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.

1969 Volkswagen Beetle in California junkyard, 1974 graduation tassel - © 2016 Murilee Martin

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.

1969 Volkswagen Beetle in California junkyard, graduation tassel - © 2016 Murilee Martin

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.

1969 Volkswagen Beetle in California junkyard, oil change records - © 2016 Murilee Martin

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.

1969 Volkswagen Beetle in California junkyard, headliner - © 2016 Murilee Martin

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.

1969 Volkswagen Beetle in California junkyard, engine compartment - © 2016 Murilee Martin

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

1969 Volkswagen Beetle in California junkyard, LH Rear view - © 2016 Murilee Martin

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!

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37 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1969 Volkswagen Beetle...”

  • avatar

    1969 was the first year for IRS C/v joints versus the old swing axle.

    I would love to keep one of these as a grocery getter – but alas the original VW Beetle’s time has come and gone. Spare parts are aftermarket and more often than not, made in China copies that don’t match OEM specs.

    • 0 avatar

      Not true. Yes, there are a few parts that are not available but I have a ’72 Super Beetle and have purchased quite a few parts that are made in Germany from the local shop. Then there are parts that are made in Brazil and Mexico, not surprisingly. I can’t even recall anything made in China that I bought for the car. Prices are quite decent too.

      If you dig hard enough you can still find some very interesting original stuff. I bought an original made in Italy in ’79 Momo steering wheel for it as well as original Hurst shifter from the 70s (none of that cheap Empi junk!). I managed to find original German fenders for a decent price too. Of course you will pay a bit more for the originals but they’re still cheap. I purchased an entire fender in original color in good shape for $175 and when I complained it’s too expensive my buddies looked at me funny and said I’d pay 2-3 times that for newer cars. They have a point.

      Biggest drawback of the old Beetle is safety which it truly lacks and perhaps the exhaust fumes from a non-cat engine. Aside from that it makes for a wonderful around-the-town driver. Mine even climbs San Francisco hills when asked. Although I’m sure it doesn’t like it all that much.

  • avatar

    Was it a semi? The mats obscure the pedal count. Those door mirrors don’t look oem. Pretty sure they’d be chrome.

    • 0 avatar

      Take a look at the throw-out bearing surrounding the input shaft on the transaxle.

    • 0 avatar

      Oh well. I thought I’d point out that these beetles that had the semiauto had the automatic stick shift script logo on the engine lid where on our car it says Volkswagen. But, as someone correctly pointed out,this car has a transplanted engine lid.

      More of a mystery, why that awful pink paintjob? What’s wrong with red, and why would you paint a car with so many painted interior surfaces a different color?

  • avatar

    Someone replaced the engine lid with one from a later model which has four sets of cooling slots. The stock 1969 sedan lid shouldn’t have any slots.

  • avatar

    ?? unless the floors are rusted out this looks too clean to be scrapped .

    When I had my VW Shop I’da stripped it , re sprayed it , re assembled it and sold it for a tidy profit .

    The first three digits of the VIN will tell you if it’s a ’69 or ’70 .


  • avatar

    The headlights and thinner chrome bumpers from the earlier model years always looked better on these to me. I wonder if they would bolt right on to a ’69?

    There’s a solid-ish looking ’74 on CL right now (minus the engine) for $400. Tempting…

    • 0 avatar

      Early fenders bolt right up to the later cars but the bumper mounts are different. You’d have to do a bit of engineering to mount them. Unfortunately, the early hoods and decklids are longer and it is pretty obvious to see when early fenders are bolted on to a later car. To do the job properly, you’d want to swap the hood, decklid and front and rear aprons to get the correct early look.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    At one time a non-rotted Beetle body would be much sought after in Southern Ontario.

    Up here the floorpan would start to rot and the doors would have to be lifted slightly in order to close.

    Still in their day, these were one of the best vehicles in the snow and considered almost unbreakable. Air-cooled VW owners could be spotted by the small ice scrapper that they carried as the inside of the windows would invariably frost over.

    Our Type III and Type IV had the optional heater.

    It seems like most of the Beetle aficionados are now either too old or have what they are looking for.

    • 0 avatar

      My long-ago VW beetle review

      Since then I’ve driven a ’76 which was distinctly superior to the two I drove in the review.

      • 0 avatar

        answer me this.
        I have been thinking hard about a decent convertible.
        The cars I think most about are the Miata, the Mustang and the low base audi.
        I do want a back seat and the more real life usability, the better.
        Then the Buick came.
        And I like the Mustang V6 base convertible…except for the pretend rear seats. But it is awesome and still makes my heart throb.

        Then, suddenly, I thought…why not an R VW bug? It has decent MPG and a pretty useful rear seat. The latest model seems less fish bowl silly.

        Would you, as a VW appreciative, say this was an option?

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        David, Thanks for the link. For those commentators who compared the Mini to the Beetle, there was no comparison as far as ownership experience.

        Between my family and my wife’s we had air cooled VW’s in the driveway without interruption between 1962 and 1982.

        Prior to the 62 Beetle, The Old Man bought an Austin Mini. I remember going with him to the Rootes Motors plant in Scarboro. Due to build and mechanical issues it was truly the worst vehicle that we ever owned. After about 18 months of ownership the shifter came right out in his hand.

        He switched to VW and kept one until he changed careers and could afford luxo barges. But there were still VW’s in the driveway, either for Mom or for the kids. Unfortunately the Type IV was a bit of dud.

        The Beetle was for the time the ultimate snow car. As a copper working shifts, The Old Man used it to transport others on his shift and soon Beetles became a common site on the lot at the Station and at the athletic and social events they attended.

        It was also a great car for new drivers. How many learned how to drive stick on a VW? You didn’t need first gear. And once you got proficient you could even shift without the clutch.

        If you liked cars, they were easy to work on.

        If you didn’t like cars, then as long as you kept it fueled you could drive it for years without problems. Unlike domestic cars of the time, certainly unlike any European imports and as Japanese cars were either non-existent or front engine/rear drive rust buckets, VW dominated the import market for nearly 20 years.

  • avatar

    This was from the “soft crankcase” era of engines; head studs were known for pulling out of the threads in the crankcase at around 40k miles or so and loosening the heads. IIRC VW changed the aluminum alloy (less magnesium) as a cost-cutting measure. ’68’s, ’69’s and ’70’s were troubled years. The good news was that this helped the Helicoil company bottom line as well as sales of the “Radio Flyer”, the preferred tool for home engine removal. I owned a ’70 and a much better ’73.

  • avatar

    The sort of person who drives an old Beetle for 40 years, and also leaves their high school tassel proudly displayed… for 40 years. I don’t think I’ve ever met such a person.

  • avatar

    Jeannine looked over the low dash; a cloud passed overhead and highlighted the side of the tan brick on Abraham Lincoln High. Windows from the 1960s looked back at her, their multiple small panes formed solid parallel lines if you were at great enough distance. She recalled being on the other side of those windows on the third floor, considering her escape from it, escape from senior year. Pinky would take her wherever she’d need to go. Tilting her head, she sighed as her mind rejoined the present and flicked the end of a Camel out Pinky’s open window, only a quick glance at the brittle golden polyester strands in front of her. Fastening a name tag on her chest “GENIE, CAFETERIA” on the white plastic, outlined in shiny gold lettering. Four golden stars were at the top of the tag, gilding the piece like a fine brooch. Her hand rested there, flat against her chest.

    “These cans, they got it alright!” she’d boasted to her peers back then. It had been a while since there was anything there, but she could still remember those tight, striped tops she used to wear. Got all those sophomore boys looking. She smiled, shutting Pinky down as the JVC amp in the back fizzled out. Wood tone was revealed when she grabbed her tan apron from its usual place over it, smoothing cheap material over her entirely flat front.

    Those hours in the morning were always a little chaotic, but Genie kept to her routine. Unthaw this, dilute that, usually getting the big aluminum bag of ketchup out around 10:30. “Heinz oughta donate to our schools er sum’, much as these kids go through this stuff…” was remarked into the empty air of the cafeteria, as she hefted the non-brand watered tomato paste into the dispenser.

    Then the rush came, all the familiar faces of each lunch session. Genie would smile, watch from the sidelines as the younger employees served up tater tots, grilled cheese, and cubes of light green Jell-O. Cleaning cloth in hand, grey eyes would seem a bit more distant. But it was all right there in front of her.

    She sat with Jeff Gibson at a table near the window, polyester clothes and floral prints sat against Day-Glo chairs in various colors, their conversation of next summer – him working at the brewery, and her heading off to work at dad’s insurance office as their new secretary. It all seemed so right, so definite.

    Time for break though – and she tossed the cloth she’d been holding into the bucket of grey water, the remaining soap bubbles disturbed momentarily as it sank into the container of filth. Shaking her head, arm a little sore anyway, the unfiltered memories had caused her to clutch tightly on that rough cloth. Pointing at her bright red plastic Timex and catching Tanya’s glance was rewarded with a nod.

    Back in the staff parking lot, bony fingers found a Camel from the pack underneath the front seat. Exhaling deeply with the unlit stick in her lips, she wanted some Dressed To Kill. Squinting as a hand found the worn out ignition key attached to a men’s class ring in her pocket, grabbing was difficult.

    “The hell…”

    Tightness began building in her chest, eyes darted around in a panic. Keys slipped silently from pocket to vinyl to floor.

    “What? What…”

    Thirty minutes later, Tanya knocked on Pinky’s faded metal head. “Oh come on gurl, yo break been ova’ done fit’een-min ago!” Silence was the only reply, Genie’s face rested on the rim of the wheel, eyes still open while that Camel hung on absurdly to a lower lip, soaked in saliva.

  • avatar

    had 2 of them, a 64 with the 6 volt system and a 69 loved them both although now I realize they were both penalty boxes, but we were young and naive back then.

  • avatar

    Isn’t the great thing about Beetle engines that you can strip them down to the crankcase and rebuild them however you want?

    If so, I could see why someone would buy a decent condition low-performance engine as a replacement…

  • avatar

    Seeing how straight that shell is, I’m kinda shocked to see it in the junkyard.

  • avatar

    My first car was a 1969 Beetle. It was white with red interior and an autostick. Beautiful car…I picked it up for $1500 in 1992. By that time, a solid Beetle was going for $2000+ in my area. He simply had no place for it as he’d moved from a house to an apartment. I got a lot of offers and compliments at traffic lights and gas pumps. Also got lots of female attention. It was pretty dang reliable for a 20+ year old car. Living in Alabama, the body was rust free and I only had a bit of rust under the battery tray. My mother forced me to sell it before I went to college because she was concerned for my safety. I got $2500 for it two years later and turned around and put that down on an 1989 Toyota Corolla.

  • avatar

    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.

  • avatar

    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.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      @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.

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