The Box is a (nearly) forgotten conversion for Volkswagen's Type 1 cars: the Beetle, the Ghia, and the Thing. It is perhaps best described as a van with one door, squished to about half the size: something that looks like a loaf of bread on wheels, upon which someone has sat.
What is the Box?
The Box was first produced in 1970 by Chris Brubaker when it was described as "a practical mini-van designed for the auto enthusiast who wants something different to the run-of-the-mill vehicle".
This conversion was not meant to replace the popular VW Bus; in fact, the dimensions are hardly any bigger than the Beetle sedan. It is one inch shorter in height, one inch shorter in length, but a full eight inches wider. This is very appealing to anyone who sits in a Beetle, only to find they are rubbing ribs with the passenger.
The Box was designed to be sturdy and solid. The shell is fibreglass with two piece layer construction, each side having an inner and an outer skin. Ridges were moulded into the layers to make the fibreglass stronger, then filled with a spray-expanding foam to dampen sound and travel in the individual pieces. Air ducts for heating and air-conditioning (an option added by Aeromecca) were moulded between the panels.
Access is achieved via one door in the passenger (right) side of the vehicle. It slides open, much like a conventional van, and measures about four feet wide, allowing easy access to the back seat. A thirty-six-inch-square one-piece removable sunroof was available in the later models as an option: it appears as an indentation moulded in the roof if not used.
The extra width of the Box gave space for the stereo and 8-track system, ignition, and switches in a console along the left side of the driver's area. The gas tank was mounted behind the driver's seat but could be relocated where space allowed. The rear seat was a bench holding two six-footers1 or three smaller people. The engine was stock, but could be easily upgraded.
A Short History of the Box
The Brubaker Box was produced in very limited numbers2 before it was sold to a company called Aeromecca.
Aeromecca then geared up for production of the new Aeromecca Sports Van. The production run was for a total of about 1500 cars, although some sources report that the number was actually 500. The company offered several options for interior and colours, delivered to your door. If you wished to make the conversion yourself, the kit came in a box and the installation took about a day for anyone with average mechanical ability.
Not much information is available for the Box.
The Box Today
The fibreglass moulds are now in the possession of Richard Alexander: he purchased them from a VW after market-shop in Florida. Rick is the owner of an Aeromecca Box, and plans to reproduce the fibreglass parts for new Boxes if the moulds are in good condition. He will be able to answer many questions about the Box if you contact him.
New moulded pieces may be available for sale, but Rick notes that most of the construction of the Box will be left to the purchaser. Glass, rubber, electrics, lights, motor, chassis, etc. are needed in order to complete the Box. When making your own Box, be sure to obtain a copy of local automotive safety laws. Find out what is required to make your Box roadworthy. Make sure, when building any kit car, that it meets or exceeds all the safety requirements of your locale. Keep in mind safety factors when choosing a larger engine as the Box is lighter than the Beetle and is not made of a hard steel. If you are unsure of your work, there are several companies that will build kit cars for you, for a price.
When registering your new Box, remember it has all the running gear of a Volkswagen, and can be registered as a reconstructed vehicle or hobby vehicle. Be sure to talk to someone in your local DMV3 office who is knowledgeable about these types of registrations. If no one is familiar with these cars, write to the regional office. Keep all your documentation when buying parts and a chassis as these will have vehicle ID numbers, important in qualifying for the correct registration.
This vehicle is far from common, and is guaranteed to get stares and questions. You have a chance to make your own expression, so do it with style. Spend a little more money to get better parts, especially where the brakes and seat-belts are concerned.
So, pop in that 8-track and start cruising. Show off your work at some of the VW shows around the country. The Box is not for everyone, only those who wish to make a bold statement. That statement may be, "Hey, I have a funny looking four-and-a-half-foot-tall van", but it's still a statement.