Junkyard Find: 1973 Volkswagen Super Beetle

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

I see many air-cooled Beetles in self-service wrecking yards these days. In fact, I have always seen many VW Type 1 s 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.

I got my bright yellow Super Beetle for free after one of my mom’s coworkers got it stuck between a couple of concrete traffic barriers while driving drunk in Berkeley, tearing off the front fenders and losing her driver’s license in the process. I’d always assumed that the McPherson strut front suspension on the Super Beetle would transform the handling from scary to just bad, but in fact there wasn’t much improvement over the old torsion-bar setup (other than increased cargo space under the hood). I put junkyard fenders on it and drove it a bit, but ended up selling it for $250 to a couple of drunken sailors from the USS Coral Sea.

This car used to be yellow, too, but since my Super Beetle ended up shot full of holes and on fire in an irrigation ditch near Benicia (according to the cops who found it and called me to come deal with “my” car, the Drunken Sailors not having bothered to register the car in their names) I’m guessing this is a different yellow ’73.

This one has all the standard bolt-on upgrades that readers of Hot VWs Magazine, circa 1982, would have installed 30 years back: nerf bars, crankshaft degree wheel, Bosch 009 distributor, and so on.

It’s impressive that so many of these cars have hung on for 30 to 50 years before getting scrapped, and I’ll need to start shooting more of them in junkyards. The air-cooled Beetle was built for 65 years, which makes it the all-time production-run champion… but the Hindustan Motors Ambassador will pass it in 2020 (unless you count the 1948 Morris Oxford instead of the ’54 as the same car as the Amby, in which case it will pass the Beetle next year).

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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  • Burnbomber Burnbomber on Jul 21, 2012

    One of my neighbors had a beautiful restored Karmann Ghia convertible that whet my appetite, a lot. I did some searching, found some Ghias and Beetles (and other older convertibles), test drove them, and wisely graduated to a 1st generation Miata. Which I still have and love. Speedy quick with modern amenities (including AC), and no antique design. I'll always remember a return trip from Austin in an ice storm. I was literally the only car on I-35, in a 68 Beetle. I had to stop atop the hills & scrape the windshield ice. The standard defroster (didn't even know about gas heaters then) would only clear the lower windshield corners.

  • Splitshot Splitshot on Jan 14, 2021

    I'm trying to sell my 1973 super beetle runs great and need some inside cosmetic stuff. Seats are in really good condition, no holes in the floor it does have some rust under, so I'm not sure what to sell it for...help

  • MaintenanceCosts It's not really much of a thought in the buying process. I would think twice about a vehicle assembled in China but other than that I really don't care. Looking at my own history, I've bought six new cars in my lifetime (I don't think choice of used cars says anything at all). I think the most patriotic of them were mostly Japanese brands. (1) Acura, assembled in Japan (2) Honda, assembled in U.S. (3) Pontiac, assembled in Australia (4) Subaru, assembled in U.S. (5) Ford, assembled in U.S. (6) Chevrolet, assembled in Korea
  • ToolGuy News Flash: Canada isn't part of the U.S.
  • Dave M. My Maverick hybrid is my first domestic label ever. It was assembled in Mexico with US components. My Nissan and Subaru were made here, my Toyota, Isuzu and other Nissan had J VINs.
  • ToolGuy "and leaves auto dealers feeling troubled" ...well this is terrible. Won't someone think of the privileged swindlers??
  • ToolGuy "Selling as I got a new car and don't need an extra." ...Well that depends on what new car you chose, doesn't it? 😉