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Prewar VW Beetles-Are There Any?



  • tjparkertjparker Posts: 25
    Just had to chime in here, since I've been driving wind-cooled VWs now for 31 years. First was my dad's 1965 Squareback with the pancake engine and dual carbs. SWEET vehicle! Lots of folks didn't like the pancakes, but the single best thing about them was that the cooling fan was on the crank pulley, so if the generator belt broke, you still had cooling.

    Most of my VWs have been buses and trucks. I had a 1967 standard microbus that had nearly 400,000 miles on it when I sold it. Still have my 1960 singlecab pickup, which is a great hauler. I've tried all kinds of combinations of engine performance additions and such, but the ones that work best are things like counterbalanced cranks and "doghouse" style oil coolers (a stock item on later engines). I don't even like dual port heads, as the ones in my 1971 bug were hard to work around.

    My ideal VW engine for the truck would be an otherwise stock 1600cc single port with a 74mm counterweighted crank, fuel injection, electronic ignition and hydraulic lifters. No ups, no extras!

    And another thing. Maybe the 50's engines only went 60K miles, but the 60's and 70's engines, even in the van, would go farther than that if properly maintained. I usually get about 75K out of an engine in the van, and you can usually get by with just rebuilding the heads (but since it's out and cheap, it doesn't make sense not to pull it apart).

    Last time I checked, the world record for pulling an engine out of a bug and putting it back in and driving the car was 2 minutes and 30 seconds for a two-man team. I've seen it done in under 4 minutes. By myself, I can pull the engine out of my truck, rebuild it, and have it running again in 2 days, without breaking a sweat. I've done it in a single day, but with some sweat.
  • dpwestlakedpwestlake Posts: 207
    I can recall replacing a clutch in about an hour.
  • tjparkertjparker Posts: 25
    I've done that, too. Once, on the way out of LA basin on vacation, I realized my rear main seal was leaking too badly, so I turned around, changed it in about an hour, put the fam back in the van and continued on the vacation. Can't do that with my VW water-pumper.
  • fowler3fowler3 Posts: 1,919
    The German people contributed $500 each to the production of VW's with the promise from the German government that they would get a new car. Then they started WWII and it never happened, at least not like they promised.

    The few original VW Beetles are in the VW Museum. The first ones built after the War did not have the safety equipment required in American cars of that era: The windshield and side windows were not safety-plate glass, they were ordinary window glass; the brakes were mechanical with drums on all four wheels; headlamps were simple lightbulbs with reflectors; and they didn't have additonal firewall protection for the fuel tank, which was mounted under the dash (in your lap!). The seats were cheap fabric, very thin. Saw many of them when I was there during the last days of the Occupation, in the USAF.

    American servicemen in Germany during the Occupation were forbidden to buy the domestic model for the reasons stated above. When export models were offered they could buy those for use in Germany and ship them home. We bought car insurance from local companies and insurance agents, one of whom said she was a "Good Nazi", when I went to pay a premium.

    The waiting period for export models in Germany was six months. All were 4-speed sticks. And they ran like hell all-day-long wide open! You could drive one off the factory lot and on to the Autobhan at its top speed and not harm the engine. Later models (1956 onward) had 68hp and got 40 mpg.

    The instrument panel had the speedometer and a few lights, no fuel guage. When the engine sputtered you reached under the dash and flipped a lever to get the reserve fuel flowing. There was a reserve of 2 gallons. When you refueled you had to remember to flip the lever back or risk running out the next time.

    The best models were built in 1998. Still see a few of those on the roads. They have a chrome ID mounted diagonally across the back hatch lid and a black horizontal stripe on the bumper.

    In 1954, Germany had the first International Automobiler Show in Frankfurt am Main, following WWII. The VW pavillion had VW's mounted on pipes on the walls in a single file around the huge room. In the center was the 1,000,000th VW Beetle sitting on top of a cube of structural glass. Every bit of chrome on the metallic gold painted car was encrusted with diamonds -- valued at $1,000,000. That was a site to see.

    I went to that one, and it was the year they introduced the Karman Gia model,a two-door sport coupe, designed in Italy by Gia and the body was built in Berlin by Karman. You sat real low almost on the floor. Otherwise it was stock VW Beetle mechanicals. I also went to the IAS in 1995 and it was huge! Like a DisneyWorld for car-lovers! It takes days to see all the cars. There is one building just for parts suppliers. It's starts this year on September 17th, would love to go. But you can see all the cars on this web site soon: and the 2001 shows in NYC, Detroit, LA, and Geneva, Switzerland now.

    By the way, the original name was Peoples Car -- a.k.a VolksWagen. And the price of the export model, in Germany, was $1750.00, one dollar a pound. Door armrests, right door outside mirrors, mudflaps, foglights, and AM-radios were optional. The only options. The most popular colors were black and a really nice medium metallic blue. German models were two-toned in green, tan, or blue -- light blue with a darker blue on the hood and rear hatch lid. Customized models had leather seating and electrical outlets for electric razors and other accessories. Some buyers ran their price up to a whopping $2500.00!

  • fowler3fowler3 Posts: 1,919
    The best models were 1958, not 1998.

  • kneisl1kneisl1 Posts: 1,694
    Actually, my 74 beetle engine went 115k miles before its first rebuild which basically was just a valve job, the cylindars and bearings were well within tolerance. I replaced them anyway and kept the old ones. The next rebuild was at 250,000 miles when I did another valve job and replaced the pistons and cylindars and bearings with the ones I saved from the first rebuild. I put all the internal parts from this engine into an engine case from a 71 bus I bought with a blown engine. (this case is nearly the same as the beetle one except for tapped holes for engine mounts peculiar to the VW bus) This engine then ran another 30 k miles in the bus which I sold at that point, with the engine running very well. This bus was driven east to west through Canada and the US then back east on a 12k miles three month trip in 1988. Only problem: the generator seized and we had to get another junkyard one and install it. I cut a hatch above the engine to get the fan housing out which made things easier. This engine had the origional (to the 74 beetle) carburator, fuel pump, clutch (the part that bolts to the flywheel) distributor, sparkplug wires, ignition coil, and intake manifold for 280,000 miles. The oil was changed every 1500 miles and the valves were adjusted every 3 k miles. I wish it were possible to buy another new one today!
  • I seem to recall seeing a picture of the war-time VW "Jeep" or German utility vehicle that looked identical to the Thing that VW introduced to the US in the 60's. Or maybe I'm having a "senior moment".
    Is my memory correct?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 56,721
    Yep, Kubelwagon I guess it was called. It was the German Jeep of World War II, but I don't think they were 4X4s unless specially adapted.


    And here's a Schwimmwagon, which as the name implies, floats.....

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  • pweidnerpweidner Posts: 1
    Besides, can one just go to mexico and buy a clasico beetle (the air-cooled variety) and
    adapt it to us standards? or is this a foolish proposition?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 56,721
    Yes, foolish. The Mex VW is actually a hodge-podge of many different years of VW and it would be financially unwise to even begin to make it conform. Had it been possible, people would have been doing it by now, right?

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