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

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

Forrest Grove Concours to show 22-mile 1964 VW Beetle

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1964 Volkswagen Beetle with 22-miles | Forest Grove concours photos

Among the anticipated 300 collector cars entered in the 44th annual Forest Grove Concours d’Elegance, July 17 at the Pacific University campus in Oregon, is a 1964 Volkswagen Beetle with 22 original miles.

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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

Pick of the Day: 1965 Volkswagen Beetle

The 1965 Volkswagen Beetle has just 22,553 miles on its odometer
The 1965 Volkswagen Beetle has just 22,553 miles on its odometer

Volkswagen Beetles could be the most common of all collector cars (well, Ford Mustangs might be close), with loads of avid VeeDub enthusiasts, clubs and events. Beetles appeal to young hobbyists for the simplicity of their classic design, easy repair and low cost, as well as their vast customization possibilities.

Too bad the great majority of them were used up and discarded and allowed to rust away rather than being preserved. Which is what makes the Pick of the Day such a great find: a 1965 Volkswagen Beetle in apparently immaculate original condition with just over 22,000 miles on its odometer. Continue reading

Driven: 2015 Volkswagen Beetle convertible, Golf SportWagen

The latest VW Beetle convertible received a fresh new look with less overt cuteness | Bob Golfen
The latest VW Beetle convertible received a fresh new look with less overt cuteness | Bob Golfen

Two very different sorts of Volkswagens parked in my driveway recently, one for pleasure and one for practicality. But what they had in common was that each demonstrated how much VW has upped its game and raised its latest generation of cars to a new level of refinement.

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Pick of the Day: 1957 Volkswagen Beetle

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Of all the classic cars choices out there, few are as easy and fun to drive, enjoy, and maintain on a daily basis than the Volkswagen Beetle. Because of these facts we are hard pressed to think of a better way to enter the classic car world than the classic VW Beetle. Continue reading

My Classic Car: Jose’s 1962 Volkswagen Beetle

The 1962 Beetle | Jose Olivencia photos
The 1962 Beetle | Jose Olivencia photo

My first car was a 1953 Volkswagen Beetle (6-volt) that my father bought me when I was 20 years old. I enjoyed my time driving that small car. I liked it so much that my next car was a 1966 Beetle, which was my favorite.

The car came with a 1600-cc engine but a friend and I installed a 1974 1750-cc version with a racing clutch, pistons, etc., and I really enjoyed driving that small car.

I also have had a 1969 Beetle and 1972 and 1975 Super Beetles.

Amy and 'her' car
Amy and ‘her’ car

About a year ago I bought a 1962 VW Beetle for my 3-year-old daughter. Why? Because I remember my father buying my first car and I wanted to keep that memory and pass it on to my daughter.

My father passed away in 1977, but he is still in my heart forever.

— Jose Olivencia Jr, Antioch TN

Secrets of the original Volkswagen Beetle

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The original air-cooled VW Beetle lasted an incredible 58 years in production, during which time it was fundamentally unchanged. It’s a record that will likely never be approached, let alone broken. Although nearly everyone of a certain age has at least one Beetle story or fond memory, there are a few things still not generally known about the beloved car. Here are five of our favorites:

  1. The original classic Beetle didn’t leave production until 2003: Although it was last sold in the U.S. in 1979 (by which time the water-cooled Rabbit had replaced it), the original air-cooled Beetle was produced in Puebla, Mexico, until 2003. It’s essentially identical to the cars produced in Germany for export to the U.S. in the 1970s, but it is illegal to try to import a Mexican Beetle into the U.S. because they don’t comply with recent emissions and safety laws.
  2. It was conceived by an infamous dictator: The original Beetle was the brainchild of Adolf Hitler. Keen to put ordinary Germans on the newly constructed autobahn superhighways in their own cars, a subsidized savings plan involving a coupon booklet was devised. When a family filled their booklet, they were supposed to get their car. WWII intervened and all pre-war Beetle deliveries were limited to Nazi party officials. Private owners didn’t get their hands on a Beetle until after the war.
  3. Germans don’t remember it as fondly as we do: The connection with the dictator who brought ruin to their country as well as the fact that it serves as a reminder of the lean times before the West German economic miracle took hold means that post-war Germans don’t have the same warm and fuzzy feelings about the Beetle that American ex-hippies do.
  4. The Beetle will float: The Beetle may have been inexpensive, but it was never cheap. Gaps were tight and doors sealed well. Additionally, it was a unibody car with a very flat floor with few openings. All of this meant that the car would actually float for at least several minutes after hitting the water before turning into a small U-boat.
  5. Subject of groundbreaking ad campaign: The Beetle was the subject of one of the most influential ad campaigns of the 20th century. Most recently lampooned on the TV show “Mad Men,” it was among the first national campaigns to utilize irony and self-deprecating wit. A tiny black-and-white photo of a Beetle in a sea of white space with only the headline “Think Small” was the first of the ads introduced in 1959 by the agency Doyle Dane Bernbach.

Beetlemania: It began 65 years ago

2014 and 1949 Beetles | Photos courtesy VW Group of America
2014 and 1949 Beetles | Photos courtesy VW Group of America
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Ah, such simplicity

February 9 marks the 50th anniversary of The Beatles first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. The ensuing British invasion certainly had an impact on American youth culture.

But it was the arrival of another type of Beetle that not only arrived first, but that had a larger impact, perhaps not on American youth culture but on American car culture and drivers of all ages.

It was in January 1949 that the first Volkswagen Type 1, the car that would be beloved by the nickname it gained from its beetle-like shape, arrived in the United States.

That first Beetle was shipped to New York City by Dutch businessman Ben Pon Sr., the first official Volkswagen importer. Believe it of not, only two such Beetles were purchased that year by American drivers,. Yet before the end of the year, Volkswagen of America had established its U.S. headquarters on the East Coast, and by the mid-1950s more than 35,000 Beetles were on American roads.

Inexpensive to buy and to operate, VW Beetles became popular with economy-minded drivers and by Americans who saw Detroit as part of the stifling Establishment. By the end of the ‘60s, more than 400,000 “bugs” were being sold each year in the U.S.

An anniversary news release from VW notes that, “from custom paint jobs to open-top Dune Buggy bodies, the Beetle fit perfectly into the counter-culture of the 1960s.”

“Since its arrival in the United States 65 years ago, the Volkswagen Beetle has preserved its reputation of being more than just a car, but a symbol of uniqueness and freedom,” Michael Horn, president of what now is known as Volkswagen Group of America, said in the anniversary announcement.

“The Beetle has become part of the cultural fabric in America and we are proud that its rich heritage continues to live with fans around the States,” he added.

The original Beetles with their air-cooled and rear-mounted engines continued to be offered in the U.S. marketplace through 1977. Other, more modern cars replaced the “Bug” as the mainstay of the VW lineup. But 21 years later, a New Beetle, a contemporary car with its engine in front and with five-star safety protection for those riding inside — but also with delightfully retro styling — relaunched the Beetle brand and presence in the U.S.

Beetlemania was back.