Category Archives: Volkswagen

De-bugged V-dub

 

Shape shifter

Shape shifter

There’s a whole lot of nostalgia for late, lamented Volkswagen Beetle which, after a 65 year run, only went out of production in 2003.  The original VW Bug helped America forget about “the unpleasantness” wrought by its progenitor — we’re not naming names here but you know who we’re talking about — before and during World War II. Its original name was, improbably, Kraft durch Freude-Wagen  or “Strength Through Joy Car,” mercifully shortened to KdF-Wagen

Hip to be Squareback

Hip to be Squareback

The fact is that the bloom was off the Bug (official model designation: Type 1) in Europe by the dawn of the  1960s.  In the old world, the original design recalled post-war deprivation and consumers were looking for something  commodious, more stylish, something more American looking even as Americans’ fervor for the beloved deutscher flivver continued unabated.  This was around the time that tail fins sprouted from Mercedes Benzes and Opels sported panoramic windshields.

Nomadish

Eyebrow prow

Volkswagen’s response was to keep its long-ago amortized Type 1 in production as well as the Microbus (Type 2) while introducing the Type 3 at the end of 1961.  In terms of styling, the car was a huge departure. Its design was quite conventional, especially on the “Notchback” model which had a distinct hood and trunk like “normal” cars. Below the surface, however, the Type 3 was pretty much an adaptation of Type 1 engineering with a horizontally opposed (“boxer”) 4-cylinder air-cooled motor in the rear, (totally) tubular “backbone” chassis, etc.  It may not have looked like a Volkswagen but it drove and sounded like one.

The trunk in the back is for pizza

The trunk in the back is for pizza

The Notchback was never officially imported into the United States but its Squareback (station wagon) and Fastback variants made it over, beginning in 1966 offering Volkswagen stalwarts a way to “step up” without leaving the V-dub fold.   The Type 3 did fairly well until Japanese imports started their own onslaught. Ultimately, this led VW to bite the bullet and begin building cars with water-cooled motors and, horror of horrors, those engines were mounted in the front!

Rebugged and debugged

Rebugged and debugged

While VW produced 21,529,464  Beetles*  (those Germans are great record keepers, aren’t they?), production of Type 3 was a comparatively small at 2,542,382 units. As a result sightings of Squarebacks and Fastbacks these days are much less commonplace that Beetle infestations.  We’re happy to have encountered the ones seen here going about their business, disguised a normal.

*Not including contemporary Beetles such as the one above that’s keeping company with our Fastback. Those are, in essence, re-bodied Golfs.

Nomad, be happy

Nomad, be happy

A very young and limber Dustin Hoffman clues viewers into the fact that the Fastback had two trunks in this very clever commercial from 1967.

While Notchbacks weren’t officially imported to the United States a few did find their way across the Atlantic like this ’64 that’s for sale in nearby Ione, CA for a mere $17,500.

We’ve long been intrigued by the Beetles bigger brother and suggest you read this Automobile Magazine Collectible Classic piece on the Squareback that dates back to February, 2008.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

Keha’s Plymouth Horizon never sets

The Blue Horizon never ends

The Blue Horizon never ends

We were delighted and amazed to meet lovely Keha McIlwaine the other day as she lounged behind the wheel of her 1986 Plymouth Horizon.  She told us she had driven the car out to California from New York a few months back and encountered no difficulties despite the fact that the odometer is closing in on 150,000 miles.  We especially like the duct tape around the parking light.  This kind of ingenuity worked for Apollo 13, so it would seem  a logical solution for a terrestrial vehicle with certain needs.

Plymouth pride will out

Plymouth pride will out (NOTE: ultra feral ’68 Chevy Caprice just ahead)

Plymouth Horizon and corporate twin Dodge Omni were introduced in 1978 and the same basic car stayed in production for 12 years.  They were fielded by Chrysler to compete with Volkswagen’s Rabbit and, like that bunny, were powered by a transverse mounted 4-cylinder motor via front wheel drive. Most mass-produced cars these days are configured this way but the “Omnirizon” twins were the first American cars of this kind and were jointly named Motor Trend’s Car of the Year in 1978.   We salute Keha who, paradoxically, pronounces her name like a certain Korean car spelled with three letters.

Hop-a-long VW

Hop-a-long VW

Volkswagen Rabbits of this general vintage are much more plentiful than their Plymouth and Dodge counterparts so we offer two such here to underscore the point.  Both of these are diesel-powered which may provide a clue to their preternatural longevity.

Oil-burning sweaty Rabbit

Oil-burning sweaty Rabbit

Diesel-powered VW = Sooty Rabbit

Diesel-powered VW = Sooty Rabbit

For quite a few model years, the Horizon co-existed with its ultimate replacement, Plymouth Sundance.  We’re not sure we’d exhibit the kind of loyalty Keha has for her Horizon if we had to tango with something like this over the long haul.

Unbutch: Plymouth's Sundance

Unbutch

Dappled Sundance

Dappled Sundance

Chrysler touted Horizon with lots of red, white and blue advertising such as this “The Pride Is Back” commercial that has a distinct Springsteenian undertone. The truth is that Simca, its French subsidiary, later offloaded to Peugeot, did the initial development work on this car.  Let’s keep that notre petit secret, d’accord?

If you’ve stalked a feral car and would like to submit a photo of it for posting please send it to us:   info (at) feralcars (dot)com.  Include your name, location of the car and some thoughts about the vehicle and we’ll look into getting it posted

Sunday! Sunday! Sunday!

Heaping helping of feral fun!

Heaping helping of feral fun!

Attention Feral Cars fans in the greater Los Angeles area! Here’s a chance to hobnob with all matter of old car kooks and their super duper hoopties at an event that’s tailor made for us.  Our pals at Great Autos of Yesteryear are throwing their annual Heaps of Fun car show at Woodley Park in lovely Van Nuys this Sunday, March 23.

We’ll be there with Der Blaue Engel, our 1970 VW Fastback with a perpetual slow leak in the left front tire.  Fall by and kibitz while we’re on the scene from about 10 AM to 1 PM.

Click here for directions to the park.  It’s that big green thing in the middle of the San Fernando Valley.  Enter on Victory and Woodley and have your nose follow the smells of BBQ and burnt pistons.

O.G. Vee-dub is an inspiration for the ages

Faithful companion

Faithful companion

We were delighted to happen up this 1965 Volkswagen Beetle and got to meet its owner.  She’s had the car for the past 41 (!!) years and, yes, it’s a daily driver.  Our response was, frankly, an emotional one, inspired by the relationship that has endured for so long.  You did the math, right?  The car was already 8 years old when it was purchased; its second and current owner paid $600 for it which works out to $14.63 per year.  That’s value!

No end in sight

No end in sight

The car has, obviously, been well maintained and the owner, who wishes to remain anonymous as the numbers on her original California “black plates,” admits to applying the “BAJA” decal many years ago and is currently having second thoughts about that.  The DK (Denmark) sticker, a reflection of her heritage, is something with which she’s more comfortable so no need to be melancholy about that add-on.  There’s so much to love here: the headlights encased in glass covers, the stout bumper overrides, the classic VW hubcaps, the outside rear view mirror that’s integrated into the external door hinge and no stinkin’ backup lights. With a car like this, it’s all in the details.

'65: Beetle in the middle

’65: Beetle in the middle

We did some more math and determined that the ’65 model year was exactly halfway between VW’s introduction into the US market and the last officially imported Beetle cabriolet in 1980. Before the onslaught of Toyota, Nissan (née Datsun), et al. the original Beetle was a phenomenon unto itself.  In 1965 VW sewed up an incredible 67% share of the U.S. import market with 288,583 units sold.  Even with that huge number snapped up, it’s breathtaking to find such a straight, mostly un-messed with, example still in daily use after 49 years.   Just imagine it’s 1965 and you find a car from 1916 used for daily transportation to get some perspective.

Beetle brigade march of time

VW march of time

Speaking of 8 year old Volkswagens, check out this commercial in which a VW of that age is featured to advertise the then-current model.  It’s another brilliant ad from Doyle Dane Bernbach, the true Mad Men of the era.

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.