By on April 27, 2010

It’s yellow convertible week at CC, and I have one too many. And since I have a lovely early sixties VW Cabriolet (un-yellow) in the can, this less desirable early seventies Super Beetle Cabrio gets nudged into the Outtake position.  No hard feelings.

This was ’71 or ’72 presaged the end of the line for the Beetle Cabrio. According to wiki, it continued to be made by Karman until 1980, on the Super Beetle platform, which was discontinued for regular Beetles in 1976. But were they really imported into the US that late? Hmm.

The first Beetle Cabriolet was a hand built prototype built for and given to Adolf Hitler himself. A forty two year run, not bad for a car that was still attracting buyers to its cute looks and very solid construction. The VW top was a revelation to Americans who hadn’t been exposed to such a nicely padded and lined top. Never mind that one couldn’t see out the back when the top was open.

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21 Comments on “Curbside Classic Outtake: One Too Many...”


  • avatar
    educatordan

    So VW fanatics, what makes a Super Beetle “SUPER?”

    • 0 avatar
      Paul Niedermeyer

      It had to do with a completely new front section, from the cowl forward. It was longer, wider, and had a totally different suspension, using McPherson struts. The purpose was to increase the pathetically small trunk, and to improve the Beetle’s passive safety. The engine output was not higher per se, depending on the year and model.

    • 0 avatar
      peekay

      The Super Beetle had a longer and wider front, with an updated suspension (I think it was McPherson struts rather than torsion bars). In Canada we still got the regular Beetle as well, with the old front end. Both versions had the same 1600cc engine.

    • 0 avatar
      peekay

      Looks like Paul and I were typing the same thing at the same time!

    • 0 avatar
      revjasper

      The “Super” had the spare tire laying flat behind the bumper rather than upright on the regular beetle. When I had mine, I figured that tire would be the added energy absorption to save my life. Thankfully, I never tested that.

      The car in the pictures is a ’72, four louvers, flat windshield and those tail-lights. A ’71 would only have two sets of louvers.

    • 0 avatar
      peekay

      While the ’71 sedan only had two sets of louvers, I think the ’71 convertible had four. Therefore, I think this could be either a ’71 or ’72. I’m betting ’72 because of the color.

    • 0 avatar
      bill h.

      I had a ’71 Super, with the two sets of louvers on the rear engine cover. But after sustaining some damage in a collision, we replaced the rear cover and all that was available were the four-louver variety. Voila, instant ’72.

      I’d vote for this one being a ’72 as well, if that is the original color.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    Super in relation to the Beetle was relative. The regular Beetle had a top speed of about 67 mph, at a time when the speed limit on most interstates was 70.

    • 0 avatar
      baabthesaab

      Actually, my ’68 beetle with the 1500 cc engine had an advertised top speed of 78 mph. While the actual top speed was lower in cold weather – air-cooling prevented the engine from warming up fully – it would cruise at 70 all day if there were no big hills to contend with. The one pictured has a 1600 cc engine which, I believe, was good for 81 mph.

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      In the summer of 1965, I recall driving from DC to Philadelphia in a VW beetle with at least two other members of my (rowing) crew. The driver was the coxswain, so he was small, but the other person was my size more or less (6’4″). I don’t recall having to be in the slow lane on the trip, which was on 65 mph speed limit interestates, once you got north of Baltimore.

      As a former VW “tuner,” I recall two significant changes that happened in, I believe, 1970. First, the 1600 cc engine was given dual intake port heads. This improved breathing quite a lot and allowed the installation of dual 2-bbl. carburetors on very short manifolds, one to serve each bank of cylinders. Holley made a purpose-built carb for the job, which they called the “Bug Spray!” Tuners who were feeling flush with money could go the expensive route with Webers, but supposedly they didn’t run better than the Holleys. Secondly, the single jointed swing axle was replaced with a double jointed axle, which greatly reduced rear wheel camber changes as the suspension worked up and down. This made a very big improvement in handling, reducing lift-throttle oversteer quite a lot.

      I seem to remember that the thinking at the time was that the more sophisticated front suspension in the Super Beetle gave it better handling than the regular Beetle; but, IMHO, the much more important change — common to all VWs — was the introduction of the double-jointed rear axle.

      My personal car at the time was a Karman Ghia, with the dual-carb setup and an equal-length header exhaust would easily cruise at 70 and top out well over 80, while getting 30 mpg. Of course, the Ghia was more aerodynamic than the Beetle. I called it the “poor man’s Porsche,” which it was.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert Schwartz

      My Bug had a 1300, and wouldn’t go that fast.

    • 0 avatar
      baabthesaab

      A fun game (for other drivers) back in the 60′s was to slow down on the Interstate in front of a beetle causing the beetle to pull out to pass. Then they would match the beetle’s speed increase until its driver got frustrated and fell back in line.

      Then rinse and repeat.

  • avatar

    The Beetle Convertible was indeed imported until ’79. The Rabbit platform Cabriolet came in 1980. Using the convertible’s engine, and I don’t really know why it passed after 1975, VOA imported German production Beetles until 1979 also. These were only available if you ordered them through a VOA dealer and not even all of the dealers knew this was possible.

    The very last formally imported Beetle was in California and titled as a ’79. Someone will have to remind me which Los Angeles dealer had it on display.

  • avatar

    IIRC The last year of the convertible was 1979/80 and it was only available white on white.

  • avatar
    Bancho

    I owned a 1970 Beetle convertible. Mine had the autostick which was kind of interesting to drive in its own way.

    It baffled me but the car really did attract a lot of women. I’m still impressed at how well the tops were built.

    • 0 avatar
      baabthesaab

      The “Automatic Stickshift” was indeed interesting. A 3-speed which you shifted, although there was no clutch pedal. Touching the shift lever disengaged the clutch, which would cure anyone who likes to rest a hand on the lever while driving.

  • avatar

    My review of the old Beetle:

    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/review-used-car-classic-vw-beetle/

    Beautifully preserved example. I love those door hinges. (That would have made a great CC clue!)

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    the original Beetle had a flat windshield….the super had a three dimensional, curved wind screen….I had one EXACTLY as in the picture. During the years I had it, I was constantly fielding requests from women who loved it, thought it was cure, wanted to drive it….That car got me laid more than any other car I’ve owned….

  • avatar
    educatordan

    I asked guys cause my “clinical supervisor” professor at the end of my undergraduate work had a 1977 Super Beetle with about 50,000 original miles on it. He was a collector of antiques and the only reason he had the car was to collect it. It had the chrome eyelids over the lights and the stupid lady bug floor mats, topped off by a thick gold metal flake paint job. He got divorced during my final year in college (caught in a loooooonnnnnnnnnngggggggggg term affair) and he gave the now ex-wife ALL his property including the bug. Saw it in the local auto trader at $2500 OBO. (This was 1999.)

  • avatar
    gslippy

    I’m not generally a fan of convertibles, but IMO VW has always made the best-looking ones around, particularly when they are open.


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