Category Archives: Volkswagen Beetle

Just buggin’: remembering when VW was about love, not hate

There was a time when Volkswagen was a harbinger of  good vibes, a touchstone of the counter culture and synonymous with idiosyncratic individualism.  That was long before the current era of cheating, lying and greed as typified by the scandal that has gross polluters on the road marketed as “Clean Diesels.”   Perhaps Volkswagen isn’t alone in this kind of no-holds-barred deception. Automotive journalist, pundit and renaissance man Jamie Kitman has written that  “the world’s carmakers have the long-range vision and ethical integrity of a roving band of rabid raccoons.”  While we think this broad brush characterization may be unfair to those masked procyonidae, it would certainly seem to apply to today’s VW where ethics were cast aside and the long-range vision seemed to be to continue cheating on the assumption they’d never be caught.

We all scream for ice cream

Georgia on our minds; we all scream for ice cream

We’re well aware of the marque’s Third Reich origins but in the decades after “the unpleasantness,” the VW Beetle was a cipher for free thinking and social responsibility.  Feral Cars Field Scout and Coachella Valley bon vivant Ronald Ahrens encountered such a free thinker recently.

His report:  That’s Georgia at the wheel of her ’65 Beetle. She wouldn’t step out and pose with her car. ‘I don’t know what your motives are,’ she said. But she did explain that she fell in love with Beetles after buying one new in 1966 and driving it 43 years. “I had this one standing by.” She says it has given her some problems because everything “went out of adjustment” at once, but she’s found an honest mechanic to put it back in adjustment. I pointed out the bag by her door and learned it contained ice cream she couldn’t finish. Then she asked if I’d throw it away for her, which I’ve done. It was 1.5 quarts of Dreyer’s chocolate.

Sunny bug

Sunny bug. Note: aftermarket pop-out rear windows

Inspired by Ronald’s encounter with Georgia and her 50 year-old Bug, we offer a range of images of similar Vdubs found in the wild, all of which make us nostalgic for the time when Volkswagens were thought of in the same terms as family pets rather than as polluting pestilence.

Eat your heart out Herbie

Beetle with juice

People loved their Volkswagens, they gave them names, decorated them and even raced them. They were fiercely loyal to the car whose basic shape remained the same over a span of 65 years.  Innumerable baby boomers learned how to drive behind the wheel and flat windshield of a VW and figured out how to shift for themselves with a real clutch and that rubbery gearbox.

Racy livery

Herbie’s cousin

Convertible versions, built for VW by Karmann, were especially cherchez.  The horsehair stuffed tops were folded down by hand and the resulting ‘top stack’ protruded over the back of the car creating a fabric spoiler. ..not that the VW ragtops actually need a spoiler in light of the fact they shared the same mechanical components with the standard Bug.

Vdub drop top

Topless Vdub

The number of surviving Beetles is quite remarkable since the last new one sold here dates back to early 1979 though they continued to be sold in Mexico and Brazil into the early 21st Century.

Nice rack!

Nice rack!

We’re kind of loving the roof rack on this early ’70s Bug; the white one below dates from around ’66 or ’67.

Refrigerator white

Wolfsburg white

We found an old Beetle that, based on the tiny taillights, fabric sunroof and pop-out semaphores in lieu of turn signals, would seem to date from the late 1950s.  How can you not love something as innocent as this?

Old school rules

Old school rules

Keeping score?

Keeping score?

We found this brilliant TV commercial for the ’65 Volkswagen, not unlike Georgia’s, that suggested that Beetles had a resale advantage over their domestic counterparts.  This glorious ’65, offered for sale in nearby O’Fallon IL confirms the point made in that commercial 50 years ago.  It’s priced at just under $16,000, about ten times what it cost new which, alas, is probably not going to be the case for one of those newly built “Clean Diesels” in 2065.

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Beetlemania!

Old Volks roam

Old Volks roam

Just a few years ago it wasn’t all that extraordinary to encounter an original Volkswagen Beetle on the street or highway.  While their heyday was the ’60s and ’70s, we continued to see them in significant numbers through the ’90s.  We recently looked around for Beetle infestations and found them few and far between.  Time has taken its toll on the car that first debuted back in 1938.  That 75 year old design is still idiosyncratic, a series of curves and bulges that delight the eye, perhaps more now than when this was the #1 selling import.  That was, of course, before the onslaught of Japanese and Korean cars as well as domestic sub-compacts.

Just buggin'

Just buggin’

We’re guessing this (mostly) white one dates from the mid ’60s.  One of the selling points of the car was the ease with which parts could be replaced.  Here’s a sexist ad from 50 years ago suggesting that changing out a crumpled fender would set you back less than $25.  We hope that the owner of this one — don’t you love the glassed in headlights and the bumper override? — paid far less for the red one that seems to have come pre-dented.

Obsolete logic: if it's broken it's the fault of a woman

Obsolete logic: if it’s broken it’s the fault of a woman

Little car, big(ish) tires

Little car, big(ish) tires

This black Beetle of somewhat later vintage (head lights aren’t covered, the rear windows are hinged, etc.) sits higher than normal — those tires look a little oversized which means they’re still fairly tiny by today’s standards.  If you read the message on the license plate frame you’ll come to the conclusion that the owner is not the kind who keeps a bud vase suction cupped to the dash.

This kind of hostility runs against type

This kind of hostility runs against type

We found another macho Beetle wearing lots of “go fast” decals but the buttercup yellow color would seem to undermine the testosterone-driven intent.

Herbie rides again?

Herbie rides again?

Feral Cars Field Scout Steve DeBro found this crusty Beetle a while back.  Some talk about patina while others go all in!

Inner beauty comes out

Inner beauty comes out

There seems to be an epidemic of passenger side front fender blight going around as evidenced by this white Beetle that sports aftermarket “eyelids” and a roof rack that increases luggage capacity by.. well, by the sky’s the limit.  Literally.

A tisket, a tasket..

A tisket, a tasket..

As noted, Beetles are not all that common these days so finding two “in the wild” was a rare treat.  Those reflective license plates sure mess up the mood though, don’t they?

Noir style x 2

Noirbugs

Volkswagens were among the first cars sold here that came equipped with sun roofs.  This one, perhaps a ’58 (as suggested by those tiny tail lights), sports a fabric slide-back roof, pre-dating the sliding steel sunroofs so common today.

Easy breezy

Easy breezy

Travel tip: visit this statue of a gorilla holding up a Beetle if you’re ever near Bristol, VT. It seemed like a good idea at the time, we’re supposing.

Monkey grip

Monkey grip

We kinda love this commercial from ’65 which contrasts the steep rate of depreciation or deflation, if you will, of domestic cars with VW’s in a graphic deflationary way.. and this one which emphasized that year-to-year styling changes were minimal although we’re not fooled: that small rear window indicates it’s from a model year earlier than ’58.

We are hugely impressed with the pristine condition of this ’59 Beetle that’s for sale in nearby Brea, CA.  Yes, the asking price is $32,500 — that’s not a typo.  Something like this cost about $1400 when new.  Seems like a great return on investment, doesn’t it?

If you’ve stalked a feral car and would like to submit a photo of it for posting consideration please send it to us:   info (at) feralcars (dot)com OR through our Facebook page