans are for production of only the single side door model. This door slides in a groove along the roof line edge with a bell jointed stabilizer rod at the bottom to keep it aligned when operated. While the driver might inconvenience the front passenger, the door opens wide enough for easy walk-in to the rear seating area.

This doesn't mean stand-up walk-in as the Brubaker is quite a bit smaller than the familiar VW van bus. In fact, dimensions are closer to that of the Beetle sedan, with the height an inch lower, length and inch less, but eight inches wider, providing a bit more elbow room than the sedan The idea behind the Brubaker was not to try and make a big van out of a Beetle sedan, but to create a passenger type utility vehicle with good utilization of interior space on a relatively short wheelbase. Top this off with the known fuel economy of the VW engine, lower center of gravity for better handling, styling to reduce the slab-sided look of a big van, plus a better shape for lower wind resistance and better cross-wind stability. Couple all of this with an overall look that is most distinctive, a very desirable feature in today's automotive look-alike offerings.

While the Brubaker body can be bolted directly to a Beetle Type I sedan belly pan, other
modifications to the stock parts are required. All of the foot pedal controls must be relocated
and the steering column shortened as the front seat placement is quite a bit different than the stock position due largely to the cross bar crash pad and wider body. An interesting feature is the front seat placement, well behind the windshield, nearly as far from it as most rear seats on small sedans. Between the front passengers and the actual front of the vehicle is a large safety area that can be used for storage and most certainly will prevent any head knocking against the windshield if passengers are wearing their restraint belts. While this gives away a lot of space, it does not interfere with forward or side visibility and one has a very secure feeling of having something in front of them besides a bit of sheet metal and some headlamps. Naturally, approved safety glass is used throughout.

Experiments are still going on as to just what type of front seats will be used. Because of the
new requirements for tested seats, some stock ones are under consideration but the best so far, in keeping with utilization of as many stock VW parts as possible, are the Beetle front seats. 
The relocation of the fuel tank, amidships on the left side behind the drivers seat, has made for an interesting seating situation for rear passengers. There is a full width seat across the rear with a nice deep recess for ample leg stretch and foot room. But then, there is a nice big cushioned seating area atop the fuel tank housing so that with 3 people in the rear, it's a game of "kneeses" all the way. With 2 aboard, one will get the normal seated position, the other a full stretch out with legs on the gas tank pad or riding side-saddle should erect position be desired. It's and interesting concept and obviously designed for a full passenger load that demands amiability and togetherness of all riders. Not a bad idea at all.

Obviously, passenger vehicles should have more than just distinctive looks. That is all many
have, but being a stickler for performance and handling as well, Brubaker has sought to
improve these characteristics of the stock Beetle. As with any prototype, the mini-van is
several hundred pounds heavier than the production models will be. Besides, the center of
gravity has been lowered considerably and streamlining is better. With the host of performance accessories available for VW engines, there is practically no limit as to how much go the owner who wishes can put into his stock power plant. The Brubaker prototypes are stock except for a custom dual exhaust system, a very popular time with many Beetle owners. This mini-van needs little to call attention to it, but the mellow exhaust note raises many an eyebrow a notch higher as puzzled lookers ask, "What is it?"

Inside, the ride is quiet and comfortable with the double wall construction screening out
exhaust and road noises in addition to providing the necessary ducting for heat and ventilation. Handling is excellent and rough roading indicates the sturdy body construction with absence of rattles and squeaks. The sliding door latches snugly with no evidence of looseness and maintains a good tight seal against moisture and dust all around.

There are some minor changes being made to the pedal position to provide better access to them without kneeing the low set steering wheel in the process. As mentioned earlier, forward and side visibility for the driver is good but the seating position well back poses some problems with overhead vision such as a high set traffic signal. The driver will also have to make good use of well set mirrors on both sides, as the view to the rear sides is virtually non-existent. Current plans are to also offer a sun roof version with accessories to include possibly a roof rack and provision for carrying surf boards and maybe even a small boat.

It is difficult to provide an accurate report on a vehicle when the available prototypes are in
such a rapid state of change. Due to long lead times of magazines such as ours, there will likely be a whole new concept of the Brubaker as compared to the ones we had a chance to examine.
Knowing Curtis Brubaker, this is practically an assured fact. He leaves nothing to chance and carries out each idea to completion before accepting or discarding it. This takes time and money, but he is determined that there will be Brubaker vehicles in production by mid-year.
From the early publicity announcements, orders are coming in daily and current production
plans are geared for one complete car per day, expanding to between 75 and 100 per week by the year's end.

To be sold as complete vehicles, the mini-vans must meet all federal standards for safety and exhaust emission control, the latter already established by Volkswagen for their engines and running gear. The other safety features must be approved by actual tests and certified by an accredited testing organization. This is now being done.

Tentative prices, FOB, Brubaker Industries, Inc., 5625 West Century Blvd., Los Angeles, Calif., 90045, are between $3600 and $4000, and includes a new VW chassis, deluxe interior, alloy wheels, and wood rimmed steering wheel. Launching such a project by an individual, who is not a multi-millionaire or the heir to an auto-maker's fortune, is a tremendous undertaking.
Competition and the difficulty of obtaining basic components from another carmaker has stifled many a similar project. However, if the product is desirable, and we think this one is, maybe now is the time for fortune to smile on this sincere effort. We hope so.

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Stand 10.11.1999