Now A Beetle Owner Has Something To Graduate To: 1973 Volkswagen 412 Road Test

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

Volkswagen might feel pretty confident now, but things seemed much scarier for the boys from Wolfsburg back in 1973; the company had milked just about every last drop from the air-cooled/rear-drive platform that had looked so futuristic when they ripped it off from Hans Ledwinka nearly four decades earlier and the verdict was still out on the new generation of water-cooled VWs. American car buyers could still buy the Type 4 in 1973, and so Car & Track felt compelled to review it.

Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

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  • Zeus01 Zeus01 on Mar 15, 2011
    For those who think that motoring enthusiasm begins with a 1990s or newer Toyonda... I can't speak for all who choose to make Toyotas, Hondas or Hyundais their daily driver, but those cars certainly don't have a monopoly on "plain/ boring/ bland" , which btw seems to be the biggest complaint from those biased against them. The same could certainly be said about Malibus, Fusions and Calibers. The best thing about most Toyondas is that while they are not particularly outstanding in any category they strike a very good balance of the ones that count for the vast majority of us: dependability, quality, durability, fuel efficiency, handling, resale value and performance. I realize there are more exciting cars around: Ferarri, Porsche, Aston Martin, Viper, Corvette. And I could probably afford to finance one of the lower-end ones. But that kind of money to me is best spent on aquiring rental properties and besides, the ones I've driven didn't provide the necessary five-to-ten-fold performance advantage to justify the five-to-ten-fold price vs. that of say, a Mazda MX5 or Mustang GT. If I want a rare and fun toy to play with on weekends I can pick up a pristine 85 RX7-GSL-SE or a post-79 Fiat X1/9 for under 8 grand. True, the RX7 at that age is no longer reliable, and the Fiat never was. But they're no more UN-reliable than a post-90 Mercedes, Ferrari, Jaguar or Chrysler. Acceleration may not be outstanding (a shade under 8 seconds to 60 mph for the 7 and over 11 seconds for the X1/9), but both are a blast to drive. And there would be no payments to make.
  • Escapenguin Escapenguin on Mar 16, 2011

    I took a photo of a 411 while vacationing in Oregon. Thought it looked pretty cool:

  • Superdessucke Superdessucke on Mar 20, 2011

    "Body lean is hardly noticable." LOL!! Maybe if your BAC is .25 and you're talking on your cell phone. Watching this scared me, seriously.

  • Bill mcgee Bill mcgee on Feb 02, 2012

    A friend had an uncle who was a Volkswagen dealer in Green Bay who sold him one of these- actually a 1974 412 wagon, kind of a nice red color with a beige interior . As I recall the car was less than impressive. I was driving a 70 Squareback also red also a POS at the time so comparing the two was interesting.The friend at the time had a house in Morelos, Mexico and also owned an early 60s Ford piukup. At the time- maybe now too for all I know-Americans living in Mexico had to drive their U.S. registered vehicles back to the U.S. every months so the friend enlisted me to drive one of them back to Austin where the friend had a house.Well things went alright until the 412 broke down on the Reforma, the main street in Mexico City . A lot of would be mechanics started coming around under the impression that it was a Brasilia , a V.W. model produced in Mexico and Brazil which did look like a junior edition of the 412.We got the damn thing going- luckily this was maybe 1979 when Mexico City was a little smaller and drove it to Austin . It was slow, possibly even slower than my Squareback which unlike the 412 had a stick, but was like a Squareback but 1/4 bigger and handled even crappier somehow. But we took turns driving and I would say it was comfortable and I was able to stretch out and sleep with a bit more room than in my car.And the wierd front trunk was a bit bigger and shaped more like a Corvair's front trunk.