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Volkswagen Beetle: Buying guide and review (1945-2003)

Volkswagen Beetle: Buying guide and review (1945-2003) Classic and Performance Car
VW Beetle buying guide VW Beetle buying guide
Volkswagen’s Beetle represents so many different things to so many people. With 21.5 million of them built around the world for more than 50 years, chances are you have either owned one at some point, or know someone that has. 
 
Born out of a need to quickly get German people mobile and onto the rapidly expanding autobahn network, this small and functional car was designed in the 1930s by Ferdinand Porsche, and was championed by Adolf Hitler and the Nazi government. Full scale production of the Type 1 didn’t start until 1945 though, after World War 2 came to an end. 
 
It was of course developed over the years, with huge improvements, larger engines and improved trim and interior. European production continued right through to 1978, however the Brazilian and Mexican cars carried on for much longer, taking the production right through to 2003. 
 
Today many look good but are rotten; others have been badly restored. Most Beetles have also been modified in some way, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing as it often makes them more usable; bigger engines, later brakes and newer gearboxes are all par for the course. What matters most is that you don’t buy a liability. 
 
Few cars are as easy to maintain or upgrade as the Beetle, with a ready parts supply and plenty of specialists. Running costs are low, ride comfort is great and performance isn’t bad; this is no road burner, but ample low-down torque means the Beetle is easy to drive. But perhaps the best aspect of all is the social scene that goes with the Beetle; if you want to kick start your social life, just buy a classic Beetle. 
 

Which classic Beetle to buy?

 
Although the Beetle didn’t seem to evolve much during its lengthy production run, nothing is interchangeable between the first and last cars. Indeed, there were changes of some sort just about every year. 
 
Most available Beetles are from the 1960s or 1970s; earlier cars rarely come onto the market, especially in right-hand drive form. As a result you can expect to buy a Beetle with an 1192cc or 1285cc engine, although by 1967 there was a 1493cc unit too. Even the biggest standard Beetle engine displaced just 1584cc, so running costs are brilliantly low.
 
The 1200 was always aimed at those on a budget; it was last to get brake, suspension and electrical upgrades. The 1302S and 1303S are more usable thanks to their 1600 powerplants, bigger boot, MacPherson strut front and semi-trailing arm rear suspension. The sloped-headlamp design is the purist’s favourite; buy a 1966 or 1967 car and you could have this with 1500 power, making it the pick of the bunch for some. However, pre-67 cars tend to rust less; whatever you buy, if it’s RHD make sure it’s genuine, as many cars have been converted. That’s fine if done properly, but such cars are worth less than original RHD examples.
 
Non-factory convertibles are best avoided, as they tend to leak badly, but if safe they can provide affordable summer fun. Finally, the Beetle is popular with young drivers, plenty of whom have learned or practised their restoration skills on a Bug. As a result, amateur rebuilds abound, so check for uneven panel gaps, wonky welding and distorted panels. 
 

Performance and specs

 
Volkswagen Beetle 1500
Engine 1493cc, four-cylinder 
Power 44bhp @ 4000rpm
Torque 74lb ft @ 2000rpm
Top speed 78mph
0-50mph 11.3sec
Fuel consumption 30mpg
Gearbox Four-speed manual/Three-speed automatic
 

Dimensions and weight

 
Wheelbase 2420mm
Length 4080mm
Width 1585mm
Height 1500mm
Kerb weight 870kg
 

Common problems

 
• Check the jacking points, wheelarches and floorpans for rot, along with the spare wheel well and bumper mountings front and rear. On later cars with MacPherson struts, scrutinise the strut top mountings. Also check the running boards – particularly where they’re mounted to the bodyshell and the sills. The latter incorporate the heater ducts, so wholesale repairs are needed rather than patching. 
 
• Inspect the rear body supports ahead of the driveshafts under the wings, and significant corrosion in the rain gutters is bad news. Lift the back seat; the sound deadening absorbs water, then rots the floorpan. 
 
• The Karmann Cabriolet’s roof wears or gets damaged while the frame rots. From 1972 an all-metal frame was fitted, but earlier cars featured some timber sections. 
 
• All Beetles feature an air-cooled flat-four engine. Noisy when cold, these engines are tough, plus cheap and easy to rebuild. Minor oil leaks are normal, but anything more means a full rebuild is due. Parts for pre-1960 powerplants (1131cc and 1192cc) are scarce, with these engines completely different from later units. Swapping to a later engine will give you better usability and cheaper rebuilds, but you’ll also need to swap to the later gearbox and final drive. 
 
• A four-speed manual gearbox was fitted to most Beetles, but a three-speed automated manual was offered with the 1500 engine. These latter boxes are extremely rare now though. The most likely issue is with worn synchromesh or layshaft bearings, but rebuilt gearboxes are readily available. 
 
• From 1974 rack-and-pinion steering was fitted to the 1303; other cars got a box. Play should be minimal, except for 1972-74 cars. These suffer from rotten inner wings which flex when the steering wheel is turned; it feels like a worn box but it’s actually a weakened structure. 
 
• Axles rust from the inside out. If there’s much clonking and rattling over poor surfaces, assume a replacement axle will be needed. 
 
• Most Beetles have drum brakes all round, but from 1967 the 1500, 1302S and 1303S got discs up front. Everything is reliable, available and affordable, although pre-1960 parts are scarce. 
 
• Butchered interiors are common, so check for damaged trim. Most cars have a painted dash, but some late-1970s Beetles and the 1303 featured a plastic fascia that cracks and splits after years of exposure to the sun; repro replacements are expensive. 
 
• Until 1967, all Beetles featured a 6-volt electrical system; then it switched to a 12-volt set-up. Any car can be converted to 12 volts; for more reliable starting, and for the easier fitment of ancillaries it’s worthwhile. 
 

Model history

 
1945: Production starts, 10 years after the first prototype is built. An 1131cc engine is fitted. 
1949: Karmann cabriolet production starts. 
1950: The Beetle gets hydraulic brakes. 
1954: An 1192cc engine is now fitted. 
1965: There’s now a 1300 engine. 
1966: A 1493cc engine now features. 
1967: A restyle brings vertical headlights, bigger bumpers and dual-circuit brakes, plus 12v electrics for the 1300 and 1500. 
1970: The 1302 brings MacPherson struts up front, plus a 50bhp 1584cc 1302S option. 
1972: The 1303 gets a panoramic windscreen, bigger rear lights. 
1974: There’s now rack-and-pinion steering. 
1978: German production ends; the cars are now made in Mexico. 
1980: Karmann builds the final cabriolet; 330,281 were made. 
1992: There’s now a catalytic converter and electronic fuel injection. 
2003: The final Beetle is made. 
 

Owners clubs, forums and websites

 
• www.dubnuts.co.uk
• www.historicvws.org.uk
• www.pre67vw.com
• www.vwocgb.com
 

Summary and prices

 
Not only is the Volkswagen Beetle one of the most iconic cars of all time, it’s a cultural icon that goes beyond the automotive world entirely. While it might be hard to find original or unmolested cars for not a lot of money, the great thing about the Beetle is that it continues to offer the kind of cheap, accessible and DIY motoring that endeared them to the masses in the first place.
 
Prices have moved in recent years, with many people paying a premium for clean original cars, while there is still a thriving scene for the modified cars. Early cars are difficult to find, and rarely come up for sale in the UK, and when they do often sell for upwards of £25,000 in top condition. Oval screen cars (1953-1957) are again quite difficult to find, and start at around £5000, rising to £15,000 for a perfect example. 
 
If you want something fun and easy to look after, then it really has to be one of the later cars. Spares are plentiful, and there are many more around to choose from. You can still find a viable project from the £800 mark, while there are decent runners from around £2000. Pay around £6000 and you should be able to get something really presentable.
VW Beetle buying guide VW Beetle buying guide
Last updated: 6th Oct 2016
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Volkswagen Beetle cars for sale

53 Search results
Volkswagen Beetle
1 22993 GBP
  • Volkswagen Beetle Cabriolet 1968

    POA POA

    SOLD / VERKAUFT / VENDU / VERKOCHT Volkswagen Beetle cabriolet, rare 1500 model, fully restored Between 1966 and 1970 a ‘Super Beetle’ was introduced, the 1500. This very rare Beetle had the 1500 CC 44 HP engine instead of the 1192 CC and discbrakes at the front. This car is a 1968 Beetle 1500 convertible. Both the in- and outside are in marvelous and completely restored condition. White paint with creme/beige cloth interior and beige softtop. Technics in splendid condition. Drives great. When you are looking for a marvelous Beetle cabriolet, than this car is good choice and a healthy investment too. Car has German title and mot/tuv. Easy to register in every EU country. You do not need to pay any importtaxes. We can help with transport.

    • Year: 1968
    For sale
    E&R Classic Cars
    +31 416 751393 VIEW CONTACT NUMBER
  • Volkswagen Beetle Coupe 1969

    POA POA

    SOLD / VERKAUFT / VENDU / VERKOCHT Volkswagen Beetle 1300 1969, new green paint, perfect technics 1969 VW Beetle 1300. In Holland since 2000. Recently repainted in colour green. The car has a beautiful beige interior and the old type dashboard and steering wheel. Technics are in a very good condition and fully checked in our workshop. The car has the 1.3L engine and manual gearbox. So a marvelous and great driving VW Beetle for the real fans. Car has USA title and document importduties for every EU country are paid by us. Documentation is complete for registration in every EU country. You do not need to pay any importduties. We can help with transport. Trading in, buying and consignment possible. Car has Holland title and Holland mot/tuv. Easy to register in every EU country. You do not need to pay any importtaxes. We can help with transport.

    • Year: 1969
    For sale
  • Volkswagen Beetle Cabriolet 1979

    POA POA

    *** THIS CAR HAS BEEN SOLD *** Please contact us if you were interested in this car. Our inventory is constantly changing and we will have similar examples of this model becoming available soon. ----------------------------- Volkswagen Beetle convertible 1303 dark blue in fabulous condition 1979 VW Beetle 1303 cabriolet. This is an older restoration but still in a fabulous condition. The car has dark blue paint with very beautiful chrome and chrome wheels. This is a wonderful combination with the beige interior and beige soft top. The car has the 1584 CC (1600) 60HP engine. Fully checked in our workshop and technics are in great condition. The 1303 is one of the last types of Beetle and that’s why it’s the best driving Beetle. Car has Holland title and Holland mot/tuv. Easy to register in every EU country. You do not need to pay any importtaxes. We can help with transport.

    • Year: 1979
    For sale
  • Volkswagen Beetle 1970

    POA POA

    SOLD/VERKAUFT/VENDU/VERKOCHT Volkswagen Beetle 1970 dark blue in Topcondition 1970 VW Beetle in very good condition. Paint is dark blue with a new black interior. Paint, chrome etc are very beautiful. The car has the 1192 CC 34 HP engine and manual gearbox. Technics are fully checked in our workshop and in excellent condition. When you are looking for a beautiful VW Beetle, ready for driving, this car is an excellent choice. Car has Holland title and Holland mot/tuv. Easy to register in every EU country. You do not need to pay any importtaxes. We can help with transport.

    • Year: 1970
    For sale
  • Volkswagen Beetle Cabriolet 1970

    POA POA

    Volkswagen Beetle 1970 1302LS in very good condition. 1970 Volkswagen Beetle original convertible version in very good condition. This 1302LS with the straight windshield has beautiful red paint, original Lemmertz GT rims, black interior and a black cabrio top. In Holland since october 8, 1988 and has had only 1 owner. The car has an aircooled 1584 CC 4 cyl 60 HP engine and manual gearbox. Technics in great condition. So a very beautiful Beetle ready for driving. Car has Holland title and Holland mot/tuv. Easy to register in every EU country. You do not need to pay any importtaxes. We can help with transport.

    • Year: 1970
    For sale
  • Volkswagen Beetle Cabriolet 1976

    POA POA

    Volkswagen Beetle cabriolet 1303 1976 restored in very good condition The VW Beetle convertible 1303 was built since 1972 and is recognizable by the round windshield. This is an original Volkswagen Beetle 1303 cabriolet, delivered on 11 october 1976. Both the in- and outside are in a restored condition. The paint, chrome, interior, cabriotop etc. are in beautiful condition. The car has a 1300 CC 44 HP engine and 4 speed manual gearbox. The car also has a black Sonnenland cabrio top, black soft top cover and Lemmerz Weltmeister wheels. The car is in Holland since 1998. So a very beatiful restored Beetle convertible, ready for a lot of driving fun. Car has Holland title and Holland mot/tuv. Easy to register in every EU country. You do not need to pay any importtaxes. We can help with transport.

    • Year: 1976
    For sale
  • Volkswagen Beetle Cabriolet 1975

    POA POA

    SOLD / VERKAUFT / VENDU / VERKOCHT Volkswagen Beetle cabriolet 1303 1975, grey metallic in very good condition This is an original 1975 VW Beetle convertible 1303 in colour Diamant Silber Metallic (97A). Both the in- and outside are in a beautiful and very good condition. The paint, chrome, interior etc are very beautiful. The car has had only 1 owner in Holland since 1998. The car has the original 1584 CC 4 cyl 50 HP boxer engine and 4 speed manual gearbox. The car also has a black softtop and Lemmerz-GT wheels. The popularity of this original Beetles is increasing lately, so thiscar is a good combination of driving fun and good investment. Car has Holland title and Holland mot/tuv. Easy to register in every EU country. You do not need to pay any importtaxes. We can help with transport.

    • Year: 1975
    For sale
  • Volkswagen Beetle Coupe 1965

    POA POA

    SOLD/VERKAUFT/VENDU/VERKOCHT Volkswagen Beetle 1300 1965, old model, new paint, technics very good 1965 VW Beetle 1300. This old model is very popular thanks to the wide mudguards and round bumpers. Recently the car is painted in colour Ruby Red (L456) and has become a new grey interior, a marvelous and original combination on this 1965 Beetle. The car has a 1285 CC 4 cyl boxer engine with 40 HP. Technics fully checked and in great condition. So a beautiful 1965 Volkswagen Beetle, optically and technically ready for lots of driving fun. Car has Holland title and Holland mot/tuv. Easy to register in every EU country. You do not need to pay any importtaxes. We can help with transport.

    • Year: 1965
    For sale
  • Volkswagen Beetle Coupe 1973

    POA POA

    Volkswagen Beetle 1973 original Jeans Bug, new paint, new interior The Jeans Bug was introduced in 1973 by Volkswagen and distinguishes itself a.o. by the colour Tunis Gelb (L16M), jeans interior, Lemmertz GT rims and matte black parts instead of chrome parts. This original Dutch VW Jeans is from the first serie, built in 1973 and has had only 2 owners. The car got new paint and new jeans interior in 2015. Technics in very good condition. The original 1192 CC 4 Cyl engine is fully checked in our workshop. Car has Holland title and Holland mot/tuv. Easy to register in every EU country. You do not need to pay any importtaxes. We can help with transport.

    • Year: 1973
    For sale
  • Volkswagen Beetle 1303 LS cabriolet 1973

    POA POA

    SOLD / VERKAUFT / VENDU / VERKOCHT Volkswagen Beetle 1303 LS cabriolet 1973 in good condition This 1973 Volkswagen Beetle convertible has beautiful Lemmerz GT wheels. Both the in- and outside are in good condition with a few minor traces of use. The 1584 CC, 50 HP engine is in excellent technical condition and is easy to handle thanks to the manual gearbox. So a beautiful and nice Volkswagen Beetle cabriolet, ready for lots of driving fun. Car has German title and mot/tuv. Easy to register in every EU country. You do not need to pay any importtaxes. We can help with transport.

    • Year: 1973
    For sale
  • Volkswagen Beetle Coupe 1971

    POA POA

    SOLD/VERKAUFT/VENDU/VERKOCHT Volkswagen Beetle 1300 1971, new paint and interior in very good condition 1971 Volkswagen Beetle 1300.This originally in Holland delivered Beetle has recently become new paint in the original colour Kansas Beige (91D) in combination with a red leatherette interior. In the back there is the 1300 CC, 44 HP air cooled engine. Technics are fully checked in our workshop and in great condition. When you are looking for a very beautiful VW Beetle, ready to drive, this one is a good choice. Car has Holland title and Holland mot/tuv. Easy to register in every EU country. You do not need to pay any importtaxes. We can help with transport.

    • Year: 1971
    For sale
  • Volkswagen Beetle Cabriolet 1971

    POA POA

    Volkswagen Beetle cabriolet 1302 LS 1971 revised engine in very good condition This is an original 1971 Volkswagen Beetle convertible. The car has very beautiful green paint, original rims in the same colour and a luggagerack. The black interior is in a very beautiful and well maintained condition. Recently the 1584CC engine is fully revised in our workshop and is in perfect condition. This Beetle is in Holland since 1998. The car also has a black mohair softtop. So a very beautiful, perfect driving VW Beetle cabriolet. Car has Holland title and Holland mot/tuv. Easy to register in every EU country. You do not need to pay any importtaxes. We can help with transport.

    • Year: 1971
    For sale
  • Volkswagen Beetle 1300S 1973

    €11,950(£10,581.73) €11,950(£10,581.73)

    Volkswagen Beetle 1300S 1973, 1600CC, disc brakes This 1973 Volkswagen Beetle was originally delivered in Holland. The car has the marvellous Marina Blau paint and white wall tyres. The 1300S has the original 1600CC engine and disc brakes at the front. The interior has the dashboard in the colour of the paint and black leatherette seats. The VW drives great and looks fabulous. Car has Holland title and mot/tuv. Easy to register in every EU country. You do not need to pay any import taxes. We can help with transport.

    • Year: 1973
    For sale
  • Volkswagen Beetle

    $1(£0.74) $1(£0.74)

    We are over ten years in stainless steel bumpers producing for classical car, so we know how to serve customers best. Our bumpers are made from the solid stainless steel grade 304, 1.5- 2mm thickness and polished. The gloss of bumper is shiny like mirror polish, even better than chrome bumper. Our products also will be never rusty. Contact us soon to get the best style for your cars. The contact details: Ms Cathy Sale departments I am honor to serve customer all over the world

    • Year: pre 1900
    For sale
    Cathy Ta
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