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Article: "The Years"
Last updated: 11/1/01
A long time ago, this article was intended to be a part of the "What to Look for When Buying" article, but it just got too big to manage, so I split it off as an objective discussion on the year-to-year differences in Beetles. Then, and active participant over at the newsgroup supplied me with an exhaustive listing of year to year changes that was much more complete than mine. So I coded it into a table and put it up over a the "Reader Contributed" section of the BugShop. All the while, visitors had pointed out a few inaccuracies within this article, so I decided to correct and "merge" any info that I had in this article, with Rob Boardman's table. What remains in this article is a discussion of the year to year changes, the clever little list on "How to impress your friends" by identifying years from a distance, and (I hope to add) a "Parts Classes" listing that will help answer questions like "For what range of years were the hoods interchangeable?".
If you are reading this article to gain insight prior to looking for a Beetle to purchase, you really should read the "What to Look for When Buying" article as well. In my opinion, that is the most useful article on this site, at least to novice Beetle enthusiasts.
About every month, I see a posting on USENET where somebody asks "what is the best year?" or "what should I look for?" or "how much is it worth?". At first I want to jump right in and start spewing my thoughts and help out, but usually I realize three things:
If you discover something that you think
is wrong, feel free to
E-Mail me. Be specific,
polite, and cite your reference(s). I may wish to research it further as
I have already found discrepancies between widely excepted publications
regarding the year to year changes. This information is relative to U.S.
Beetle offerings only.
What are the years?
As for the years, I will note some technical changes, and TRY to be objective . I have found it helpful to make several "cuts" at differentiating the years by model changes (this data is for the US market, offerings elsewhere may have been significantly different. Sources: VWoA publication "What Year Is It?"; 1971 ed., John Muir idiot book, chapter XVI "Know How", 13th ed, 1988. There WERE some discrepancies between these two, by the way)
Often, Beetle era's are referred to as "metal
dash" or "40 horse", or "kingpin front end". To help you with that, some
further digestion of the stuff above identifying year "groups" by various
sub-componenets. Remember that these year offerings were for US Models
only. Offerings in other countries varied.
So maybe you have a friend who is a real bug nut and gets a quick glance at Beetle in a parking lot while passing at 50mph in your car he says "cool, a '64". "How did he do that?" you think. Well it is not that hard. Even my wife can now spot the major "family" years like ovals and old vs. new and supers (and she is not exactly an enthusiast). Well, let me help you impress your friends and family and give you a quick course on "telling the year at a glance". I can't get you to a single year in the later models, but the early years I have mostly down pat.
Unfortunately, I cannot produce a flow chart that will be guaranteed to replicate in all the ASCII and HTML viewers that this text might be viewed in, so I will tell you how I do it using indention of the following short lines. You might need to widen your window if you are using a windows app to read this. Notes are astricized * (I just made that word up) where the text would make the line to long to be sure that the indentation was constant in most all readers.
First cut "OLD" or "NEW", look for the "towel bar" bumpers
So Which One to Buy?
Well again it depends on what your intentions
are. Somewhat objectively below I have "classed" intentions based on vintage
"value" and driveability. At the end, in brackets, I have added my "if
I could pick any year" pick for the described intentions.
Vintage= HIGH Driveabiltiy=LOW
For true "vintage" character and maximum investment protection: '66 and earlier. You won't drive this car a whole lot. Really the older the better, but parts cost and availability goes up with age. Heavily modifying a complete "old" Beetle into anything but stock is grounds for horsewhipping in many states. [if I could pick a year: easy, a '49]
Vintage= MED/HIGH Driveabiltiy=MED/LOW
For "old Beetle charm", investment protection and some driveability: any '58-'67 Beetle. '65 and up will get you better parts availability and (parts) price, but loose some "vintage" value. But parts interchageability in the '58 - '66 range is very high and there are no real hard-to-finds. You can modify suspensions, brakes etc. to improve driveability, but don't perform and irreversible modifications (see "horsewhipping", above). [if I could pick a year: hmmm.... prolly a '63 sunroof, it's a nice compromise between old and really old, I would be tempted to put a ball joint front end on it though]
Vintage= MED Driveabiltiy=MED/HIGH
If you want a true "daily driver", I'd recommend a '67 to about '71 (non Super). They have all the useable improvements of the "new" Beetles, but are simple and parts for this range are most plentiful (except the '67 for some parts). Investment protection should not be an issue here. After '71, VW made SOME models complicated with fuel injection and McPherson strut front ends (Supers). Accessories, wiring and dashboards got more complicated too. [if I could pick a year: 67, but only if I only had to drive it in good (no salt) weather, other wise '68]
Vintage= LOW Driveabiltiy=HIGH
This would be what I would call a "beater".
You just want to drive a bug, you don't care about vintage anything, you
will modify anything you want to make it work, you will drive it year round
in some less than ideal weather for cars. My recommendation for years is
the same as above, except leave the '67 out, it is too special of a year.
'68 to about '73. Parts are readily available and yet the design is still
straight forward and simple. [if I could pick a year: 68, just 'cause I
like the swingaxles]
So that's it folks, hope I've offered something (I did enjoy writing this). Remember be realistic about what you expect from the car and what you want to do with it; long or short term. They are great cars, simple and fun to tinker with. AND, they just ain't makin' them anymore. So keep your eyes open, and don't be afraid to pull a "U-ey" one your way to the in-laws one Sunday when you see a dusty old "complete" looking '62 rolled out in front of a house you've passed 100 times before. Knock on the door, you might have a shot at a real sweetie......"Excuse me, but I was just passing by, and....."
Copyright© 1999; John S. Henry