Volkswagen became known throughout the world with its reliable cars since the 40s, when exports to other countries outside Germany began. Since the 50s, the brand began to establish factories on other continents, the first being Volkswagen do Brasil.
En South America, Volkswagen expanded its business horizons, coming to develop specific models for some countries. Mexico was another of the countries where the brand was most successful, with the beloved "Vocho" or Beetle being the most recognizable taxi in the country. There, the model ceased manufacturing in 2003, almost 25 years after it was discontinued in its native Germany.
Within the framework of the Oil Crisis, the Puebla factory in Mexico set out to manufacture a small light truck taking advantage of the components that were available in the factory. The idea is that it should be economical and easy to maintain.
THE MEXICAN ANT
By 1975, in Mexico it began to manufacture this vehicle that was called Volkswagen T200, although it was also called Ant, emphasizing its qualities as a work vehicle. Due to its extreme simplicity, even more than the Transporter, received the internal name of Basistransporter EA 489.
Similar to the Plattenwagen manufactured in Wolfsburg since the 40s and based on the Type 1, the T200 was initially designed for transport work within the Mexican factory, creating a vehicle with existing parts, although Finally, it was decided to manufacture it in series.
La Hormiga used 4-cylinder boxer mechanics and air-cooled 1.600 cubic centimeters that developed 44 CV. It is curious that, despite the fact that these engines used to be located in motor cars and rear-wheel drive, in the T200 the engine was central, located under the cab, and front-wheel drive.
The shapes were angular and square, with an extremely simple and functional design. The load capacity was only 750 kilos and could reach a maximum speed of 85 kilometers per hour.
The Ant was available in three colors: red, blue and white. It could also be bought with a cab and chassis for bodywork, which made it common to convert it into a surprisingly spacious motorhome. Normally the Ant was a pick-up, but it was also built as a bus, van, ambulance...
Finally, it would be between 1978 and 1979 when the Ant stopped being manufactured in Mexico, where it was not very popular, with only 3.600 units sold, becoming a true rarity today, highly valued in the country.
IN THE REST OF THE WORLD
Also in 1975, from the Volkswagen plant in Hannover, Germany, begins manufacturing the Basistransporter EA 489. The intention was to take it to developing countries where Volkswagen already sold its vehicles, and which, thanks to its simple mechanics, would be easy to maintain in places where means were more limited.
In Germany, some 2.600 units were manufactured until 1979, although curiously few Basistransporters left the country fully assembled. Most were sent as kits, just a chassis with instructions for its later assembly.. Like an IKEA piece of furniture, to understand each other.
Exports reached countries like Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Türkiye and Indonesia. Some two hundred units also arrived in Africa sent from Finland as a relief package.
In markets like New Zealand or Australia, they were hardly sold, since in these countries they had access to much more advanced and sophisticated vehicles. But in others where the car was not yet well established, the EA 489 had a better reception.
Given the creative freedom, which made the Basistransporter arrive as a chassis with mechanics, it allowed countries like Turkey or Indonesia used the body of the Type 2 van on the EA 489, giving a curious front-wheel drive, mid-engined version of the iconic T2.
Despite the fact that this van could have been the formula for success in countries with emerging economies, the Basistransporter EA 489, or Hormiga in Mexico, never became a "marabunta". Upside down, they became one of the lower production Volkswagen models, very far from the millionaire figures that the brand used to. Today, that makes it especially interesting because of its rarity.
Photographs of Volkswagen de México and Volkswagen.