The Last Beetle

I disagree that the one that rolled off the line was the last one. I was a VW mechanic as my first job out of high school. As far as I’m concerned, VW hasn’t built a Beetle since 1978. If it doesn’t have a flat-four air-cooled engine with a number 3 cylinder that eats valves and rings due to having its airflow cut off by the oil cooler, it’s not a Beetle, regardless of a vague resemblance of body type.

17 thoughts on “The Last Beetle”

  1. I agree. I owned a 1973 Super Beetle and loved it. I ran the thing into the ground twice and finally sold it to a collector who restored it. I was very excited when VW announced that they were going to start building them again, until I sat in a new one. It didn’t feel like a Beetle and a quick check under the hood confirmed it wasn’t a Beetle.

    I currently own a Jetta and it will be the last VW I ever own. Hard to work on, no aftermarket parts that work and expensive to own. Everything a VW was not supposed to be.

    1. If I may ask, what model year?

      Last time I checked, True Delta car reliability Web site is claiming they have gotten somewhat better?

      Were I to purchase a new car, I am tempted because VW has a reputation for seats that aren’t fatiguing on long drives, the turbo 1.5 motor in the Jetta has great EPA numbers, and the Jetta is the lowest price car out there with a great rating on the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety stats on driver death rate — I don’t put much credence in crash tests when you have real-road data.

      Would this be a big, big mistake?

  2. My Dad got “a bug” in 1962. As a back seater what I remember most is the 20 minutes it would take to get any heat out of it in a midwestern winter. Oh and my ears popping when the doors were closed with the windows rolled up. In those early Beetles, wasn’t the gas filler pipe *inside* the front trunk? I seem to remember a family photo of my sister filling it from our gravity fed farm tank and with the trunk lid open it looked like it was going to eat her! Also it was fun in those days to ask a gas station attendant to check the water level in the battery….

  3. I agree too: a “Bug” or “Bus” has an air cooled opposed 4 cylinder engine, period. Anything else, for better or worse, is just a spin-off.
    Worked on a lot of bugs during the ’80s in California. The Germans’ definitely have their own way of doing things, but once you understand them they’re pretty cool to work on.

  4. Nit: Beetles were produced for other markets for many years after the last one produced for the NA market, until 2003 according to Wikipedia.

  5. “The engines made good aircraft engines, too. A lot of 40 horses in the air, or used to be.”

    I remember seeing ads for kits (rotary wing) in magazines like Popular Mechanics that mentioned the need for a VW engine.

    1. They were good for home builts in general, including fixed wing. Not fast aircraft, but fun to fly, and reliable. The engine was much better in aviation, because it got better airflow and didn’t have the oil-cooler restriction issues.

  6. The last original, real, Beetle (#21,529,464) rolled off the production line in Puebla, Mexico, on July 30, 2003.

    I’m just a little more picky about what makes a “real” Beetle: real Beetles have torsion bar front suspension not MacPherson struts.

    1. I didn’t know that. I thought the last one was built in Mexico in 1979.

      I always wanted a VW when I was a kid, mainly due to the influence of the ads in Life magazine. I would pester my dad to take me to the local VW dealer, where I went around looking at the cars and opening and closing all the doors and compartments. (The Campmobile was my favorite, needless to say.) He humored me, but he was a WWII veteran who wanted nothing to do with German or Japanese cars.

      In the mid-80s I made my childhood dream come true by buying a used 1973 Super Beetle. All I can say is that the previous owner sold it at exactly the right time because everything started going wrong with it. I attempted to do my own repairs, but I had no aptitude for it and ended up making matters worse more often than not. That experience got the shade tree mechanic bug out of my system once and for all.

  7. I thought this was going to be a posting about Richard Starkey, because McCartney had just left for that great compost heap in the sky.

  8. I did read somewhere that the reason that the beetle engine makes a good small airplane engine is that that was what it was originally designed as.
    Makes sense as it is by far and away the most successful auto to airplane engine out there. I believe derivatives are in production for some German motorgliders. Limbach make them.

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