Junkyard Find: 1969 Volkswagen Beetle

Murilee Martin
by 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.

Hanging from the rear-view mirror was this Class of 1974 high-school graduation tassel. Nobody hangs their graduation tassel in a car they obtain at age 34, and this tassel was so sun-bleached and dry-rotted that it crumbled at the touch, so we can assume that this car’s owner got the car while in high school in the early 1970s.

I wasn’t going to let this tassel get eaten by The Crusher, especially since it’s the right colors to have come from my high school (located about 10 miles from this junkyard). I removed it very carefully, and now it lives on my garage toolbox.

I couldn’t get any dates off this service-station maintenance sticker, but I learned that the car spent some time living in San Jose.

It’s unusual to see a Beetle headliner this intact, which is more evidence that the car was cared for by a loving owner for many decades.

Someone grabbed the engine, which would have been a single-port 1,500cc if original.

It wasn’t rusty and the interior wasn’t too horrible, but nobody wanted to rescue this car in between being discarded, traded in, towed away for unpaid parking tickets, etc., and being put out in the inventory of this pull-your-own-parts wrecking yard.

If you ever wanted a Type 1 Beetle project, get to California and rescue one before it ends up like this!

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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  • Cabriolet Cabriolet on Apr 06, 2016

    Had quite a few of these for the kids. Parts were so easy and cheap for these cars. First one i rebuilt i needed quite a few plastic interior parts. Went to the VW dealer figured it would take about a week for the parts to come in so i took $50.00 with me. Told the man what i wanted and 5 minutes later he had all the parts on the counter. Total price about $26.00. I was floored. I could pull the engine in 15 minutes and have it on a table to work on. I think still today you can get some parts from the VW dealer. Last one i had was a 1978 convertible which was stored in a garage under a bed sheet. Swiss engineer purchased it for his wife but she could never drive stick. I purchased it about 10 years old for $3,500.00 with a thousand miles on the speedometer. My kids loved that car. Had it for approx 6 months and came out of work and the car was gone. Reported it to the NYC Police and they said they never recover these convertibles. 2 months later the insurance company paid me $8,500.00. Made money on the car but was never able to find one as nice as that. To this day i miss that car. Purchased a 1971 2 door a few years ago and got it in good shape but at my age i wanted something that was safer to drive in NYC. Sold that car for $7,500.00 to the first person that called. Now i stick with newer cars.

  • Jhefner Jhefner on Apr 07, 2016

    You are all totally miss-reading this car. It is a '69 Beetle with a '74 tassel in it. Chances are, it was bought new for a family, who then handed it down to it's young owner when they learned to drive. He/she was not a loser who drove nothing but this car their entire lives. If they did, both the interior and exterior would be showing massive amounts of wear by now -- rips, stains, dents, the usual thoroughly used up look of other cars in this series. But that is not the case. The high school quarterback married his high school sweetheart, and they bought that ranch style house in burbs with the two car garage. He had a good life and a good career, and they had kids. As they went on with life, rather than use it up or sell it, they probably stashed it away in a corner of a garage or other building as a keepsake of their youth, their first date, Mom and Dad, and raising the kids. It may have been driven occasionally, but probably spent most of it's time in indoor storage. (Who has not wished they had kept their first car?) And it was originally red, not pink. Red paint that has not been repainted for decades will fade to pink like that; even if stored indoors under florescent lights. I saw an old steam powered fire pump that dated back to WWII and has probably never been repainted that faded to a pale pink like that. The inside of the door jabs and the slightly less fading behind the license plate hint at this; the fact that the inside of engine compartment also looks like that hints that it may have been stored with the decklid open. Anyway, life went on, cars came and went, but this beetle stayed stored in a corner, tassel and all. Finally, the owner(s) either passed away or went into a nursing home; the heirs cleaning out the house did not want it, so they sold it for scrap. I have seen several houses over the years that had a car sitting under a carport for decades; one house had a 1958 or '59 Cadillac. The owner passes on, and the car disappears. But this one sat in indoor storage; it does not have the thick layer of dust that builds up on cars stored under a carport. That is a more likely story of it's life than Corey's. He/she was obviously stable and wealthy enough to store it indoors all these years. It is a shame someone did not appreciate the "barn find", and sold it for scrap.

    • Arthur Dailey Arthur Dailey on Apr 07, 2016

      @jhefner: I think that you are correct. If you look up Harding's shop in San Jose it's an experienced, reputable shop that specializes in German cars. So this Bug was probably well maintained and much loved. It's a shame to see any reliable, well loved old warhorse put down like this, regardless of the make. http://www.hardingautoservice.com/

  • Tassos I never used winter tires, and the last two decades I am driving almost only rear wheel drive cars, half of them in MI. I always bought all season tires for them, but the diff between touring and non touring flavors never came up. Does it make even the smallest bit of difference? (I will not read the lengthy article because I believe it does not).
  • Lou_BC ???
  • Lou_BC Mustang sedan? 4 doors? A quarterhorse?Ford nomenclature will become:F Series - Pickups Raptor - performance division Bronco - 4x4 SUV/CUVExplorer - police fleetsMustang- cars
  • Ede65792611 Got one. It was my Dad's and now has 132K on it. I pay my Mercedes guy zillions of dollars to keep it going. But, I do, and he does and it's an excellent vehicle. I've put in the full Android panel for BT handsfree and streaming with a backup cam.
  • Lou_BC Wow. People say they want sedans and there should be more of them. Goes to show that internet warriors do not accurately represent the desires of the general population. What do people buy? Pickups and CUV'S. Top 10:1. F Series2. Silverado3. Ram4. Toyota Rav45. Model Y Tesla6. Honda CRV7. Sierra8. Toyota Camry9. Nissan Rogue10. Jeep Grand Cherokee Only 2 sedans.#5 Is a sedan and an EV#8 The ubiquitous Camry The only way to resurrect the sedan is by banning crewcab pickups.