I want to buy some German insect power!
February 24, 2011 5:32 PM   Subscribe

What Volkswagen (old) Beetle model/year/feature set is right for us?

So, the girlfriend and I are toying with the idea of purchasing a VW Beetle as a second vehicle. We're still in the early research phase but I would really appreciate ANY input from some mefites regarding the subject.

We are specifically looking at a Beetle for the following impressions (in no particular order). First, they're [seemingly] in our price range of $2000 to $5000, preferably at the lower end. Second, they're easy to work on and I'm pretty handy with a decent set of hand tools already. Finally, my girlfriend has always liked the look of them and having a non-pristine vehicle in a college town isn't a bad idea. On top of that the gas mileage with a standard should be in the good-great range for a normal IC engine vehicle.

Items of interest are as follows:

1. I've read that the newer model years are actually cheaper than the earlier ones. I'm guessing this is due to collector/vintage demand. This is not the case with us. We want more bang/reliability for our buck.

2. I'm having a hard time finding information on the various models/feature sets for Beetles. I really expected some beginner google-fu to turn up far more information, in a very nicely laid out fashion, than I could ever want. Any pointers?

3. I've already read up some on what must be the more common problems with older Bugs (rotted metal in trunk, heater ducts, saggy doors, etc) but I welcome any advice here beyond the basic used car buying tips. Engine/drivetrain tips specific to Beetles would be awesome.

4. This is getting a bit ahead of things but if anyone has first-hand experience with awesome parts retailers/suppliers it'd be great to hear who to use/avoid.

I guess that's it. We live in a medium, small city in the panhandle of Florida if you want any geographical context. The market seems ok here with 3 or 4 for sale within driving distance (probably because it's a college town). We're also prepared to use the windows as 'AC' and for our legs to stick to the vinyl seats. Also, we're not going to be heading across the country in this baby for a long time, and even around town we have AAA membership in case things go sour somewhere nearby.

Thanks all!
posted by RolandOfEld to Shopping (33 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Check out the Samba Beetle Forums. They have buying guides, FAQ, and are the best source of information on older Volkswagens.
posted by calumet43 at 5:50 PM on February 24, 2011

Stay away from the 1961 as that year had a unique transmission mount that's not compatible with all the other years. Makes it a bit of an orphan parts-wise. 69 was the 1st year of independent rear suspension, iirc, and those are the 2 biggest structural differences over the years that can't be compensated for by a bit of parts-swapping.

Find the year that looks best to you and build it meet your specs and taste. It can be an ongoing builkd as the car is used as a daily driver.

Personally, my favorite body style is the 1966 1300 as I prefer the old style headlight lenses and the 1300 model in 66 included the popout rear side windows not standard in the beetle until 67. I owned several 66's over the years and the best ones had the 6 volt electrical systems upgraded to 12 volt for increased reliability and to overcome the grounding issues inherent in 6 volt bugs. The only issue with that is dealing with a 6 volt wiper motor running on 12 volts. Not a big problem here in the desert but could be a major issue in a rainier climate. All beetles became 12 volt in the 67 and later years.

What do you want a motor to do for you? I preferred torquey low end motors and went with low compression 1600 engines with dual port heads. We called them Brazilian forklift motors as they served up lots of industrial type reliability, low maintenance and ran great on the shitty gas available in Baja California in the 1970s.
posted by buggzzee23 at 5:51 PM on February 24, 2011

I don't know how far away you live from Daytona, but my boyfriend (who eats/sleeps/breathes vintage VW bugs and buses) says that you should check out the WinterJam Festival if you are interested in an older VW bugs. There should also be tons of stuff for sale also. I'll be back on later after we eat dinner because he has a lot to say about this topic.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 5:51 PM on February 24, 2011

I'm with buggzzee I'd stay with the 62-68 years which are my favs my first car was a 67 and I swear I fixed just about everything on that car with a couple of screwdrivers and adjustable wrenches.
posted by bitdamaged at 6:19 PM on February 24, 2011

Oh oh. The madness begins. VW Beetles are fabulous machines. I drove and owned almost every variety over the years. Dollar value and sophistication wise, I liked the 71 and 72 Super Beetles, but in many ways these are a different car, and so don't fit that into that VW compatibility niche as easily.

That said, moving too far back time-wise sets the price skyrocketing for anything worthwhile. 6 volts is a pain in the ass these days, so what you want is a post 67 to 74 ish Beetle. This will get you a passenger mirror, 12 volts with enough power to run your electrical devices such as your Ipad, cell phone, etc,; dual speed windshield wipers, ( Duh) and the ability to go up hills with 2 people in 3rd gear.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 6:43 PM on February 24, 2011

Just so you know, the phrases "old VW Beetle" and "feature set" do not belong in the same sentence. And it's good that you're handy and they're easy to work on, because they really aren't low-maintenance cars. But I'm not trying to discourage you; I've owned a few bugs and I still feel a shudder of envy when I see someone driving one (which is rarely here in the rust belt).
posted by bricoleur at 6:53 PM on February 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Clarifying: I'm well open to info about the Super Beetle vs Beetle situation.

Thanks for the info on WinterJam, it's possible but probably not likely.
posted by RolandOfEld at 7:02 PM on February 24, 2011

Good point about the starkness of the Beetle, bricoleur. It seems likely that many users of this generation will be taken aback by the sheer absence of any sophistication in these machines. Personally though, I think that any willingness to embrace simplicity and function over "features" might actually be progress.

This is why I brought up things like dual-speed wipers, the ability to travel on highways without flashing hazards, and having 12 volt power. Low, to almost zero-cost, maintenance is totally possible with these cars for someone with the willingness and aptitude.

The skill-set can only come with experience. As with all obsessions, you do it out of love, not the ROI. I will always encourage anyone to explore the functionality of older and simpler machines, especially for an elegant and practical design like the Bug.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 7:19 PM on February 24, 2011

I forgot to mention the importance of the motor being built by someone who knows what they're doing. I was lucky enough to grow up 2 doors down from this guy and that was a HUGE advantage.

Also, know your Beetle's strengths and limitations. On the plus side, they'll go thru Hell and highwater for you. On the downside, they're major deathtraps and will crumple up like a beer can in impacts that would be considered minor impacts in other cars. I've lost a couple friends in VW crashes and known several others who suffered broken legs and/or knees. The old hard mounted rear view mirrors (pre-68, IIRC) have inflicted way too many seriously ugly forehead scars that look like something out of a Frankenstein movie.
posted by buggzzee23 at 7:24 PM on February 24, 2011

Yeah, most of the high-maintenance can be blamed on valve adjustments every 3000 miles and 1500 mile oil changes. Using a dual port cylinder head with modern aftermarket valves installed, and aftermarket oil filter kit and a late model fan shroud with an offset oil cooler (previous models blocked airflow to the #3 cylinder and burnt that exhaust valve) will greatly reduce the maintenance schedule.
posted by buggzzee23 at 7:29 PM on February 24, 2011

loved my 68 beetle, with its 1600cc engine and 12-volt wiring. it would reasonably go 80 on straightaways (before a cadillac hit it) and always *seemed* fast enough that I never tried to drive it into curves at speed.

my constant friends in those days:
- many bandanas easily reachable from the driver's seat, for wiping fog off the inside of the windshield. pro tip: bandanas you've blown your nose on (a couple days ago, so it's dry) seem to keep the fog from returning as quickly. no I don't know why - it was a serendipitous discovery.
- rain-x. after my wipers quit working entirely I just never bothered to fix them; since the windshield is flat and nearly perpendicular to the road, rain practically falls off it anyway, and rain-x makes it like it's not even raining (well, on the windshield at least. everywhere else - your feet, for example - will know to the millimeter how much precipitation there is)
- one spare oil screen kit, and lots of fresh oil. every healthy bug seeps a little. check your oil often, and change it religiously, since there's no filter, just this little screen that looks like your kitchen sink drain strainer. change the screen every other time you change the oil, and remember to re-tighten the screen cover nuts crosswise and radially so it won't leak.
- a generator belt. you'll pop one at the most inopportune time, but they're easy to replace.
- OMG how could I forget - the John Muir book. It's well (if ramblingly) written and the procedures work.
- I bought my accessories and gaskets at West Coast Metric
- most of what I needed for functional parts I bought locally (Tampa/St Pete) at Fisher Buggies, Baggerly (both sell on the web) and in junkyards and U-Pull-Its. Here's one (Butler) that may be near you.

sure, they're terribly dangerous cars. OTOH, they have almost no blind spot, and since the engine is louder than the radio, it's unlikely you'll be too distracted from your driving duties.

Something about driving a vehicle with a metal steering wheel and dashboard, and some nylon straps that a sane person would never confuse with real seatbelts, tends to really focus the mind toward *preventive* (never mind defensive) driving. I'm always a better driver in my hurtling miniature coffin of death (62 Karmann Ghia) than in any modern car with SRS, ABS and the rest of the safety alphabet.

finally, there are lots of vw parts people who would love to rip you off, especially in the used parts trade. How can you tell? their lips are moving when they talk. When you look at used parts, don't buy from the first place, or the first thing you see, before you check elsewhere about new (brazil, generally), remanufactured, NOS ("new/unused" old stock from brazil, mexico, germany) or just another used vendor. "All you can pull" day at the U Pull It is one of the events that makes owning a VW all the more sweet.
posted by toodleydoodley at 8:07 PM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Features? Early bugs lack gas gauges.
posted by tremspeed at 8:09 PM on February 24, 2011

On top of that the gas mileage with a standard should be in the good-great range for a normal IC engine vehicle.

What does good-great mileage mean to you? Because you're probably looking at mid-20s, maybe a bit higher for highway driving with a light foot, maybe a bit lower for city driving or with a poorly tuned carb. Great for the day but on the poor side of average for for an economy car today. For your budget you could get a number of modern vehicles (a late 90s Civic for example) with equal or better mileage, more comfort and convenience, wide parts availability, and, most importantly, far far higher safety than any 60s/70s vehicle.

I only bring this up because the mention of mileage suggests at least some minor level of practical consideration and a classic car really can't be justified under those terms. You get one because it's cool or different or a labor of love or because you've always wanted the XYZ dream car.
posted by 6550 at 8:24 PM on February 24, 2011

Get yourself a copy of How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive: A Manual of Step-by-Step Procedures for the Compleat Idiot, by John Muir.

This is definitively, and without compare, the best car manual ever written. It's that good that you might find yourself just reading it for pleasure, but amongst other things, it contains a useful VW buying guide that will help you on your journey.

I've only owned a 65 & a 66, for about 10 years each, and would recommend a 65 or 66, but mostly just because I don't like the look of the newer models, so you're getting the most (relatively) new beetle possible, but without paying the premium for the seriously collectible models like the 'ovals' (with oval-shaped rear windows).

(pro tip for 6V to 12V conversions: install a dimmer-style switch for the windscreen wiper controls)
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:19 AM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Memail me and I'll send you my copy of the Muir book.

I'd recommend the 72 super. Decent-sized engine, real seat belts, still tremendously easy to work on.

I'll give a real quick and cheap way to check for a shot engine. Pull off the center tap to the distributor and hold it with a rag and put it close to a good ground (frame, fan shroud, etc). Making sure you have nothing dangling that would get caught in the belt, have a friend turn over the car in neutral and do two things:
1. Watch the spark
2. Listen to the sound of the engine.

The spark is minor (just a while you're at it) - if it's anything but bright blue, you'll need a new ignition coil.

The engine should make a nice even DA-DA-DA-DA DA-DA-DA-DA DA-DA-DA-DA noise. If it sounds like this DA-DA-da-da or DA-da-da-da - anything but even, then the compression is weak in at least 1 cylinder and you're looking at a new engine or a rebuild.

While a compression gauge is the accurate way to tell if you've got a problem, your ears are the cheapest since VW bugs are inclined to get weak in one cylinder first (#3, IIRC).

You should also make sure every gear shifts smoothly. Start it in first, second and reverse at the least. If it pops out of gear, you're looking at a bad transmission.

In a bug, there are three fluids - gas, oil, and brake fluid. Makre sure they're all good and well-contained.

Good luck and enjoy - I've been thinking about doing a bug-electric conversion.
posted by plinth at 3:14 AM on February 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

In a bug, there are three four fluids - gas, oil, and brake fluid, plus water.

(for the windscreen washers, from 1960 onwards)
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:30 AM on February 25, 2011

Ok ... I got some comments on this one.

the earlier the year model, the prettier the bug (ovals and '58s were real pretty) ... but swing axel trans, drum brakes, 40horse engines, and 6 volts was a killer.

The 1500s, superbugs, and '70s 1300s were the best of the beetles (but skip on the LBug with he curved windscreen) ... but not as purty!

You'll get lots of advice from internetters which will range from poorly informed to wrong ... like they are unsafe (all cars are unsafe ... tailor your driving t your car!), or that John Muir is the be all and end al of beetle knowledge (fun book ... but he was neither a mechanic or an electrician or an engineer ... it shows).

So know this going in ... they are high maintenance cars ... you planning on spending a day every three months doing the service?

And it won't have the original engine ... so you will need to know if it was rebuilt well and maintained well since. (and beetle engines only get 100K max before requiring a rebuild ... might be coming up soon)

Rust is a killer, and often hidden by bog. Use a magnet around the front and back window, door posts, jack point

"restored" and/or "cal look" frequently means some idiot has badly rebuilt it and added a shiny paint job ... but it can also mean a good job was done and you are getting a bargain ... can you tell the difference?

The oracle of all beetle knowledge on the internet was a guy named bob hoover (he recently passed away) ... google the "sermons of bob hoover" and try to find the PDF ... and check out his blog

Your best bet is to find an older beetle mechanic to check it over for you ... but there ain't too many of those left, and you gotta trust them (I had a close family friend, and an uncle).

Good Luck ... J
posted by jannw at 3:39 AM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

"Feature set"?!? Oh, thank you SO much for that giggle! An old Beetle's 'feature set' is that there's seats, a steering wheel, tires on each corner.... I loved my old '69 (drove her thru foot-high flood waters, rolled her over entirely once, hot-hot-hot summers or freezing winters she still kept going), but her AM radio was as fancy as it got. (In theory she had a heater, defroster and windshield-wiper fluid pumps, but don't even bother.....)

And add another big vote for the John Muir book: even if you didn't plan to be hands-on, it's just fun reading!
posted by easily confused at 3:49 AM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

drove her thru foot-high flood waters, rolled her over entirely once, hot-hot-hot summers or freezing winters she still kept going

My 65 ("Penny") I maintained myself. One time, I mistakenly hooked up the battery the wrong way around. Penny drove perfectly normally; the only thing was that I was wondering "why does her fuel gauge flick violently to the left (massively empty) whenever I turned on the ignition?

Very hardy cars, beetles. What other car could drive for a month on a completely reversed electrical circuit?
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:20 AM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

You must of course remember the First Rule of air-cooled VW driving, which is that when you see and air cooled VW coming the other way, both drivers must wave. This is not optional.

Check the heaters, too. Lots of Beetles have heaters that basically consist of an air jacket around a bit of the exhaust system. All it takes is a little rust, and you get exhaust gas seeping into the heated air feeding the interior. Which gives rise to remarks about German HVAC techniques that I'm totally not going to go anywhere near.
posted by flabdablet at 7:04 AM on February 25, 2011

@UbuRoivas - HA! That was clearly my subconscious editing that down to three fluids. The washer on mine never worked.

As was mentioned, bugs need maintenance. Need it - especially oil changes. My bug went about 250,000 miles. It always ran (except for the day the wrecker took it away), but it never ever ran 100% right. Something always broke that I had to fix in some way - usually something minor - but that was the way of it.
posted by plinth at 7:21 AM on February 25, 2011

Newer model years are actually cheaper than the earlier ones. I'm guessing this is due to collector/vintage demand

Also, way more late 60s and 70s bugs were manufactured and exported.
posted by Rash at 11:19 AM on February 25, 2011

I just wanted to add a couple of points about maintenance & safety:

Maintenance - Beetles are incredibly easy to work on, as long as you have a bare minimum of ability with your hands. I've done everything from upgrading the entire electricals from 6V to 12V, to replacement of body panels & windows. Apart from regular scheduled servicing that you would do with any car (ie grease & oil changes, replacement brake pads etc) neither car has given me any significant mechanical grief. Plenty of parts are available either from scrapyards, or new Mexican / Brazilian parts, but West Coast Metric in California are your go-to suppliers of quality parts. Grab yourself a catalogue, they're available free at any VW parts store or workshop. Part of the genius of the design is that they didn't just change things for change's sake from one year to the next, so in a lot of cases something from a 63 model, for example, will fit perfectly in a 66.

Safety - unless you're randomly T-boned by a SUV at an intersection, I agree with toodleydoodley that they're actually quite safe, because you're more "physically present" than in a super-quiet modern car. Personally, I like driving with the window open most of the time to reduce the noise a bit, so this also helps keep me alert. Also, because they don't have as much acceleration as modern cars, you're less likely to run into trouble by speeding. You can putter along happily at 35mph without feeling the need to push it to 40 or 50, which is always a temptation in a quiet, powerful car.

PS - they're quite small & maneuverable & as a result very easy to park.
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:58 PM on February 25, 2011

Response by poster: Wow, great answers let me see here...

First off, multiple people have made mention of the safety hazards. I guess my point of view simply accounts for the inherent dangers of being out on the public roadways naturally. I currently drive a Toyota Yaris and my girlfriend bikes back and forth to school everyday on her bicycle. Let's just say that we're well aware of what it feels like being the smaller, less protected entities on the road. The rest is out of our hands...

Regarding my, obviously comical, usage of the phrase "feature set", let me say that I'm well aware of the fact that these cars don't come with heated leather seats, power windows/locks, and other niceties. I was really just asking about hypothetical differences that may have existed within the same production/model runs. It is fun to notice that the community reaction to my phrase is one of the most telling things about the vehicle's impression on people.

Lastly, I'm a bit more concerned regarding costs now that I've read everyone's posts. There seems to be a, admittedly slight, divide between those that say the bug is cheap to maintain/operate and those that seem to be giving the impression that neverending maintenance is inherent and should be expected. I guess my main concern is that I might be getting into a 'money pit' situation. If it's going to cost 3x as much as another comparable used-car to operate then it might not be such a good decision after all. Please don't misunderstand me, my budget doesn't require a beater Geo Metro 2-door or some such but neither does it include a yearly outlay roughly equal to Fort Knox either.

Oh, on that note, it seems like there is a fair amount of VW here in FL, if not exactly in my area, so I'm hoping I could find an expert or three to consult regarding engine/transmission questions that may be beyond my initial desire to fiddle with. I guess time will tell.

Thanks all, I will keep you informed on developments.
posted by RolandOfEld at 5:39 PM on February 25, 2011

RolandOfEld writes "There seems to be a, admittedly slight, divide between those that say the bug is cheap to maintain/operate and those that seem to be giving the impression that neverending maintenance is inherent and should be expected. I guess my main concern is that I might be getting into a 'money pit' situation. If it's going to cost 3x as much as another comparable used-car to operate then it might not be such a good decision after all. Please don't misunderstand me, my budget doesn't require a beater Geo Metro 2-door or some such but neither does it include a yearly outlay roughly equal to Fort Knox either."

It's not so much that an old beetle is going to be expensive to maintain on a yearly basis (though it may be, I've only had one Beetle and that only for a relatively short period of time) it's that all cars from the 60s required continuous maintenance even when brand new and with the exception of tires it hasn't got much better after 50+ years.

So stuff like oil change (and lube; does the beetle have grease fittings?) intervals are much shorter than a modern car. A 4000 mile road trip means getting the oil changed at least once while on the trip even if you get it done just before you leave. My '66 Chrysler had 13 grease nipples that needed grease every time the oil was changed plus lubing the spring packs. Instead of just replacing a sealed wheel bearing every 100K you need to repack it at regular intervals. These things aren't all that expensive especially if you are doing them yourself but it means your car needs constant fiddling with. Also on the Beetle you have to closely monitor the spare tire pressure because it powers your windshield washer fluid nozzles.

RolandOfEld writes "I currently drive a Toyota Yaris and my girlfriend bikes back and forth to school everyday on her bicycle. Let's just say that we're well aware of what it feels like being the smaller, less protected entities on the road."

It's not only that the Beetle is smaller than most everything else on the road. It's also that in an accident the car is actively trying to kill you. The Beetle didn't even get a collapsible steering column until 68. Single circuit brakes were equipped till '66. The dash was unpadded until '73. Whiplash protection was absent until '77. Even for the sixties the Beetle was of average safety and by the 70's it was bad.
posted by Mitheral at 6:44 AM on February 26, 2011

In terms of money-pit problems with a bug - that's mainly if you want to do a bunch of crazy stuff with it, like pan-off restoration, major mods, etc. If what you want is a clean, plain, daily driver, basically look for the best body and frame, and almost don't worry about the engine. You can buy one of those.

I drove my Type 1s (68 bug, 69 bug, 62 ghia) every day, rain, shine, snow, you name it, for like 6 years. I still keep an antique tag on the ghia in case every other vehicle fails me, because I know it won't. I've never wondered if my car would start in the morning, because even if you kill the battery, it is light enough to push-start yourself (oh, except in deep sand. don't leave your lights on at the beach). They always start.

Maintenance-wise, the thing I had to do all the time was stay on top of the oil. Occasionally get the timing adjusted. And that's pretty much it.
posted by toodleydoodley at 7:26 AM on February 26, 2011

Also on the Beetle you have to closely monitor the spare tire pressure because it powers your windshield washer fluid nozzles.

hahahaha! Yours works? I've never seen one that does! Get a bottle of rain-x, tear off your wipers and throw them away. Their mere existence will only frustrate you. Nothing like driving over the bay at 70 mph in a rainstorm, wipers merrily swiping, only to have a rogue gust of wind snatch the wiper right off the stem and hurl it into the engulfing whitecaps 60 feet below, leaving the wiper arm to scratch swooping arcs into your windscreen. Now you have to unroll the window and get soaked as you reach your left hand out to flip the wiper arm away from the window, all the while trying to maintain your lane and see through your rain-spattered window.

trust me. as a bug owner, rain-x is your bestest friend.
posted by toodleydoodley at 7:32 AM on February 26, 2011

Yeah, whoever designed the windshield-wiper fluid to be pushed out the nozzles BY THE SPARE TIRE'S AIR PRESSURE oughta be keelhauled: if, and ONLY if, I had my spare tire constantly pumped up to over 60psi would mine work --- and I don't know about you, but I prefer to have a spare tire that, oh I dunno, might actually be safe to use AS a spare tire?!?

Don't get me wrong, Bugs (like cockroaches ;D) are really tough and hard to kill; keep up on the maintenance and it'll last dang near forever. Think about it: most of the old VWs you see on the road are 35-50 YEARS old --- that alone has to say something about their reliability and repairability. How many other cars that age do you see still out there as daily drivers?
posted by easily confused at 8:42 AM on February 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

69 was the 1st year of independent rear suspension, iirc

This is worth being aware of. Earlier beetles had swing-axle rear suspension. With this, the rear wheels angle out slightly, and as you take a corner, the outside wheel becomes more & more vertical as the rear of the car kind of 'floats' over it (through the weight of the engine) and if you push it too far there's a sudden moment when the outside wheel goes past vertical in what's often known as a "rear wheel tuck". This is basically when the car rolls, unless you correct right away.

You have to be taking a corner way too fast for this to happen, but to mitigate the risk there are a couple of things you can do:

a) get a later model with independent rear suspension, or
b) check that the car has (or get installed) a "camber stop bar" or "camber compensator" which basically bolts onto the suspension to stop the rear wheel going into negative camber like that.
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:34 AM on February 26, 2011

PS - I don't mean to alarm you with that swing-axle thing; I drove my 65 for 10 years without any kind of camber correction, and for city driving that's really alright. It's mostly only on highways if you take a long sweeping curve too fast that you might run into problems. Having said that, if it's a tossup between one year model and another, independent rear suspension is a nice thing to have, or else a camber stop bar like I said.

The other thing that is pretty obvious but may not have been said yet: engines get bigger the newer you get. Basically, you're looking at 1200cc until about 1965 (American v Australian models may not be exactly aligned, so check the US situation for yourself), then 1300cc until the early 70s (?) then 1600. Note that a lot of people get older engines bored out from 1200/1300 to 1640 - it's quite a standard modification, and my 66 has it. But in general, bigger engines & more power on newer models.
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:23 PM on February 26, 2011

Response by poster: Took a 66 for a test drive today and noticed a few things right off the bat. Namely that the gearshifter has an enormous throw in it and that it wasn't as loud as I expected it to be (on the inside anyway).

I definitely need more of a baseline to judge Beetles by because the power seemed quite lacking and I wonder if there wasn't even some engine issues affecting the starting power since I almost killed it at 2 different stops (and I'm a daily driver of manuals, though not classic/aircooled/etc).

Plinth , I didn't try your distributor ignition test but will if I head to look at it again. Anyone know of a good youtube video clip that will help me know what an engine in good/ideal shape sounds like? I've found a few but most seem to be people who are tricking theirs out or have made modifications/improvements.

We're in no hurry so the search continues but I may be pinging some of ya for information on specific purchases in the intermediate future because you've been so much of a help already that I can't let you off the hook that easy. I'm guessing I'll join up on some forums too and use that resource as best I can.

Thanks again.
posted by RolandOfEld at 7:13 PM on February 28, 2011

Just to add to the fun, as well as manuals and automatics, there's also SEMI-automatic..... my '69 of revered memory was a 3-speed semi-automatic: to shift you merely took you foot off the gas and shifted gears, there wasn't any clutch pedal.
posted by easily confused at 3:43 AM on March 2, 2011

Just to add to the fun, as well as manuals and automatics, there's also SEMI-automatic..... my '69 of revered memory was a 3-speed semi-automatic: to shift you merely took you foot off the gas and shifted gears, there wasn't any clutch pedal.

as a result of syncromesh transmissions, you can do this with pretty much all manual transmission cars and trucks manufactured after like (can't remember dates) 1950 or so. I mean except for first gear. Fun fact: you can drive a VW totally without the clutch for at least a couple days til you can get it repaired, depending on traffic. just float-shift (gently rev the engine for the right engine-transmission speed match) up and down as speed requirements change, creep through stop signs, and if you must stop, just turn the car off. then when you have to go again, put the car in 2nd and start it, gently fluttering the gas as you do. there will be a mild lurch, and you'll be off again.

oh yeah, oh yeah, yesterday (while I was commuting home in my karmann ghia that had stale gas in it) I thought of the other importantest thing you have to know about old VWs living in Florida -- WATER IN THE GAS! yep, you'll get it, especially in those rural areas. Carry like 4-5 bottles of Heet and add one any time you have to get gas in a rural location, or when there's been lots of rain. if you get a lot of water, you'll have to drain the tank and blow out the fuel lines. Symptom: car starts and runs, but lurches (like, till your teeth wanna fall out) and sputters alarmingly at speed. exhaust smells almost sugary.
posted by toodleydoodley at 5:17 PM on March 3, 2011

« Older Where should I put the Do Not Bend labels?   |   Looking for user and designer friendly ecommerce... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.