Used Cars DFW | Round and Rectangular: Driving an Original Volkswagen Beetle and Microbus
The Beetle evolved steadily throughout its long life, as Volkswagen geeks will be glad to explain in excruciating detail. Windows got bigger, fenders became more rotund, and the windshield gained a curve sometime in the mid-1960s. Lights, the electrical system, and the air-cooled engines grew more powerful, and the suspension was redesigned. Yet to the casual observer, this 1978 example, carefully preserved by Used Cars Volkswagen U.K. as one of the final Germany-built Beetles, looks pretty much identical to the KdF-Wagen that Hitler had ordered in the late 1930s to motorize the Third Reich.Texan Ride will locate you Used Cars DFW Volkswagen for low price contact our sales team at (972)546-3822.
That plan never unfolded, but the VW did survive both the war and the collapse of the Nazi regime that had commissioned it. This was thanks to several lucky breaks, the greatest being the inability of British automakers to see value in the car or the bombed factory that had produced it. A postwar report on the rear-engined oddball concluded, in what must have been said with a harrumph and plummy English accent, “The vehicle does not meet the fundamental technical requirements of a motorcar.”
The Brits did restart limited production under military control, but it took civilian sales of what was officially known as the Volkswagen Type 1 to prove the breadth of the Beetle’s appeal. In Europe, it became the utilitarian product Ferdinand Porsche had conceived it as, sold on the basis of value and reliability. But when imports began into the United States in 1949, the Beetle acquired a new aura, cleverly marketed as the antidote to the bloat and excess of domestic autos. In the ’60s, its ad campaign by Doyle Dane Bernbach made a virtue of its simplicity and lack of pretension. It became a car for people who wanted to make a quiet point about not owning a fancy car, blazing the trail later followed by the Toyota Prius.
Much about a 39-year-old Beetle feels predictably dated, but an equal amount also feels impressively fresh, and not just because this immaculate museum piece has covered only 4100 miles in its life, still bearing a whiff of new VW smell. While its busy rear-engined soundtrack reminds us of a Porsche—the current 911 is a second cousin five times removed—performance is modest. This Europe-spec ’78 has a 1.2-liter flat-four producing just 36 horsepower. (In ’77, its last year in the U.S., the hardtop Bug had a 1.6-liter engine with 48 horses.) Although it is brisk enough to keep up with 21st-century traffic, the Beetle lacks the firepower to draw ahead of it. Yet there’s an enthusiasm to the way it drives that belies its official 36.0-second zero- to-60 time, the engine’s rortiness and keen responses making it feel faster than it is. The Beetle is far from a sports car, but the gearshift is accurate, the clutch is progressive, and the steering offers good weight and feel. It drives with a positivity that’s in stark contrast to the dynamic slop that characterized most of its early contemporaries. The brakes are terrible, though—but then, all brakes were pretty terrible in the 1970s.
What’s more impressive is the air of quality. The doors shut with a weighty thunk, and the paint finish is good enough to put many modern cars to shame.
Our other period exhibit, a 1967 Type 2 Bus with a full camper conversion, is well equipped with a pop-up roof, a fridge, and even a kitchen sink. This one normally lives in the lobby of Volkswagen’s British HQ, its odometer admitting to just 1169 miles in the past 50 years, and it’s definitely better to look at, or to live in, than it is to drive. Performance is limited enough to make the Beetle feel sprightly by comparison. According to VW, the Bus will go to 65 mph, which makes zero to 60 more a test of patience than of speed. Hitting 50 mph feels positively daring. At that speed, substantial steering input is required to keep it traveling in a straight line; the gearbox has all the snap and precision of a chimpanzee sousaphone orchestra; the brake pedal is little more than a mushy footrest.
The Beetle turned Volkswagen into a global player and laid the groundwork for the company’s rise into a globe-spanning automotive empire. More than 21 million were built, the last in Mexico as recently as 2003—that’s five years after the so-called New Beetle, a front-driven retro pastiche of the original, had been introduced to the more credulous parts of the world. Yet while the original Bus sold in far smaller volumes, it was also a true pioneer—pretty much the first lifestyle vehicle. Let’s hope that Volkswagen’s new Bus, with an all-electric version to be launched in five years’ time, has some of the same pioneering spirit.
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