04 December 2009 ~ 4 Comments

Volkswagen + Karmann = Polo Cabrio?

In addition to the rumoured new Polo variants still to come, does the news that Volkswagen has acquired the now defunct Karmann production site signal a revivial of the Polo Cabriolet idea? The German car maker is reportedly opening a new car factory in 2011 on the Osnabrück site where the once-legendary coachbuilder built original Beetle and Mk 1 and Mk 3 Golf open-tops and has not only bought land, but the machinery and equipment, too.

VW has said that a new car will be built there and many industry insiders point to this being the production version of the BlueSport concept car, seen earlier this year. Reports also hint at a new generation of the evergeen Golf Cabriolet. A drop-top Polo has also been mooted before, and with the high level of interest in the new generation, an open-air model would undoubtedly be a halo car for the range, in addition to adding some good old-fashioned glamour.

VW Polo Cabrio Concept by Karmann

Karmann thought so, too. In October 2007 at the Frankfurt motor show, it pulled the covers off the Polo Cabrio Concept (above). Billed as a ‘study’ and with no official support from Volkswagen, the company claimed that its supermini convertible set new standards in the open top market. The Polo Cabrio Concept featured a soft top which included a glass sliding roof, an illuminated headliner using four small electroluminescent panels, foldable rear seats and a wide-opening boot.

Even with the soft top up, drivers could enjoy the open-air experience. A press of the VW logo on the boot would see the rear window slide up flush with the roof, and the rear windows slide down automatically when someone entered or exited the car. The top of the Z-folding fabric roof replaced the tonneau cover, sitting above the 148-litre boot (304 litres with the roof up). When the tailgate was opened, the rear window rose slightly, sliding upwards over the fabric roof. When the reverse was done, a roller blind automatically lowered, covering the luggage area (see slideshow below).

It wasn’t all show. Karmann had thought about safety, too. The coachbuilder claimed that a pair of modular roll over hoops offered highly-effective occupant protection in a crash and also greater use of boot space, without the traditional intrusive body strengthening structure and rigid bench seat which are usually needed. The Polo Cabrio Concept used a previous-generation 148bhp Polo GTI as its base, which Karmann lengthened by 130mm and widened by 40mm. New bumpers were added front and rear along with a double-exit centre exhaust and black and red 17” Oz ‘Michaelangelo’ alloy wheels, fitted with Yokohama Parada 215/40 R17 tyres.

Production was an unknown certainty. The company stated that they were waiting for public reaction to the car, and although that was largely favourable, the Polo Cabrio Concept never made it off the motor show stand. If Volkswagen were to build a new version of the drop-top supermini, both the marketplace and product would have to be right. The cost base would have to be driven down, while the roof engineering would be nowhere near as elaborate (or costly) as that on the Karmann study. While it may not have been a serious proposition, what the Polo Cabrio Concept does offer is a well-engineered look at what have been, or even an unconventional glimpse of what might still be to come.

[Images: Karmann]

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