By on April 6, 2016

1969 Volkswagen Beetle in California junkyard, LH Front View - © 2016 Murilee Martin

The production run of the Type 1 Volkswagen Beetle, which was built using essentially the same design from 1938 through 2003, will never be surpassed; the runner-up Morris Oxford II/Hindustan Ambassador was made from 1954 through 2014, and we feel fairly sure that the Chinese Communist Party will put a stop to Chinese production of the first-gen Kia Pride/Ford Festiva long before it beats the Beetle in the year 2053.

I see quite a few Beetles during my junkyard travels, but rarely photograph them. This one, found in a San Francisco Bay Area self-serve yard, had enough of a story to tell that I felt compelled to document it. (Read More…)

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 1, 2013

09 - 1974 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe air-cooled Volkswagen was so rust-prone that it managed to get serious cancer in the normally rust-free San Francisco Bay Area, but quite a few have managed to hang on to life in that region. This last-year-of-production Karmann Ghia coupe showed up at the same Oakland wrecking yard that gave us the beachfront rust victim ’84 Toyota MasterAce and the gory Integra Halloween display last week. Its rust isn’t quite in the same league as the van’s, but then it probably lived further from the ocean. (Read More…)

By on January 5, 2013

I see lots and lots of air-cooled Beetles in self-service wrecking yard, and this has been the case for the 30 years I’ve been frequenting such places. There seems to be an inexhaustible supply of old Type 1 Bugs slowly trickling into junkyards, and I usually ignore them (though I thought this ’73 Super Beetle was interesting enough to photograph). It’s not that I don’t like these cars— I’ve owned a few and thought they were great fun— but mostly they’re just background. Junked Karmann Ghias, on the other hand, get my attention. Sure, they’re Beetles under the skin, but you just don’t see many of the crypto-sporty air-cooled VWs these days. Here’s one I found at a snow-covered Denver self-service yard last week. (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 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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