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
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.
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 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!
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.
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.