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

Volkswagen Beetle

Published: 9th Jun 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

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

Fancy owning a motorsport legend? Paul Davies looks at true classics that made their names on rally stages and race tracks, and still provide fine drives today

Name a car, with a rear mounted, air-cooled power unit, that’s proved more than a tad useful in motor sport. Porsche 911? Wrong! In this case we’re talking about the VW Beetle. True the two cars have the same genes. The brilliance of the Porsche family had a hand in the creation of both, but the fact is that only the Beetle came directly from the drawing board of Prof. Ferdinand Porsche. By the time a car was carry a Porsche badge on the nose his son Ferry (also Ferdinand) was in control. And what we all know as the VW Type 1 - it first officially became the Beetle in 1967 - was actually Porsche Design Number 60. Conceived by Adolf Hitler, the Beetle would be in production over 65 years (with a bit of a break between 1939-45) and no less than 21.5 million cars would be made. Even in its most advanced form it was never more than good and honest basic transport - but it was a bit of a competition star as well. Bags of torque from the four-pot engine, all the weight behind the driving wheels for maximum traction, and a well-founded reputation for toughness and reliability made the Beetle a motorsport success story. Drivers throughout Europe and in the USA recognised the potential, and once the original asthmatic 1130cc engine had grown to first 1200cc, 1300cc, then 1500cc, decent power outputs were at last attainable. Rallying, in particular, suited the Beetle, and the car was tailor-made for the toughest event of all – the East African Safari. Alan Dix (later to become managing director of Volkswagen GB) and Johnny Larson took a class win in the ‘Coronation Safari’ of 1953, and Vic Preston and D P Marwaha were outright winners the following year. The Beetle was to win the event a further twice. In European events the Austrian VW-Salzburg team were the quasi- works outfit. By 1972, the cars were giving 126bhp from 1599cc on twin IDA Weber carburettors, and drivers such as Bjorn Waldegard, Harry Kallstrom and Tony Fall were reeling in the results. Georg Fischer’s fifth place on the ’73 Acropolis proved to be the final world championship placing. Ford, Lancia and the Porsche 911 were taking over. In the UK, the VW was a winner with clubmen. Peter Harrold, Geoff Thomas and John Button (father of you-know-who) used the Beetle’s traction to good effect in autocross, whilst Peter Noad was the king of VW road rallying, and Griff Griffiths stuck a Porsche 356 engine in the rear of his car. Over in the USA, the drag racers did unmentionable things to the car, and invented Formula Vee, which at one stage was the most prolific single seater formula before the advent of our very own Formula Ford. The Beetle is not dead even now - what better than a bog standard 1500 for production car trials - it’s eligible for FIA historic rallying, and for the HRCR’s new pre-1967 Historic Stage Rally Challenge (see opposite). And the Uniroyal Fun Cup stages races for Audi-powered ‘silhouette’ cars that look like the original Porsche Design No 60. The bug lives on!

Volkswagen Beetle Summary


1938-2003 (all models): 21,500,000


Engine: rear mounted, air-cooled, aluminium, four-cylinder ‘boxer’ unit with single camshaft. Capacities from 1131cc, 1192cc, 1285cc, 1493cc, 1584cc. Power: 25bhp to 50bhp
Gearbox: four-speed transaxle with Porsche synchromesh
Drive: rear wheels
Suspension: Independent all round with torsion bar springs (coil/strut front on 1303/1302).
Brakes: Drum front (disc from 1302); drum rear

Claim to fame

Three outright Safari wins. Numerous International rally top tens, including 1000 Lakes, Swedish, RAC, Acropolis. Engine spawned Formula Vee, the ‘trainer’ single seat discipline before Formula Ford.

Famous names

Alan Dix, Vic Preston, Joginder Singh, Bengt Soderstrom, Harry Kallstrom, Tony Fall, Pauli Toivonen, Bjorn Waldegard, Achim Warmbold, Georg Fischer, Guenther Janger, Peter Noad, Griff Griffiths, Francis Tuthill, John Button, Geoff Thomas

Where to buy

Almost anywhere, they did make 21.5 million of ‘em!

What to look for

Rust (yes, even on a VW) especially in torsion bar mounts, lower doors, sills, wing/body seams, rear door pillars.Worn front suspension pivots, steering box, noisy transaxles, heat exchangers iffy electrics

What to pay

Almost any price, but £1500-£2500 should bag a nice tax-exempt 1500. Long bonnet 1302/1303 models tend to be better condition, not so desirable for classic collectors, but best spec for motor sport

Clubs;; Sport and Performance tuning Tuning and restoration parts available through specialists such as VW Speedshop
(, Volkspares ( and Cool Air ( 135bhp is available from hot 2-litre versions

Classic sport

Obviously it’s outclassed on the rally stage by a 911, but you can have fun at far less cost! Still a PCT car to win

Competitive Rating: 7

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