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HomeCar CultureHave you ever seen the VW-powered, 6-wheel Busse amphibious ATV?

Have you ever seen the VW-powered, 6-wheel Busse amphibious ATV?

Volkswagen rekindles memories of a bygone era of innovation

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Everyone knows about the Amphicar, but how many of you remember the Busse?

Volkswagen sent out a news release to remind us of the amphibious ATV of the 1970s which, it notes, “were an era defined by bell-bottoms, disco music, revolutionary movements, and a craze for small vehicles that could go anywhere over land – and sometimes water too.”

VW reports that the first all-terrain vehicle was created by a Canadian in 1959, who used a pair of chainsaw engines to power the vehicle, which had six wheels with low-pressure balloon tires that provided not only traction but floatation.

amphibian, Have you ever seen the VW-powered, 6-wheel Busse amphibious ATV?, ClassicCars.com Journal
Busse in the water

“Though unprofitable, the design proved quite popular, and sparked decades of ATV innovation and enthusiasm,” VW noted. “During the ‘60s and early ‘70s, builders and inventors from across the country began to follow suit and build their own 6×6 ATVs and companies. 

“The U.S. saw the creation of its first ATV racetrack known as Pine Lake Raceway, while ATVs grew in popularity for racing and recreational use alike. In August of 1970, one magazine counted more than 60 models either for sale or under development – including one with a unique Volkswagen connection.”

Among them was the Busse All-Terrain Wagon, an aluminum 6×6 ATV designed by Busse SJI Corp., and which, VW reports, “stood apart from other ATVs of the time. Where many used small two-stroke engines, the Busse was powered by the hearty 1.6 liter, 55-hp air-cooled, flat-four engine used in the then-current era Beetle. Volkswagen’s 3-speed, semi-automatic gearbox and torque converter were also responsible for putting the power to the ground.

“By ATV standards, the Busse was a tank among toys, with an aluminum body instead of typical fiberglass and a payload rating of 1,500 lbs. At 126 inches long, 65 inches wide, and 1,700 pounds, the Busse came equipped with hydraulic disc brakes, 26×12-inch tires, maximum speeds of 28 mph on land and 10 mph on water, with the ability to climb slopes of 45 degrees. If needed, owners could also opt for snow tracks.”

VW reports that such capabilities resulted in the Busse being priced at $4,875, “far more than other ATVs at the time. 

“Built in Randolph, Wisconsin, the Busse was shopped overseas as a potential military vehicle, but a contract never materialized, and its expense made its existence brief with minimal production.

“Today, there are only a few known Volkswagen-powered Busse ATWs still in existence, though its spirit lives on in six-wheel ATVs and side-by-side models for those still venturing to go anywhere.

Larry Edsall
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

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