By on January 25, 2016

06 - 1972 Gazelle Kit Car in Colorado junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

Trying to track down the history of all the varieties of fiberglass-bodied kit cars intended to look something like the Mercedes-Benz SSK will drive you crazy in a hurry because so many companies building these cars popped up in the 1970s and 1980s. You could build an “SSK” based on hardware from a Chevy Chevette, a Ford Pinto, or a VW Type 1 Beetle. Many did. Because Classic Motor Carriages and Fiberfab and Tiffany Motor Cars all called their versions “Gazelle” (trying to parse the relationships between those companies is like deciphering the wiring in a Porsche 928), this has become the generic term for these cars.

Anyway, here is an early variety of Gazelle, built on a 1972 Volkswagen Beetle pan, that I found in a Denver yard a few weeks ago. (Read More…)

By on November 17, 2015

2016_beetle_dune_5662

Volkswagen announced Tuesday, one day before the opening of the 2015 Los Angeles Auto Show, that it will sell two new special editions of the Beetle that harken back to previous specials offered up by the automaker.

The Beetle Dune is as close as you can get to a Murano CC without getting all-wheel drive or a Land Rover Evoque. The jacked-up Beetle will wear unique body cladding and Dune stickers that are in no way a nod to the Frank Herbert novels of yesteryear.

(Read More…)

By on April 15, 2013

Redesigning retro is a herculean task. You need to change the vehicle enough to be worth the effort, meanwhile maintaining an iconic retro theme. If you don’t change enough, shoppers won’t see a reason to trade in their old flashback for the new time capsule. Change it too much and you’re left with a caricature. The task is so daunting that few even attempt it. (Just look at the one-hit-wonders: PT Cruiser, HHR, SSR and Thunderbird.) VW on the other hand is different. After all they continued to build and sell the same Beetle with minor tweaks for 65 years straight. If anyone can tweak retro and convince people they need it, it’s VW. Sure enough, 2012 was the best Beetle sales year since 1973. As a chaser to VW’s revived retro-mojo, the Beetle is now offered sans-top and VW tossed us the keys to a brown-on-brown model for a week so we could get our 70s on. Can you dig it?

(Read More…)

By on July 19, 2012

I see many air-cooled Beetles in self-service wrecking yards these days. In fact, I have always seen many VW Type 1s in self-service wrecking yards, going back to my first junkyard adventures in early-80s Oakland. Like any car freak who came of age in that era, I’ve owned some old Beetles, and I can say from experience that there was nothing super about the Super Beetle. In fact, it’s possible that this ’73 is the Super Beetle that I sold in 1983. (Read More…)

By on August 12, 2011

I don’t see quite as many Old Beetles on the streets of Denver as I did when I lived on the Island That Rust Forgot, but a few of the clattery old Germans still serve as daily transportation in the Mile High City. Even though I’ve owned several Beetles, I still can’t nail down exact model years at a glance; we’ll leave that to you Volkswagen zealots aficionados. (Read More…)

By on April 27, 2011


Given the way that Beetles have had all their parts swapped over the decades, I’m always reluctant to try to nail down an exact model year of a street-parked example, particularly when it’s a primered-out survivor owned by a guy who spends a lot of time at junkyards. If we are to go by the taillights and hood latch, this car should be a ’68… or it might be a ’64 with a fender swap… or a ’74 pan with a ’68 body. Anyway, the important thing is that it’s an old air-cooled Volkswagen survivor that gets used as a tow vehicle. (Read More…)

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