Pick of the Day: 1973 Volkswagen Thing

The VW Thing has the same chassis and mechanical parts as a Beetle
The VW Thing has the same chassis and mechanical parts as a Beetle

Say you want a classic car that you can show and take to events, but also drive on the beach. That could be a classic Jeep or a dune buggy, or this one from Germany, which was marketed when new as the Car That Does Everything: the Volkswagen Type 181 Thing.

The Pick of the Day is a 1973 Volkswagen Thing, a fun car that can do a lot of what a vintage Jeep does, and based on the tried-and-true VW Beetle chassis and mechanical parts. Continue reading

Pick of the Day: 1949 Volkswagen Beetle

The early Volkswagen shows the original unadorned original styling of the Beetle
The early Volkswagen shows the original unadorned original styling of the Beetle

Here’s the kind of thing that makes VW fanatics flip out, an accurately restored Type 1 from the first year they were brought into the U.S.

New York dealer Max Hoffman, the automotive impresario who also was the early importer of such European brands as Alfa Romeo, BMW, Citroen, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche, believed that the American public would accept the odd-duck Volkswagen despite its minimalistic size, accommodations and performance. Hoffman was right, in spades. Continue reading

Another VW microbus shocker at Barrett-Jackson in Palm Beach

The 1961 Volkswagen 23-window microbus sold for more than $250,000 | Barrett-Jackson photos
The 1961 Volkswagen 23-window microbus sold for more than $290,000 | Barrett-Jackson photos

Aside from Barrett-Jackson’s customary collector car offerings of muscle cars, cruisers, customs and exotics that were sold during the 15th annual Palm Beach, Florida, auction this past weekend, it was another eye-popping, record-setting sale of a Volkswagen microbus that had auction watchers shaking their heads and VW enthusiasts doing high fives all around.

An impeccably restored 1961 23-window VW Deluxe Microbus sold for a stunning $291,500, including the 10 percent auction fee, during bidding Saturday, selling far and away above the expected result. Hagerty’s Price Guide pegs the value of a No. 1 concours-condition ’61 23-window VW Deluxe bus at $134,000. Continue reading

Pick of the Day: 1969 Volkswagen Westfalia camper bus

The VW camper bus is said to be ready to roll on a cross-country road trip
The VW camper bus is said to be ready to roll on a cross-country road trip

It’s spring, and the open road is calling. And what better craft for an extended road trip than the Pick of the Day, a 1969 Volkswagen Westfalia camper bus with all the trimmings.

According to the Sonoma, California, dealer advertising the VW camper on ClassicCars.com, this Westy is ready for a national tour. The flat-four engine has been rebuilt and bored out to 1,776 cc, the ad says, which should help provide enough muscle for these typically underpowered vehicles. The key to driving any VW microbus is to abide by one simple rule: never be in a hurry. Continue reading

2016 top stories: 3 – Jerry Seinfeld Porsche auction

The blue 1955 Porsche 550 Spyder was the top seller at more-than $5.3 million | Bob Golfen photos
The blue 1955 Porsche 550 Spyder was the top seller at more-than $5.3 million | Bob Golfen photos

Comedian Jerry Seinfeld is a long-term Porsche addict with an enviable stable acquired with the riches earned from his stage and TV career. Seinfeld was never all-that public about his classic Porsche obsession, but neither was he secretive; even a casual watcher of the Jerry Seinfeld show could identify Porsche posters on the walls of his TV-studio/New York apartment. Continue reading

Pick of the Day: 1979 Volkswagen Beetle Cabriolet

The Volkswagen Cabriolet is a preserved survivor with  only 14,000 miles on its odometer
The Volkswagen Cabriolet is a preserved survivor with only 14,000 miles on its odometer

Model year 1979 marked the end of importation for the beloved VW Beetle. After being produced in Germany continuously since 1946, this was it for the U.S.-legal version.

It also was the end of an era, and Volkswagen celebrated by offering the Cabriolet as it’s single Beetle offering for ‘79. These cars were still handmade by the Karmann factory, and fit and finish were superb.

The interior looks to be in decent condition
The interior looks to be in decent condition

The Pick of the Day is a silver-over-black 1979 Volkswagen Beetle Cabriolet in time-warp condition with only 14,000 miles showing on its odometer. The VW is offered by a private seller in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, who has owned the car since the 1990s, buying it with 12,000 miles and driving it sparingly ever since.

The car has been consistently garage kept, the seller says in the listing on ClassicCars.com, and the photos show a car that appears to be in very good driver condition.

The final edition Beetle Cabriolet was based on the Super Beetle, which offered improved suspension and more storage, as well as a bit more performance. These last cars also offered fuel injection, which makes the car more drivable and easier to maintain.

The convertible tops are masterpieces of craftsmanship, equal to the top on a Rolls-Royce Corniche. That makes it both a nice open car and a very civilized closed car when the top is up. With this century’s Beetle now in its second generation, the market for the original, rear-engine cars is likely to continue their popularity.

A final-edition Beetle Cabriolet makes a perfect first-time classic car that delivers fun and affordable ownership in equal proportions. Every part is available and just about anyone can work them with a decent set of tools and John Muir’s How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive guide to maintenance and repair “for the ‘compleat’ idiot.”

During the past decade, VW convertibles have done well at auction, and low-mileage cars like this one tend to sell for serious money at such auctions as Barrett-Jackson and Mecum. The asking price for this VW is a reasonable $14,500 or best offer, and it looks like a good deal for such a low-mileage example.

According to Jay Leno, every classic car collection should have at least one Volkswagen, and this car would be a good candidate to fill that Beetle-sized hole.

To view this listing on ClassicCars.com, see Pick of the Day

Pick of the Day: 1969 Volkswagen custom transporter

The modified Volkswagen  bus in its natural habitat, on the beach
The modified Volkswagen bus in its natural habitat, on the beach

Now that summer has officially started, what better way to hit the beach than in an imaginatively customized VW bus transformed into an open-air dune buggy.

The Pick of the Day is a 1969 Volkswagen custom transporter in sunny yellow for sale in Southern California, of course. The unique beach cruiser will definitely turn heads, and everybody would be begging for rides. Continue reading

Pick of the Day: 1955 Volkswagen Beetle

The 1955 Volkswagen could be described as a resto-mod
The 1955 Volkswagen could be described as a resto-mod

For Volkswagen fanatics, the older the Beetle the better. Oval rear windows, tiny taillights, side-mounted front turn signals, simplistic dash with no gas gauge, minimal horsepower, these are the kinds of things that turn on the many followers of VW culture.

The Pick of the Day, a 1955 VW Beetle, has many of the stylistic attributes of classic Beetle adoration, but it has been spectacularly restored and sympathetically upgraded into a rolling showpiece. Continue reading

Iowa barn find of VW cars and parts coming to auction

The 25 Volkswagens and hundreds of parts were stored for decades | Hoge Auctioneers
The 25 Volkswagens and hundreds of parts were stored for decades | Hoge Auctioneering

One man’s junk is another man’s treasure, or so we’ve been told. For certain Volkswagen fanatics, the recently uncovered cache of 25 forlorn VW carcasses and several tons of musty parts in Iowa might seem like a trove of possibilities.

Some of the cars could be salvageable and provide a way to get into a VW restoration project on the cheap. Or the multitude of parts could include some necessary fodder for that VW project already started, or even for supplying a VW restoration business.

A rusty VW beetle after being removed from the building | Hoge
Crusty VW beetles after being removed from the building | Hoge

The mishmash of VW cars and parts, oddly found packed together on the second floor of a lumberyard building in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, will be auctioned June 10 and 11 by Hoge Auctioneering, a business that specializes in farm and estate sales. Continue reading

Future Classic: Volkswagen Rabbit/Golf GTI

The 1985-92 VW GTI Mk2 hit the mark in hot-hatch styling and performance | Bob Golfen
The 1985-92 VW GTI Mk2 hit the mark in hot-hatch styling and performance | Bob Golfen

In 1983, the U.S. was just emerging from the automotive weariness of the 1970s. The Arab oil embargo had made everybody leery of gas supplies and rising prices and, to make matters worse, automobiles strangled by inefficient emissions controls had made performance pretty much a thing of the past.

In that dour atmosphere, the Volkswagen Rabbit GTI seemed like a jolt of excitement. Here was the original “hot hatch,” a sports version of the humble VW econobox, something that was fresh and entirely new, combining practicality with sporty performance.

GTI spelled a fresh take on practical performance | Bob Golfen
GTI spelled a fresh take on practical performance | Bob Golfen

Maybe not high performance by today’s standards, but the GTI version of the Rabbit (as the Golf initially was named for U.S. consumers) provided the power, tight handling and steering precision previously found only in sports cars costing way more.

Fast forward a few decades and Volkswagen recently introduced the seventh generation of the Golf GTI. To mark the occasion of the car’s media introduction, VW brought out examples of the first six models of GTI, going back to the original pocket rocket of 1983. We were able to sample the vintage VWs along with the latest models in drives around the San Francisco area.

As a Future Classic candidate, I’m looking at the first three generations of GTI: the Mk1 that went from 1983 to 1984 (although European versions date back to 1976), the Mk2 from 1985 to 1992, and the Mk3 from 1994 to 1999.

GTI spelled a fresh take on practical performance | Bob Golfen
The classic first-generation Rabbit GTI | Bob Golfen

The Rabbit GTI Mk1 that I drove was a 1984 model, and it was like encountering an old friend after so many years apart.

I can’t remember when I last saw one of these boxy critters in any condition, much less as preserved as this one, in classic silver paint with red highlights.

It was so much fun to get behind the wheel (tall drivers alert: legroom is tight) and run this little buzz bomb through the streets. Horsepower for the 1.8-liter engine may seem slight at 90, but the GTI’s curb weight of just 2,000 pounds translates into sprightly acceleration. That’s also a lot more power that the 65-hp provided by the standard Rabbit.

The earliest GTI felt somewhat crude, maybe like something a Euro hot rodder might have come up with in his garage. This example also was saddled with some kind of custom exhaust that made it go “blat!” every time power was applied. Fun at first, but quickly tiresome.

The simple but high-quality Mk1 interior | Volkswagen
The simple but high-quality Mk1 interior | Volkswagen

But I could definitely see being attracted to one of these as a low-cost, drivable collector car that would be a rare head turner for those who recall how much fun they were in their day.

I don’t see many of these early ones for sale, although there was a restored custom 1984 GTI set up for SCCA Pro Solo racing offered recently in my locale. It was priced at $3,500, which is about what these go for in decent condition, topping off around $10,000 for the very best restorations or remarkably preserved originals.

The second-generation GTI Mk2 was a major step up from the Mk1 in just about every way, sharper looking, more powerful, more refined and roomier inside. I drove the 1992 Mk2 on the same street course as the earlier one, and it impressed with its high-revving engine and sophisticated drivability.

The hotter 16-valve, 2-liter engine cranks out a convincing 134 horsepower, though curb weight is up to nearly 2,500 pounds. Unlike the Mk1, the Mk2 feels totally modern rather than quirkily vintage.

The GTI Mk3 was boosted with VR6 power | Volkswagen
The GTI Mk3 was boosted with VR6 power | Volkswagen

In great condition, these range in value today from around $4,000 to $9,000. But like the Mk1, most of these cars were used and abused and allowed to rust away. A great one would be a real find.

The GTI Mk3 got a boost in performance from VW’s narrow-angle 2.8-liter VR6 engine that pumped out 172 horsepower, although weight also went up, to 2,800 pounds. Critics of this model note that it’s softer and heavier than the previous generations, but the extra pull brings it home. Some also find the styling too bland for a performance car, compared with the cool-looking Mk2 that went before.

The 1995 Mk3 that I sampled felt pretty sweet, and provided a reminder of the pleasurable performance of the VR6.

Unlike most of its contemporary hot-hatch competitors – and there were quite a few that latched onto the GTI formula – the early VW GTIs were solidly built with premium interiors. A class act for a budget performance car back then, it remains at bargain levels today. But despite 10s of thousands being produced, the difficulty today is finding a good one that hasn’t been thrashed, rusted or victimized by a nasty customization.

Although the Mk1 has the charm and purity of an original, I think my choice would the Mk2 for its aggressive drivability and styling. That’s when VW’s pioneering hot hatch hit its sweet spot.