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Volkswagen Beetle

Volkswagen Beetle Published: 16th Aug 2017 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Volkswagen Beetle
Volkswagen Beetle
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Great choice around - Superb owner support - Soaring values on certain models - Enormous potential to improve

If you’re after a starter classic that’s been around since time began yet still a ‘modern’ in many ways, the Volkswagen Beetle has few peers. It’s an acquired taste admittedly, especially to drive, and none can be regarded as quick – but few cheap classics are as trendy or cool to be seen in. Or as well made.


A VW Beetle makes an ideal starter classic. Despite its unusual configuration and far-sighted design, it’s actually comfortable and relaxing to travel long hauls in, and there’s reasonable space for four or even five.

It’s the handling that most novices comment on first, though. Rear swingaxles mean treating bends with respect if you want to stay out of the weeds – just like a Porsche! It sounds frightening, but sensible driving and anticipation should mean you never encounter it although the light front end means some bounciness, and locking front wheels under braking; some owners carry a paving slab or similar in the front boot as ballast!

Pace was never this VW’s strongest suit. According to test figures, the 1200 struggles to 60mph in around 28 seconds and barely breaks the national speed limit while the 1.6 1303 is only as quick as a 1300cc Ford Escort or Vauxhall Viva. Refinement and fittings were always rudimentary but there’s always a quality feel about the car you just don’t get in a Ford or Vauxhall.

Best models

Unless you’re a dyed-in-the-wool Herbie fan, go for a post 1967 car and enjoy the better spec, 12 volt electrics and a gutsier 1500cc engine option. Another point in the VW’s favour is its long production run which only ended earlier this century, meaning that, in theory, you can have a nearly new Beetle and have the best of both worlds, although the Mexican-built Beetles made from ’78 can be hit and miss.

You’d think that the German made more rounded 1302/1303 models of the early 1970s would be good bets, thanks to their superior suspension and brakes (later fitted to Porsche 924s, in fact), but (in bug circles) they are not particularly liked, plus have a strange reputation for serious rust. Models from the 1950s and 60s are loved the most due to their cult status but they’re harder to live with on a daily basis. Don’t ignore ‘Type 3’ saloon, estate and fastback offshoots either.

Karmann Ghia coupé is essentially a stock Beetle with a super stylish body and although expensive seem positively cheap when compared to the not dissimilar Porsche 356…


Some command big money such as split screen which can sell for more than £20K ‘oval’ window around half this and, say £8000 for the best of mainstream bugs although convertibles are as much as a third more; best bargains are the later 1302/1303 ranges. Karmann Ghias are generally valued the same as split screen Beetles.

Buying advice

The great thing about this Vee Dub is their popularity which ensures superb parts supply and an army of specialists and clubs. It’s hard to go wrong but some are best left alone as repair can be uneconomic – even Karmann Ghias.

Rust is the biggest problem. Check floor, side sills, pillar; proper repairs required here. Also check, bumper hangers, spare well, jacking points; VW Heritage has a handful of new complete chassis, but costs some £7000.

Heat exchangers act as the heater and faulty ones can kill due to exhaust fumes leaking into the cabin. Engines are usually everlasting, look for oil leaks, misfires, overheating and air leaks. Some later cars may have fuel injection for emission not power purposes but it’s reliable. Suspension designs changed little but lack of greasing is common as is torsion bar wear.

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