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Article: What to Look for When
Last updated: 10/27/01
Symptom: You just HAVE to buy a Beetle
now that you have read all of this stuff.
Heater Channels. If you are going to get
bored real quick, and not read any further, and only remember a word or
two about what to look for, that is it. Heater Channels.
Index for this article:
I know the feeling well of trying to make a technically intelligent choice on purchasing a used, complicated mechanical device when you know absolutely nothing about it. There is just this fear that the seller is thinking "Oh, he'll never look there" and my educated friends would later say "You paid how much for this!?". You just wish you could talk to someone who had knew this stuff well and could give you a few "pointers". Well, this is what this article is all about. I really believe that with all of the experience I have, that this experience has the most to offer those just venturing out into the world of Beetles. And based on the feedback I have received, this is definitely the one of the most useful articles at this site
Hopefully, you have come to grips with the fact that you are looking to buy an "old" car. And "old" means that it WILL, almost inevitably, require some work when you buy it or soon after. If you have some automotive experience and some tools and ambition, well, plan on setting some time aside on the weekends and getting greasy. If you have no experience, tools or intentions of getting your hands dirty, well, plan on finding a good VW shop and set aside a few hundred; for starters. You should not have the mindset of "IS there anything that would need to be fixed". Instead you should be thinking of "WHAT will need to be fixed", and how much that might cost. Now don't let me scare you off. It IS possible to find a cherry, well maintained and/or mostly rebuilt Beetle that doesn't need to go under the wrench right away, but don't fool yourself. You will likely pay big bucks for such a find and sooner or later it will need you attention (or money). So plan on having to spend some money on your Beetle after you buy it.
And here is perhaps some more hard reality. Even the best of Beetles requires many times the maintenance of today's cars. I don't mean to scare you off, the maintenance is relatively simple, and even fun. But don't expect a Beetle to be a car that will carry you 200,000 miles, through all sorts of conditions with nothing more than some oil changes like the cars of today. The aircooled Beetle, in all its years, is mostly a car developed with 1940s technologies. It is crude and simple. But hopefully that is why you want one.
And you might have a particular year in mind when you go out with your wad of money, but be flexible; it's not like you will pick from a row of cars, one from every year, and they will all be in exactly the same condition. No, you must take your intentions, your preferences and your budget and then go look to see what is available. Your intentions are especially important. If you want high vintage value, don't have to drive it immediately (or at all) and are willing (and able) to take on a bit of a "project", you might look for one thing. On the other hand, if you need and "immediate driver", you should look for other things too. Below are some of the important things to look for both a "Project" and "Immediate driver".
I might mention that originally this article
was attached to "The Years" article, but the
two just got to big and had to be split up for web management reasons.
If you are considering purchasing a bug, though, you may want to read that
article as well.
"Is a Beetle What I Really want?"
This section was a recent entry to this article. It has come about as I see more and more folks new to Beetles, considering, or even buying them, thinking that they are just as reliable and driveable as the 15 year old Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla that they looked at. They are not, I assure you. Yes, they can be cheap transportation, but they are not the same as other cars. Now some of this is my opinion, but here's how Beetles are different from other $1000 "mainstream" used cars that you might consider:
Ok, first, some of these statements are controversial. Yes, there are scads of people who will tell you how they survived an accident in their Beetle, drove away, and the "other car" was totaled. I'm sure there are such cases, I am not interested in debating. Second, note that not all the differences are negatives.
It may be a surprise to some that I said that the Beetle will require more maintenance and repairs than a "typical" car. What? The car that won the world over and was the icon of bulletproof reliability and economy? Yes, that car. In 1967 it was the gold standard for reliability and economy. In 1999 however, when compared to a 1984 VW Rabbit or '82 Civic, it is a quirky, needy, noisy, ill handling antique that can't help rusting. Remember folks, this car was designed in the 1930s, the gross functional changes made in the 40 years between 1938 and 1978 to the suspension and drivetrain are insignificant. The Beetle, no matter what year of manufacture, is a 1940s car, at best.
Ok John, are you done pummeling the Beetle now?
Point is, if you really want a Beetle, it better be because you want a Beetle, not just some cheap wheels that have a little character. And you better really know what a Beetle is, and what it isn't. To summarize, I think a Beetle is for you if:
Conversely, I think a Beetle may not be for you if:
You get the idea. Yes, Beetles can be very reliable. But you need to keep them mechanically happy, well maintained and even if nothing breaks, you still need to have tools and manuals (They can "sense' if you don't have repair capabilities and will break by themselves. They like to be "touched" often). And yes, they can be made to go fast and handle pretty well too, but that can cost big bucks. And lastly about that driving in the snow comment. Beetles actually drive very well in the snow, but they cannot survive the rocks and salt of winters. No matter what you do, paint, undercoat or fix, salty roads will eat them up. Newer cars of today are able to deal with this problem much better.
So make sure you know what you are getting into. Even if you are older and used to own, or had in your family, a Beetle, assess this decision carefully. Drive the new prospect as much as you can. If you are really a Beetle fanatic, you will want to by a Beetle because of all these things.
Ok, enough of that, now lets go on.....
Now before we start, let me give some definitions of some terms I use often in this text:
Ok, enough briefing, let's move on. We'll take two approaches here. We'll call one the "solid" Beetle. Most of these considerations should apply no matter what you are buying. Then we'll go a second step and talk about mostly mechanical stuff that would be very important if you needed that "immediate driver". At the end of each section, I'll mention some "Vintage" considerations that you would want to look for if you were making a long term, heart and soul investment on a real oldie.
And at the end, I'll give you some tips to
get super nit-picky about assessing a Beetle. You will want to read this
if you go and look at the "fully restored, absolute mint, pristine and
indistinguishable from new" Beetle that the seller is asking $8000 for.
What is "Solid" (important truths about heater channels)
This text will be biased by my appreciation for vintage "correctness", but much of this stuff is generally applicable to any Beetle purchase.
First appearances are important. And I may
mean the opposite of what you're thinking. I don't mean that you should
only buy it if it looks good. You need to be able to look beyond that first
appearance. See, if I go look at a filthy, tires low on air, good dent
on one of the fenders, headlight out, headliner falling down 1962 Beetle,
my first thought is "opportunity". Which requires further looking. If that
car is correct, complete and "inner" mechanically sound, it is worth far
more than that same car with an Earl Shieb $250 dollar "monthly special"
paint job, some remnant house carpet covering the holes in the floor, missing
bumper, huge holes in the dash for "previously removed" stereo equipment
and a Type 3 engine shoe-horned into the back. Now again, I'm straying
into my bias that "correct" is the only way. There is nothing wrong with
a new "after-market" engine correctly installed into an earlier car.
The "Solid" Beetle- Assessing the BODY
First and foremost, I look for rust in the "doomsday" places.
I come back and revise these articles often, and before I wrote this "lecture", I had this fear that waaay too many people were innocently buying Beetles with rotted heater channels either not knowing they were rotted, or were grossly underestimating the scope of replacing them. So I have added this section, and even broke one of my BugShop covenants not to duplicate text in articles. But this is very important folks.
The text below appears in the "Dealing with rust" article. I will make it a different color so you will know what is excerpted.
I get asked all of the time about replacing heater channels. Is it worth it? How hard is it? Where can I go to have it done? While I have never personally done it myself, I feel confident in presenting the following list of:
8 Reasons Why Heater Channel Replacement May Not be as Easy as You Might Think:
Boy, I bet you feel better now, huh? Don't misunderstand me. I'm not trying to discourage anyone from doing this. I am just trying to let you know that this is not trivial. Many people ask if they should do it like it is like replacing a floor pan. It is not, I assure you. To do it right requires skill, patience and time. Any one of those things may make up for some short comings in the other. What I mean by this is if you are a novice bodyman and have all of the time, patience and ambition in the world, go for it.
But very quickly, what is the heater channel? Well, it is a hollow, multi-walled "tube" that runs from just in front of the rear torsion tube ends all the way along the lower edge of the sides of the car to the bulkhead where the master cylinder is bolted. It is a key structural component of the car. It houses a hollow tube that carries heat (yeah, right) up to the front floor vents. It is the front floor vents, it is the door "sill", it is the thing that the running boards bolt to. It is all of these things.
And all too often people ask "Should I have it done?" before they ask "Can I have it done?". Heater channel replacement is not like having your house painted by someone. You won't find anyone listed in the yellow pages under "Heater Channel Replacement". They guy who you would want to have replace your heater channels would be an old VW bodyman who cared about your car, quoted you flat rate for the job and took as long as he wanted to do it. Yes, many of the skills needed are common "body shop" skills, but some are not. Someone with a basic "chisel, patch and weld" technique, who is most interested in getting your car out so he can get the next one in, might get the job done but will look like crap, diminish the value of your car and you may have structural and/or rust problems down the road.
If you seriously want to assess this job, first go find out what a replacement channel looks like. You usually can see them at the larger shows and many good catalogs, even Hot VWs ads, have pretty good photos/drawings. They usually run $130-$150 a piece. Once you see what one looks like, you will have a better idea about how it fits into your car, and what is involved in putting it in. Pull up the front footwell and rocker panel carpet, remove the rear quarter panel(s) and rear seat bottom. Remove your running boards (if they are still attached). You will now be able to see just about as much of your existing channels as possible. Examine them front to back and you will see how many different places that they are welded to other panels in the car. They are welded to the back upper floor where it rolls down toward the seat back, the lower edge of the rear quarters, the bottom of the B-pillar, the bottom of the A-pillar (hinge facing edge and inside the footwell area), the front quarter behind the front wheels and to the bulkhead cross member.
The old channel must be carefully cut away in all these places and there must be good metal present to weld the new one in. "Filled hole" MIG spot welds are best and closest to the original assembly. MIG butt and stitch welds may also be used but will definitely not look "factory". In any case, extensive welding is required. The job can be done with the body on the car. It is a bit more difficult working around the pan (unless it (they) is being replaced too) but it does help keep the door opening square.
As I said in the "buying"
article, I wouldn't "walk" on a '51 for $1000 because the rear running
board area was rusted through, but don't just lump wholly rotted channels
into the same aggravation factor as a hole in the pan or a dented fender.
Heater channel repair is major commitment.
That might be little more technical/detail oriented then you would expect to have seen in a "What to look for when buying" article, but I hope it makes a very strong point. As the years go by, and the available "pool" of good restorable Beetles shrinks, this is all the more important. Find a Beetle with solid heater channels if at all possible! The guy selling the car might say "It just needs a couple of floorpans". But be informed and look closely for rotted heater channels, both front and back.
I'm not saying don't do it, just be aware of what is involved. If you are comfortable and confident in body work, have a nice shop, MIG welder and LOTS of time, give it a shot. But if you are young, have a "spot" in the yard or apartment complex that you can park your car, only a handful of tools and want something to drive by the end of the summer, don't be fooled!
[..end lecture on Heater Channels.
We now resume your regularly scheduled article. already in progress.]
Look at the pans closely, first from under the car, then from above. Lift up all of the carpet. Lift up the bottom of the back seat. Look under the carpet under the "storage" space under the rear window. Repairing floor pans really is not that bad if it is truly JUST the pans that are rusted. To the novice though, it might not be apparent where the pans stop and the heater channels start (Read my article "Fixing the holes in the floor" too). Lift up the carpet covering the inside of the heater channels. This is the door "sill" area that rolls downward to meet the floor. Rust and rot at the bottom, vertical edge of this metal is NOT floor pan rust, it is heater channel rust- MUCH harder to repair.
Go all the way around the car and look for rust at that "heater channel" level. Where the running boards bolt up to. And the inner front quarter. Turn the front wheels about halfway to the right, now go look inside the front right fender. See the area that the back of the wheel is "pointing" at? This panel has a tendency to rust out about 1"-4" up from its lower edge. This is actually the back of the "frontest" part of the heater channel. If it has a little rust perforation, well, it's not catastrophic, but it must be dealt with (see my article "Dealing with rust"). Look for rust at that same level in the front bulkhead area (this will require you to crawl up underneath the front and contort you neck). In a nutshell, rust (rust through, rot) anywhere at that "heater channel" level is not easily repairable.
Look for sagging doors, close them slowly and watch to see if they "hop up" when they latch up. Conversely, with them closed, very slowly release the handles and watch while squatting down. Do they drop down when the latch releases? Close them almost all the way and look at the line that the molding makes from the door to the rear quarter. Lift up on the handle hard with them almost closed, is there play? Unfortunately, there is no one cause of sagging doors, but they are almost always difficult to remedy. They can sag from accident damage, A-pillar rot, worn hinge pins or just general old age. This is especially important for convertibles. Hinge pins are replaceable but it is not an easy job. Unless you have a special tool, it requires that you take the door off of the car, which my require other tools that you don't have. See "The Doors" article.
And speaking of accident damage, go look for that. First, open up the hood, remove the spare (if there is one) and look at the inner sides of the spare tire well where the bumper brackets bolt to [may not be applicable to McPherson strut, "spare lays flat" Super Beetles]. Look for wrinkled metal. Now I have to tell you that in 17 years and all of the junkyards and cars in between, aside from show cars (and not always those either), I could probably count on one hand the number of pristine "well sides" that I have seen. The design of the front end of the Beetle is such that it cannot hide even a 6 mph collision with a solid object. There is a complex stamping in those side panels though, among which is a rounded large "wrinkle" to match the circumference of the spare tire, don't mistake that for collision damage. Collision damage is non-uniform and pretty easy to spot. There will usually be surface rusting and paint flaking in the wrinkles. Look also at this area from under the fender, in front of the wheel. Now damage here is not necessarily a reason not to buy the car, but it is a reason to tell the seller on discovery, "Oh geeez, this car has been hit" and start talking him down.
Now go down back, get on the ground and look under the fenders, behind the rear wheels. Look at the area surrounding where the rear bumper brackets bolt up to. Same story, look for wrinkled metal. This area does survive a hit much better than the front though. Also, while you are on the ground, look for rust-out along the lower edge of the inner rear quarter. If this area is severely rotted (outer edge gone) I'd pass it up.
Now as for the fenders, don't worry about them, really. New ones are around $60 and good used ones can be had for $20 or less in the right places. But you don't have to tell the seller that. If one or two is dinged really good, or even missing, just say "Oh, geeez. THIS will have to be replaced" and talk them down some more.
Bumpers, especially on the "old" ('67 and earlier) models are important, the older the car, the more important. See the "About Chrome" section in this article. A good set of original, heavy steel, nice chrome bumpers are worth a lot. If the bumpers are destroyed, rusty or missing, again, doesn't mean don't get the car, but finding a "good" set will likely be tough. As for the new bugs ('68 and up), it is a little easier to find them.
Worth noting: if you are looking at a 1967,
make sure that the rear decklid (thing that covers the engine) and the
apron (the panel below the decklid that the tailpipes come out from under)
are in good shape and that both door handles are to your satisfaction.
These are one-year only parts on these cars, and while they are not impossible
to find, they are getting scarce and prices are going up. Even harder to
find is the deck lid for the '67 convertible, door handles are the same
as the '67 sedan.
The "Solid" Beetle- Vintage Considerations
Ok, you're in MY camp now. Completeness and correctness counts, but to what extent really depends on what you want to do with the car. We should have passed the "solid" tests above and/or be prepared to deal with whatever shortcomings that were found. Look "past" dirty things, but make note of things dented, destroyed or missing. Definitely look for the collision damage above.
Below I have attempted to list the "very hard to find" parts and the years that they were used on. This is because I don't want someone to pass up a solid vintage candidate because the glove box door is missing- they are the same on a wide variety of years and are plentiful in the junkyards. On the other hand, I wouldn't want someone to pay top dollar for a '67 with a bashed-in decklid and missing door handle thinking, "I'll just stop at the junkyard on the way home and pick up these things", it ain't likely to happen. See? So this list (built with a little help from readers of rec.autos.makers.vw.aircooled) is not complete. But these are the "Oh wow, where did you find one of THOSE" parts, and I tried to list them in approximate order of scarcity:
This is not a complete list, just what pops into my head right now as the very first things I would look for. In the really early Beetles, there are lots of rare and hard to find parts. As a general rule, the older something is, the harder it is to find. In the 60s and newer Beetles, only the '67 stuff seems to be an exception. Once you go back to the very early 60s and into the 50s, stuff like correct interior parts, seats, some door hardware can be pretty tough to find.
Documentation on the car can be very valuable
too. Original owners manuals, invoices, window stickers as well as maintenance
records of any kind will add to the value.
This really is even more dependent on what you want the car for. I would gladly take a car (depending on the year) with NO brakes because I know that the whole system can be replaced for about $250. From the 40 horse era ('61) and up (assuming that you want to replace it with the correct items), most mechanical stuff is pretty inexpensive and available.
Mechanical Stuff- ENGINE
I did completely rebuild the engine in my first VW (in 1981), I did all of the tune up, valve setting, "external" stuff on all my bugs for many years, nothing in, or about an aircooled VW engine scares me. But, I am far from an engine expert. In my humble opinion, a Beetle "long block" (that means the stuff inside the case, crank, rods, pistons, cams, heads valves,..... I thinks that's all the big stuff) is good for about 100m mi IF the engine is taken care of. Specifically if the valve clearances have been kept right and the oil changed every 3-5k mi. A "short block" (case, crank, cam, maybe rods) is good for about 200k mi under those same conditions. These are rough estimates, but the two most important considerations in assessing a Beetle engine are how many miles are on it, and has it been maintained properly. Unfortunately, it is very likely you will not know one or either of these two things.
I am not going to go into the technical engine assessment procedures like compression tests, spark plug inspections, etc. I think John Muir and other books have some good text on that (ISBN: 1562614800). I would just say two things. 1) Your best purchase is form a "known" seller. I don't necessarily mean family, but from someone who has owned the car a long time, has records and indicates that he/she has meticulously maintained the car, can tell you every thing about it. As opposed to someone who just "got it from a friend" a couple weeks ago and has know idea of it's history. And 2), don't think of a wheezing, drippy engine as a stake in the heart of an otherwise good car. Engines are pretty cheap compared to other makes. "Top ends" (pistons, cylinders, heads) can be rebuilt by the novice pretty easily. If the history of the car is unknown and the condition of the engine questionable, maybe you take a chance knowing that you could scrape up $300-$400 for some engine work.. (BUT, see "Vintage considerations")
But I will give you three little "tests" that I have learned over the years to assess engine condition.
And let me make one more point about the engine. I once went to a Beetle shop to ask for a quote to have a clutch done. I lived in an apartment and didn't have the resources to do it myself, although I had done it several times before at my parents years ago so I knew exactly what was involved. The shop quoted me $300 in labor to "R&R" (remove and replace) the engine. The last time I removed a Beetle engine in my garage, it took me 15 minutes. At many bigger VW shows there are "Engine Pull" contests where a Beetle is driven to a spot, two guys get out and remove the engine, roll it something like 10 ft away from the car, then back, re-install it and drive off. Record times, last I saw, were in the 6-7 minute range. That's no typo, 6-7 minutes (but I don't think the heater boxes are hooked up). Don't let anyone quote you any more than an hour labor to remove and replace an engine. If it takes them longer than that, they have no idea what they are doing (or they are trying to hose you) and you shouldn't be paying them to work on your car. If you are so inclined, you should really try it yourself. All you really need is a good floor jack.
Mechanical Stuff- Transmission, suspension
There are a couple of known "wear out conditions" with the VW trannies. One is when the "slider" gear gets worn. In this case, the car will not stay in reverse. To test, back up the car and put a little load on the tranny. Back up a slight incline or get in a clear area, engage the clutch fully in reverse and get on the gas a bit (be careful, don't hurt any one). If this gear is worn, the shifter will pop out of reverse with a loud "thunk". If the gear is really worn, it won't even start to back up, it will just pop out quickly and quietly. Always check reverse, the car may behave perfectly other wise. If reverse pops out, the car will need a new tranny ($100 - $400 depending on used/new).
Another tranny "failure mode" is similar to reverse but involves 4th gear under load. Get the car out on the open road, get into 4th at about 40-45mph and floor it. If 4th is bad, it will pop out with a loud thunk.. If this happens, plan on a new tranny.
Lastly, a common wear sign is when the 2nd gear syncro goes bad. If this is the case (assuming a '51 or newer bug), the gears will "grind" when you try to downshift from 3rd to 2nd. This type of failure is very common (I think because 2nd is the gear most often "downshifted" to) but it doesn't render the car undriveable. Two of my Beetles did it and I drove them for years like this. There is a workaround, by the way, that just involves a change in your shifting technique. When you go out of third, don't go down into second with the stickshift. First, go up like you are trying to go into first, push "up there" a little (don't worry, at 25+ mph, you are not likely to get it to go into first anyway) then quickly drop down into 2nd; and the gears won't grind. What you did was use the first gear syncro to match the mainshaft speed to the wheels and then jumped into 2nd before it had a chance to spin up again (as simple as I can describe it with a dissertation on synchromesh transmission concepts). If it grinds going into 2nd the usual way and you do this while the seller is riding with you, just say matter-a-factly "Oh. Second gear synchro is shot, you didn't tell me that did you?"
As for the suspension in general, the rear swingaxle suspension ('68 and earlier) is pretty hardy. The only thing that I might suggest is to look at the axle boots. These are rubber boots on either side of the tranny that flex as the axles move up and down. They are cheap and easy to replace, but leaky ones and no indication by the seller that they were ever concerned about that might indicate a tranny run without (much, if any) gear oil. At highway speed (that would be about 50 for a Beetle), a tranny that has run without gear oil most of it's life will (in the terms of an old Beetle mechanic I knew in upstate South Carolina) "howl". I've heard deafening ones. You'll know it when you hear it; = new tranny.
The front suspension is a little more sensitive. It is a pretty good design, but gets wobbly, clunky and UNSAFE when it wears. Most parts are pretty inexpensive, and aside from accident damage, everything is pretty much fixable. Speaking of accident damage, look for a bent front beam and/or bulkhead area. The twin tubes that make up the beam should be straight and square with the front of the car. The bulkhead portion of the pan front that it (the beam) bolts to should be square and free of bends on its corners.
The parts that make the front end wobbly/unsafe when they go bad are most often the ball joints ('66 and newer) or the king/link pins ('65 and older) and the tie rod ends. Particularly unsafe is when a lower ball joint gets so bad it pulls out of its socket. This just leaves one of the two torsion arms to hold up that side of the car. If you are going slow when this happens, the front end of your car will collapse, more pronounced on the side with the failed ball joint, and the tire may drag inside the fenderwell and steering will be mostly inoperable. If it happens when you are going fast, the wheel will slam back in the fender opening the second you hit the brakes because you think something has gone wrong, usually rip the upper ball joint loose on that same side and allow the entire wheel, brake hub and spindle to rip from the car as soon as the rubber brake hose tears off, opening the brake lines and possibly rendering the brakes in the three hubs that you still have possession of, useless. Steering will be up to the will of the gods and you are now driving a brakeless three-wheeler. I was lucky enough to have learned this lesson when mine let go going over a speed bump at work., I know others who were not so lucky.
King/link pins front ends almost cannot let go that way, BUT they are somewhat more expensive to rebuild. Ball joints at the time of this writing are still plentiful around $10 ea; there are 4 of them.
So assess the front end carefully, and unless the seller shows you a receipt for a recent rebuild, count on spending some money here. If it is a ball joint front end and more than 2 yrs old (or unknown) since they were replaced, I would replace them immediately. The consequences are not worth the risk. Check the tie rods by grabbing the front wheels at 3 and 9 o'clock and trying to turn them back and forth while someone holds the steering wheel tight. Play here could be tie rod ends or steering box. Now if you can jack the car up, do the same with hands at 12 and 6 o'clock. Play this way usually means ball joints or link/king pins or loose/worn wheel bearings. The Muir book has some good points on this.
Notice how the car drives. Can you move the steering wheel side to side some without affecting steering? This probably means either steering box replacement (although some are adjustable, it is usually not the right fix) or very badly worn tie rods (pretty cheap). Steering boxes have gotten a little pricey lately ($100+). Go over some bumps. Listen and feel for clunking and loose stuff. I can't really get into the details of all the stuff that can go wrong up front and how to diagnose and fix it, but be sensitive in this area ("Yep, the joints are shot. Listen, this car needs a few hundred in front end work, I'll offer ya...").
Take from this text these points:
Ok, this will be quick. The Beetle brakes on the bug, when 100%, will stop the car, fast. These brakes are really no different than any other drum braking systems, YOU can do the work on them (get the Muir book). Here's my stab at system pricing, from my head at the time of this writing:
Mechanical Stuff- Clutch
A whole, new clutch costs about $70 (parts).
Yes, you have to take the engine out to replace it, but that is no big
deal (see "engine" text above). There IS a common problem with Beetle clutches
though worth mentioning. It is when the clutch tube (a skinny steel pipe
inside the "tunnel" that guides the clutch cable from your pedal back to
where the clutch actually is) breaks itself loose from its welds inside
the tunnel. I wrote an extensive article on this ("Clutch
tube reattachment"), it should be available from wherever you got this
one. The symptoms may vary. It might be a clanking or clunking sound from
inside the tunnel when you depress and/or release the clutch (there should
be NO sound), or it might be a very "tight" feeling clutch pedal; one that
has no free play at all at the beginning of its travel and begins to disengage
the clutch as soon as it is pressed. (this is because the clutch cable
has to be tightened so much to compensate for the moving tube in the tunnel
to make it work) You might find this symptom if the seller is trying to
"hide" this problem (intentionally or not). The repair for this is somewhat
involved and requires some simple welding. If you have a good candidate
with this problem and are comfortable dealing with it, inform the seller
of the problem and get him to lop a big chunk off the selling price.
Mechanical Stuff- Other
This whole mechanical thing is hard for me because I know these cars well, I'm not scared away by anything broken on them. So my tendency is to NEVER say "don't buy it if...." (except for bad rustout described above) As I go through it, there is very little that I could say, "Oh that's a BIG problem". On the other hand, lots of little problems can sink a ship too.
"Other" mechanical stuff might be windows
rolling up and down (Read
"The Doors" article
to address the mysteries in there), hoods closing right, wipers, wiring
etc. All I can think to say is that there is no "bad" designs (years),
it's all VERY simple (that's why the car was so successful). If you mechanically
inclined, this is a perfect car to jump into.
Mechanical Stuff- Vintage considerations
You might think that "vintage" and "mechanical"
are two words that don't really go together. Well in the case of the Beetle,
they really do. Going on the assumption that you are somewhat (if not very
) interested in the vintage aspects of a pending purchase, let me offer
what I think are some special mechanical considerations.
Mechanical Stuff- Vintage considerations, Engine
In "The Years" article I "classed" the engines used in the Beetle, back to 1949. There was an earlier still engine that was never appeared in a U.S. Market car, and that was the 25HP engine. There are many folks who know these engine aspects much better than me, so I will only offer what I am sure about. Basically, the "correct" engine for a vintage car increases its value. As you may well guess, it is easy to pop a 1971 dual port engine into a '63, maybe for driveability reasons, and this is done often.
The 1600 engine ('70 and up in US models), in all of its forms, is really the "bread and butter" engine of the Beetle crowd. You will likely find it in many bugs that originally came with a different (and smaller) engine.
The 1500 ('67-'69) was actually only offered in U.S. markets for 3 years, 1967-69, and isn't easily distinguishable from the 1600. It has single port heads and comes within 3HP of the later 1600 and many enthusiast feel it was the "best" and most reliable engine.
The 1200, 40HP engine ('61-'66) has some special attributes of its own and, I would say, having correct vintage 40 horse in your '61 - '66 bug is an important vintage consideration.
Now going back one further, we had the 36HP motor ('54-'60, was still 1200cc's though). This engine has some unique (and hard to find) internals. An original 36HP engine is a real perk, but rebuilding a tired one might be a little difficult and expensive. Parts for these engines are available but expect to have some difficulty finding them and to pay 2-3 times more for the same part as in a newer vintage engine. So keep that in mind. A quick way to spot a 36hp engine is that the generator stand is part of the right engine case half and is not a separate unboltable casting like it is on the later versions.
I really won't get into the older engines
because I really believe if you are going there, you better know what you
are looking at BEFORE you read this. Summary: old and correct is valuable.
Mechanical Stuff- Vintage considerations, Other stuff
As I said many times earlier, when it comes to vintage, correct and complete is everything. Mechanically speaking, the things listed below are things that I would "OOooohh!!" if I saw in a "for sale" car:
This section was a late entry to this article. I realized just how important good chrome is (and how hard it is too find) as I started to re-assemble my '57. Not too long ago, good Beetle chrome was taken for granted, either because it wasn't that old and (on a driver) had been kept nice, or because good chrome spares were readily available. Now that isn't so much the case anymore. So I thought I would add this section and go over the chrome "bits" (as the English would say), front to back, and comment on availability and stuff. The thought being that someone scoping a Beetle for sale and seeing something rusted to nothingness or missing altogether might like to know the difference between "Not to worry, its an $8 part" and "Ha, you'd have better luck finding a T-Rex skull than one of those with good chrome".
As usual, this stuff is kind of "skewed" toward older Beetles, remember that I have never owned anything newer than a '68. And some of the stuff mentioned is body accents and trim which are actually not chromed but other metals.
Original thickness replacements for the '67 and earlier bumpers are not available. "Cheapy" bumpers, not of original thickness, are available for as little as $50 each, new. They are easily identified by plastic grommets between the overriders (tubes or "towel bars"), the vertical upright's fit against the blade is pathetic and the blades rust on the backsides within minutes if you get them wet.
A few vendors recently have come out with "show quality" bumpers for around $300 each. While the chrome is better (multi-plated), the prepwork done better (mirror chrome, shave in front of your car if you want) and the fit is such that grommets were not used, they still were not "original thickness".
So the real Holy Grail is a pair of original bumpers. Original bumper's blade metal is around 90 thousands (.090") or 2.28mm whereas most of the aftermarket bumpers are around 60 thousands (.060") or 1.5mm. You can make these measurements quite easily with a micrometer along the edge of the blade near one end. You have to feel for a pretty "square" edge, most of the edge has a bit on a lip on one side from the shear that cuts the stock. Allow just the tips of the micrometer to "grasp" the metal, slide them in too far and you will get a false reading if the micrometer isn't perfectly square with the metal surfaces.
While I have little experience with the later bumpers, it is my feeling that the available repros are better and good, used pieces are more plentiful.
For more information on the available bumpers,
see the Early Beetle Bumpers article.
These are the little slotted, oval grilles below the headlights in the front fenders, actually polished aluminum, not chrome. And the right side one is supposed to have a plastic or metal (early ones) "block off" plate behind it as there is no horn on that side. Because the little tabs that hold them on break off super easily and they are so cheap, "used" ones are hardly worth buying.
Virtually all Beetles had them, there are actually 9 pieces in all. One on the hood, one on each of the front quarters, one on each of the doors, one on each of the rear quarters and one on each running board edge (earlies). I am told that the '67 was a one year only design, with a slight difference in the finished shape of the ends. Correct early moldings (early 50s) may be hard to find. Sets are available in aluminum, and also stainless steel. Although the moldings were never stainless from VW, they are very nice. I even put them on my '57. Much stronger (harder to dent) than the aluminum ones and with a real lasting shine. The clips for them are also plentiful and cheap.
Better quality (German) running boards come
with the moldings on them, but some later years may not have the molded
running boards. "Used" sets are usually not much of an option, most all
used stock is dinged and/or bent up a bit.
The earlier "pressed" kind (vs. the later
aluminum cast ones) are bit more spendy, but plentiful. Common at the show
swap meets too, the cast ones are pretty indestructible.
But good used stuff is pretty easy to come
by. For some reason, you hardly ever see rusty one.
Lots of repros of the early mirrors are available,
but some are real junk. Good repros run $20-$25. Not a "worry" item.
Same as the bumpers, original early door handles (lever type, to '54 with ridged face, '55 - '59 flat face) with good chrome are a real plus. Repros have just become available for around $30 with keys, but I am told that the quality is not all that great (never touched one). NOS or mint originals sell for $75 - $150 each, and used ones with good chrome are scarce. Check the undersides of the handles, they usually pit there first.
Note that originally in the '59 and earliers, only the driver's handle had a lock. The passenger side handle was flat. Also, the '54 and earliers, are not interchangeable with the later ones.
In '61 the pushbutton handles were introduced. These seemed to be much more impervious to rust, and I think good new stock is available. Also pretty easy to find in the swaps. The exception is the '67 handle, which is a one year only. This handle had a round pushbutton instead of a square one. Good '67 handles are a real treat, but not impossible to find.
'68 and on the "trigger" type handles
were used. Replacements and used stock are readily available.
This is the vertical chrome piece between the vent and main windows in the doors. It is chromed on both sides. IN the '64 and earlier doors, it is a separate piece with a bracket welded to the bottom, well inside the door. This piece is tough to find with good chrome. I took this piece for granted with my '57. When I found one of my originals to be junk, I had a real tough time finding a good one. Left and rights are different, but you can "make" a left a right, or vice versa, by drilling off and re-welding the bracket on the bottom (so if you find one with great "inside" chrome, but bad "outside" chrome, you can reverse it with the good side facing the outside of the car). I looked in to having my original re-chromed and was quoted $60 for the one piece!
In the '65 and later doors, this vertical
is wider and is part of (and removed with) the vent window frame. Good
replacements are easier to find.
These are actually not chrome, but polished aluminum. They are attached to the outside "scraper" in the door (the rubber lip that touches the glass on the outside, in the window sill opening) even though they loop up the back edge and over the top of the opening. Replacements vary in cost from $25 to around $40 for each side depending on year. If you are doing a full resto on the door(s), these can be done. If you are not planning on a full resto on the doors, plan on one if you are going to replace these as you will completely disassemble the door to get them out/in. They are fastened under the felt U channel in the back and top of the opening by tiny sheet metal screws (earlies) or the clips that hold the U channel in (lates).
See my "Doors"
article for detail on disassembly/re-assembly of the doors including the
Reproduction hubcaps, virtually all years
back to the early 50s, are available for $5-$15 each, and the quality and
fit is pretty decent. Original hubcaps with perfect chrome, especially
on the early cars, are all but nonexistent. Most people just accept that
they will buy a new set. If you find a car with useable originals, make
sure you tell everybody....
The early engine lids ('52-'64) had the "T"
handle. These are not being repro'ed that I am aware of, but good used
ones at the swaps are pretty easy to find. A locking one with a key is
a bonus. The later model pushbutton kind are plentiful, easy to get good
used (chrome seems longer lasting) and I think NOS ones are still around
The early glass taillights ('55-'61) had a chrome trim ring that was clipped into the housing and surrounded the glass lens when installed. Look close at this ring, good used ones are getting tough to find, the chrome can pit to uselessness pretty fast. (I was lucky enough to find a pair of NOS ones at the swaps for my '57, cost me $45)
The trim used on the later lights is easier
to find and, like the other stuff, the chrome seems to be longer lasting.
This is the chrome bezel that is clipped
into the metal dash, and stays in when the speedo is removed. I guess I
never checked to see if the vendors sold these, but since they are the
same for a wide range of years, I think they are pretty easy to get.
This is the ring on the speedo that
effectively holds the glass on the face. A tiny bit of it shows when the
speedo is installed. It is the same on virtually all the early speedos
(up to '67 anyway), but note too that it is difficult to remove without
destroying it. Fortunately, like most interior chrome, it holds up pretty
This is the Oval dash speaker grill. repros
are available for around $25, but the metal thickness and chrome quality
is noticeable poorer than the original. Still not a bad repro. NOS ones
at the time of this writing, if you can find them, are going for around
$100 or more.
This one is often overlooked, it is the chrome
trim ring around the oval dash ashtray. Look close. It is possible to find
good used, but prices are creeping up on this one.
These aren't quite as rare as the ashtray
trim, but not too far behind. No repros that I am aware of, but the chrome
holds up pretty good and they are still out there used.
No too tough an item, but make a note of
it when scoping a car.
To '54 are ribbed handles, these are getting rare. They tend to pit very easily, especially along the bottoms. These have a "crease" running their length in the middle (hence "ribbed")
'55-'66 are pretty plentiful, but some really perfect ones are getting spendy. There are repros of these, but I am told the quality is barely adequate. The repros may be prone to the splines stripping.
'67 and up are a dime a dozen in great shape
at the swaps.....
To '54, same as the release handles, should be ribbed. These are just as hard to find in good shape, no repros available.
'55-'66, same as the release handles. Never seen the repros, but am told quality is weak, knobs break off real quick. Good originals are keepers, still available in the swaps. Examine chrome closely.
'67 are dime a dozen, repros are fine and
The early door and rear quarter panels had a chrome (or polished aluminum) "spear" molding near the top. These are not reproduced, tend to get scratched up, and are pretty hard to find. Look close if you are scoping an oval. Not sure how late these moldings were used...
Ok, so we covered a lot of stuff here. Many people who have read this article and gone and looked at a Beetle that they thought was perfect came back and e-mailed me and said "man, you really scared me!" What does it all mean? It is hard for me to say "don't buy that one", because I feel like I can fix anything. But it is always a tradeoff. And it may be even more important for you to pass up a basket case give-away if you are unsure of your capabilities/resources. And don't under/over estimate the availability of missing or bad parts. Some stuff is damn hard to find. Scope out availability before you buy.
So to summarize the solid Beetle, let me group the candidates in to 4 general categories. This assumes that the selling price of the Beetle is fair. Yeah, if it is a giveaway, I might be inclined to buy more of a "project".
Hopefully that all helps "scope" things for you. What I really hoped to offer in all of this are those "hidden" things that are a real pain, and those things that might look big to a newbie, but are really easy and inexpensive to fix.
And remember, you WILL be fixing stuff.
Assessing the "Ultimate" Beetle
So, you want to get really picky huh?
Perfect is indisputable. I have decided to add this for two reasons.
The short story goes that I had found a '56
"fully and professionally" restored in the classifieds, in my town, for
$4500. Now, a '56, really restored nicely, might be worth that. But "magnifying
glass" inspection of this car revealed that is was poorly done. At a distance
this car looked wonderful. Nice paint, no dings in the lower front hood,
absolutely pristine interior done in all the right (expensive) fabrics.
But closer inspection revealed peeling paint, a B pillar with a "wave"
curvature in it, and a nose that was punched in a good inch and a half
such that the hood line didn't match the front quarter panel lines.
I talked to the guy who had done the restoration work a couple years back, he was quite proud of his work. But it was an absolute shame to spend all of that time and money and paint on this car and not even TRY to pull the nose out. No one with good conscious could have painted over this B pillar and expected the discerning enthusiast not to notice. Interestingly enough, I was contacted via e-mail just last week by a guy looking for a wiper for his '56, found out he lives in the town next to mine. He called me and told me that he had bought this '56; for substantially less than the seller was asking. Months before, the seller had told me a dozen times about all the good money she spent on it (she did virtually none of the work). Sadly, she will never get it back.
So when you are inspecting that "concours" Beetle, what do you look for? Some of this stuff is obvious, I've already mentioned it (but I take it a step further), and some stuff you may never see perfect. And by the way, the car that passes all of these tests is NOT driven. Maybe across town to a show, where it is then wiped down for three hours. Here's my Beetle "final" exam:
That whole spare tire well area of the Beetle
can't hide much. It in the "100%" Beetle, it should be totally dent and
rust free, shiny and clean. Look closely at those well sides and the whole
inner quarter in the front. If the car has not ever been undercoated and
those quarters are clean (what!? DIRT under the fenders of this $8000 car!!
Puh-leeeeaze!) you shouldn't be able to see any "straightened" metal or
"clips". A "clip" is when somebody welds a whole nose, cut from another
car, onto the project. Making a panel weld, with no overlap, undetectable
is all but impossible (but I did it ;-). Look at all of the areas that
I talked about "doomsday" rust. Look for welding and patching. Look close,
from the sides of the car, at the line that the hood makes with the upper
edge of the front quarters. It should be uniform (the same width gap) all
the way from the windshield to the bottom edge of the hood.
Same for the doors, look at the uniformity
of the gap that the rear edge of the doors make. Look at the molding line
as it crosses from the door to the rear quarter. Look at the
of the doors, there should be no rust, bubbling, peeling or scratched paint.
Perfect is perfect.
We're way beyond rustout here. A "perfect"
car should have a perfect pan. Crawl under. The underside of the pan should
be nicely painted and have no dents. Front to back, side to side. Everything
should be clean.
This is the hardest one. The hood-to-body and rear decklid-to-body seals are held in place by a narrow strip of steel, spot welded to the body, with a thin, rolled edge in it. That rolled edge is pinched over the seals. I'm not sure I have ever seen a Beetle with a flawless hood seal retainer . Usually, the first person to replace the seal (long before anyone ever thought of restoring the car) just pounded down the lip with a screwdriver and hammer after the new seal was installed. This rolled lip is also along the upper hood edge of the body, just in front of the windshield (and an interesting piece of trivia: This retainer strip in front of the windshield is supposedly the only part on the Beetle that NEVER changed in all of it's years of production). Look at these edges closely. They will either have been ignored, some attempt made to dolly them out, or replaced (the rubber seal will hide the spot welds). And while you are inspecting, look at the edge that the very top of the front quarter panel makes as it turns inward; just inside of the hood seal. There should be nary a dent or bend on that "100%" car.
By the way, new retainer strips are available,
but replacement requires you drill the spotwelds out of the old ones and
weld the new ones on, carefully matching the correct bend without kinking
anything. Then, of course, you have to grind everything down and paint
it so it is undetectable.
There is a right angle piece of sheet metal that runs the length of the door opening, it is spot welded to the upper side of the rocker panel (heater channel) and rolls over into the door sill. Its function is to hold the carpet that covers the heater channels inside the car. It is stepped on constantly, almost always beat up and often partially rusted away. This detail is a late entry in this article. I thought of this just a few minutes ago as I was doing some work on my '57. Like those hood seal retainers, this lip gets pounded down with whatever tool is handy when someone puts new carpet in the car.
There are some after-market "door sill moldings" that people may buy and screw in here, some are anodized aluminum. These just cover up a horrid looking sill strip. In the perfect Beetle, this strip will not be scratched, bent or dented.
And it most certainly is not covered up.
Here's another super picky thing to look
at. Look into the cavity behind the engine air vent right under the back
window. Is it painted? Is it dirty? Does it just look coated with overspray?
And what about the exterior vent "fins"? Look close. Do you see old paint?
Sander or scrape marks in between? Only the perfectionist (or VW factory)
is going to take the time to make this area perfect.
A perfect car should be clean. So clean that you if you drop you gum into the engine compartment while talking carelessly to the seller, you pick it up and pop it back into you mouth without thinking twice. EVERYTHING should be shiny clean. All of the engine parts, under the carpet/mats, under the hood, behind the dash. There should be no grease, grime or oil anywhere underneath. Perfect is perfect.
The paint should not have any key gouges
or scratches around the door handles or around the ignition switch ('67
So How Much to Should I PAY!?
Well this is the difficult part. I cannot tell you how many people post on the newsgroup and ask me via e-mails "how much is it worth?". There's a part of me that say's "leave this alone", it is way too subjective and market driven. But the reality is that Beetles ARE inexpensive, still. So I will stick my neck WAY out and attempt to discuss the VALUE of Beetles. Remember that value is a personal virtue, and the "market" value of anything is the dollar amount that the person who values the piece the most is willing to offer. And this means that this person needs to be accessible to the seller. Just because a '65 Beetle in Japan fetches $8000 doesn't mean it is worth that in Indiana where the general populous has offered $1400 after 6 months in the paper. A seller has to make the decision to take and offer or sit around and wait for something higher. He can say that it is worth whatever he wants, but if it is higher than the highest buyers value, well, he'll still be sitting on it this time next year.
As it turns out, I just replied to a USENET post from somebody in my home state looking for advice on how to find a Beetle. So I went on line to a 5 state classified ad paper and did a search on "Beetle" and "Bug" in the antique cars section (I happen to know that this paper puts any car 25 years old and older car in "Antique Vehicles" automatically. Normally "Antique" and such headings as "Special Interest" means that the seller thinks it is worth more than an "ordinary" car). It occurred to me that this would be a great way to comment on Beetle values.
So below I have listed some of the Beetles
in the March 4, 1997, and Feb. 13, 1998 issues of the New England "WantAdvertiser".
I have removed the phone numbers. Following each ad are my comments regarding
OK, I didn't mention the autostick above.
I have never owned one, and I'm told that these are not that bad, but as
a general rule, this is a strike against the value of a Beetle. Only because
people don't want them. I'll leave it at that. The 48K original miles,
well that would get my attention. If I were in the market for a Super I
would probably go look at this one. The asking price?, a little steep but
not outrageous. If it is really solid and complete and this is the original
owner, maybe. Without the details, just a shade under 3 grand would be
more in the ballpark IF it is totally complete.
I see two things I don't like in this ad.
$3750 and "rug". This ad was not written by someone who knows these (or
any?) cars, and $3750 is top dollar. But I would still call because it
a '61. If it was perfectly solid and complete,
maybe close to the
Again, evidence of an non enthusiast (know
of any Beetles the aren't 2 doors or don't have a 4 speed) and a high asking
price. A couple minutes on the phone and you could weed this one out pretty
OK, this is a whole different ballgame. I
see a seller that has spent a lot on the car and for some reason thinks
he will get all of his money back. Be careful with high performance stuff.
Sometimes it means "driven hard" too. And reliability on the bigger engines
(over 1835) is not what it is on a bone stocker. He says "sacrifice" to
impart some sympathy for all the money he spent, and then says "best offer".
If he really did GOOD work on it and it is what you wanted (purple), three
to three and a half, tops. Too much risk other wise. There are LOTS of
72s out there that are not purple and you can do what you want with them.
For those of you in the sunny, salt free
climes, "AZ car" means "probably not rotted up to the door handles". It
is something you see often in ads here in the Northeast. I would call on
this one. The price is very fair IF (big if) it is complete. If it is really
rust free and not hit and all there (or parts missing are easy to come
by), $2500 for a solid '64 is good. If the engine was wheezing or the brakes
needed work or the front end was floppy, I would try to talk down below
2 Gs and take it. '64 is a great mix of vintage value and driveability/maintainability
Another eye catcher for me. A solid '61,
not missing any hard to find parts for $2500, negotiable, is worth looking
at. Again, go find things wrong with it (as described above) that you know
you can fix, and talk them down. Especially if they don't really know the
mechanicals or what's involved to fix them.
Well, here's the '67, but "needs some work"
to me immediately takes it away from the $2500 price point. Sounds more
like a project to me. I would have to assume some rust with this ad. But
given the uniqueness of the '67 and if you were looking for something like
that, assuming it was all there with no major collision damage, maybe $1500.
Lots of questions about this one.
My first question is why did it need a professional
restoration with only 79k mi on it? There may be valid reasons, like it
sat in storage for a long time, but the reality is a '72 with 79K on it
is worth more ORIGINAL than restored. This of course assumes that it was
whole and driveable originally. But in my opinion, this car is not worth
even close to five grand. At best, this means perfect mechanically and
body-wise, maybe just above $3000.
Maybe. If it is real southern car and has
been stored dry, could be pretty solid. $1500-is might be pretty fair.
Lessee, 2 owners is a potential plus, excellent
is subjective but infers good condition, restorable? The Titanic is restorable.
I might call on this one, but it looks like a stretch. I say that because
a '65 worth $3200 (VERY complete and original, and a solid usable drivetrain
for example) would not have "restorable" in its ad. Guess it wouldn't hurt
to call though.
I love it when people quote "invested" or
"worth" or "paid". I couldn't give a rats elbow what you spent on it; or
paid; or believe it is worth. I'll still offer you what it is worth to
me. This car has had a lot of work done on it. I would look very close
at the heater channel work. If it is very solid (body and mechanics) and
what you want, $2400 might be fair. Sunroof and a working AC are pretty
nice. But the dropped spindles and adjustable beam would make me question
how much of a daily driver this car is. All this work sets off an alarm
as to whether it was done right or not. I would look close for "hack jobs".
Nice that it comes with a gas tank though. Those are usually "extra".
Lastly, another '67. I always treat these a little different. But "firm" always sounds like a little attitude to me. Sounds like lots of work was done and the mechanical are solid. If this were a really nicely done resto and the car was VERY solid, maybe $3200 in my book. But it would have to be 100% "correct".
This is *my* assessment. These are what *I* would consider paying. There are always exceptions. Solid and complete counts the most, especially in the older models. I monitor classified ads in this area weekly and have been part of the buying and selling of many Beetles. Beetle market values may be different in other parts of the country. This is for "sedans", not convertibles. I would be so bold (having no experience with 'vert Beetles) to say that you could add 15-20% to the prices below for the 'verts, but do remember that 'vert only parts costs can be very high, especially for the earlier years.
Complete and solid: $3000-6000
Original, complete and solid: $4000-12,000
Mostly complete, fixable mechanicals, no
"doomsday" rot: $1000-3000
Complete and solid: $3000-6000
Original, complete and solid: $4000-12,000
Mostly complete, fixable mechanicals, no
"doomsday" rot: $700-2000
Complete and solid: $1000-3000
Original, complete and solid: $2500-6000
Mostly complete, fixable mechanicals, no
"doomsday" rot: $500-1500
Complete and solid: $800-2500
Original, complete and solid: $2000-4500
A '67? Add $200-500.
Mostly complete, fixable mechanicals, no
"doomsday" rot: $300-1000
Complete and solid: $500-1900
Original, complete and solid: $1700-3500
Mostly complete, fixable mechanicals, no
"doomsday" rot: $200-800
Complete and solid: $400-1300
Original, complete and solid: $1400-2600
As unqualified as I am though, let me make a comment about late model convertibles. I have seen, quite often, '77- '79 convertibles for sale with very low mileage at ridiculous asking prices. I think many enthusiasts/collectors knew the demise of Beetle was inevitable and tried to take the last year (only convertibles were sold in '79) and hoard them. I have seen 1-40k mi 'verts with asking prices of $7 to $15k and up. These people are dreaming. In the VW circles, the real valuable models are the old years, original and well preserved. The '79 verts for $12k are usually owned by snooty people who couldn't tell you where the dipstick on the car is (heavy opinion). To them, the Beetle is no different from their Benz or Infinity (aka:"Datsun"). They just bought it because it's "cute" and "lots of people love these cars". Don't encourage them!
So that's it. Remember, these are my opinions (but I do welcome polite and constructive comments). I have lots of experience with these cars, but I don't know it all. And especially with pricing, there is no "right" answer. Remember to LEARN all you can before you go out and buy. Talk to as many owners, enthusiasts that you can. Get the Muir book if you are serious. Go to a VW show, they are a GREAT way to see what is out there and available. Read some industry magazines like "Hot VWs" or "VW Trends". Don't let a seller "tell" you what the car is worth. Especially today, buying a Beetle takes patience. It takes some investigation, lots of reading, phone calls, etc. But the are out there, you just have to find yours.
If it's in your blood at all, you will get
sucked into it like the rest of us!!
Copyright© 1999; John S. Henry