Magazine Cover - Classic Cars For Sale - 1000s of Classic Car Reviews, How To Service & Maintenance Guides

Volkswagen Beetle

Volkswagen Beetle Published: 3rd Sep 2016 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Volkswagen Beetle
Volkswagen Beetle
Volkswagen Beetle
Volkswagen Beetle
Magazine Subscription
The latest issue of Classic Cars For Sale is on sale now - Pick up your copy from all good newsagents including WHSmith or click here to subscribe now

Subscribe to Classic Motoring Magazine and save over 20%

Subscribe NOW

Available at all good newsagents including WHSmith

Everybody knows the brilliant Beetle. An automotive icon that’s eternally cool too, but is it your sort of classic?

Why it’s a winner

The ‘Poor Man’s Porsche’ with a similar air-cooled, rear-mounted boxer engine and transaxle driving the rear wheels, Beetles make timeless practical classics that never seem to go out of fashion. The large number of specialists mean repairs and servicing are dead easy and inexpensive plus there’s massive scope for tuning and customising.



1949 Factory was taken over by the British military at end of WW2 and handed back to Germany. A convertible Beetle was soon offered, production being contracted to coachbuilders Karmann (who designed the Ghia ‘Beetle coupé’, and refreshed the Triumph TR5 to make the TR6).

1953/54 Original production Beetle, with small, ‘split’ rear window, cable brakes, six-volt electrics, crash gearbox and flat four 1131cc engine developing 24bhp, and built until 1953 then window became a single oval pane. Engine capacity increased to 1192cc (the 30bhp 1200) in 1954.

1957 Rear window again increasing in size to the more familiar, larger rectangle style. 1960/62 Extra four brake for 1960 while Beetle owners enjoyed the luxury of a fuel gauge rather than a simple dipstick for 1962!

1964/67 Windows made slightly bigger, 1285cc and 1493cc engined versions (40bhp 1300, 44bhp 1500) appeared respectively. Electrics finally became 12V from 1967, when the sloped-back headlights changed to vertical.

1970 A broader, more bulbous front end (pregnant look) and larger engine (the ‘Super Beetle’) was produced to increase luggage space.

1972 1600-engined 1302S with a wraparound windscreen and more modern fascia (the 1303 and 1303S, with 1300 and 1600 engine respectively), with a convertible version becoming available the following year.

1978 European production ended (convertible in 1980) but flat-screen saloon continued to be imported from VW’s Mexico plant. Production finally ended in 2003.



Beetles make ideal starter classics. Despite the unusual configuration they are, in the main, quite comfortable and relaxing to travel long distances in, and there’s reasonable space for four.

It’s the handling that most comment on first, though. Rear swing-axles need respect at higher speeds; go in too fast or worse still panic and brake in the corner and the inner wheel can jack up without much warning but, in genera,l the brakes, like the overall handling, are reasonably adequate.

Acceleration was never this VW’s strongest suit. According to test figures, the 1200 struggles to 60mph in around 28 seconds and hardly touches 70. The 1300 is some four seconds to the good although top speed is just 75mph still, although all Beetles remain famed for their flat out cruising abilities for hours on end.

According to a Popular Motoring test in 1972, the 1.6 1303 is only as quick as a 1300cc Ford Escort. Interestingly fuel economy on all Beetle models over the years hovered around 30mpg.

Refinement and fittings were always rudimentary but there’s always a quality feel about the car you just don’t get in a Mini or Anglia of the same vintage.


Best models

Early models have most appeal, especially for customising but ‘67 cars have 12 volts and better steering. 1302 and 1303 cars most modern but not liked as much. Don’t dismiss Type 4 spin-offs such as 1500 Saloon, Fastback and 411; same car but more refined and roomier yet mostly cheaper to buy if you can find one.



Beetles have always been strong value. Expect to pay from £2500 for any fair runner, increasing with general condition up to around £8K for a real minter, and £3000-£4500 for a respectable daily driver or a top 1302 and perhaps £20K for an early oval window beauty. Late Mexican-built cars are between £5000-£9000 according to year. Convertibles are a special case. No really good ones will be found under £8000 and their special body/chassis all demand more care in buying over a saloon. The fastbacks are finally becoming collectible.



If you’re after a starter classic that’s been around for ages yet is still a ‘modern’ in many ways, the Volkswagen Beetle has few rivals. It’s an acquired taste granted, especially to drive and none can be regarded as quick but few budget classics are as trendy or cool.


Five top faults

1. RUST This is the biggest problem, especially on older models. Check floor, side sills, pillar

2. BODY Check lids, light cluster regions, bumper hangers, spare wheel well, jacking points, bonnet and doors

3. HEAT EXCHANGERS These are critical on any air-cooled VW because they act as the heater; faulty ones can kill due to exhaust fumes leaking into the cabin

4. ENGINES Usually everlasting if serviced right, look for oil leaks, misfires, overheating and air leaks

5. SUSPENSION They changed on 1302s, but lack of lube is common as is torsion bar wear at the front

Share This Article

Share with Facebook Share with Facebook

Share with Twitter Tweet this article

Share bookmark with Delicious Share bookmark with Delicious

Share with Digg Digg this article

Share with Email Share by email

User Comments

This review has 0 comments - Be the first!

Leave a comment

Keep it polite and on topic. Your email address will not be published. Please do not advertise products, all posts of this nature will be removed. We do not stock or supply any of these products, we independently review these products.

Subscribe Today
Latest Issue Cover - Click here to subscribe

Subscribe to Classic Motoring Magazine and save over 25%

Britians top classic cars bookazine
Britians top classic cars bookazine