By on April 15, 2019

2001 Volkswagen New Beetle in Colorado wrecking yard, LH front view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe early-21st century fad for retro-styled cars, including the PT Cruiser, Chevrolet HHR, Mini Cooper, and Fiat 500, got its start with the late-1990s introduction of the Volkswagen New Beetle (we’re still waiting for a Nissan model made to look like the Datsun F-10). Like most people (and especially like most who had ever owned a real air-cooled Beetle), I grew weary of the sight of these allegedly cute cars after a few years, and as a result I’ve been ignoring the many examples I find during my junkyard travels.

These cars make up an important piece of our collective automotive history, though, and I resolved that I’d shoot the first one I found on a recent wrecking-yard trip. Here it is, straight from the Denver U-Pull-&-Pay!

2001 Volkswagen New Beetle in Colorado wrecking yard, decklid badge - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsWhen I decided I’d been ignoring BMW E30s long enough and photographed the very first one I saw after that decision, it turned out to be a pretty unexciting ’86 325e with an automatic. Not so with the first Beetle I found after hitting the imports section: this is a turbocharged Sport model with manual transmission.

2001 Volkswagen New Beetle in Colorado wrecking yard, engine - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsWith the same 2.0-liter, 150-horse turbocharged four that went into its Golf GTI cousin, the New Beetle Sport was quick and fun, plus it got decent fuel economy for those long suburban commutes.

2001 Volkswagen New Beetle in Colorado wrecking yard, gearshift lever - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsBecause American commuters prefer to have their right hands free for eating, reading, applying makeup, and other crucial tasks while driving, nearly all of these cars were sold with automatic transmissions. Not this car, though — it has the five-speed manual. As my friend with a five-speed turbo New Beetle learned when trying to sell his car, the presence of a manual transmission makes most used motor vehicles impossible to sell, and this Beetle’s junkyardization was probably hastened by that troublesome third pedal.

2001 Volkswagen New Beetle in Colorado wrecking yard, interior - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsOf course, affordable European cars tend to have not-so-affordable mechanical problems as they get older, and so the New Beetle and all its VW/Audi relatives aren’t worth much even with automatics and perfect interiors. Since this car’s interior wasn’t great and most Americans couldn’t drive it anyway, it’s a good guess that some $1,500 repair doomed this $900 car.

2001 Volkswagen New Beetle in Colorado wrecking yard, instrument cluster - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsWith the electronic odometer, I can’t tell how many miles were on this ’01 when it took its final tow truck ride. The worn-out seats suggest that it reached a respectable final figure. That tiny tachometer looks sort of useless, but this combination gauge fits nicely with Volkswagen tradition.


Très, très sécuritaire.


I am disappointed that we don’t get to see the drag race between mouth-breather in a Chevelle and wholesome couple in a Beetle Sport.


NO TOUCHY.

If you like these junkyard posts, you can reach all 1600+ right here at the Junkyard Home of the Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand!


Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

Recommended

67 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 2001 Volkswagen New Beetle Sport...”


  • avatar
    Chris Tonn

    “..we’re still waiting for a Nissan model made to look like the Datsun F-10..”

    Yes, we are. At least one person in this twisted world is..and they’re on the masthead here.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    Despite it’s issues and reputation I’m somewhat surprised to see this VW has already made it to the junkyard. That might make an interesting topic for Junkyard Find, what’s the newest non-totaled models making their way to the junkyard?

    • 0 avatar
      dividebytube

      Nissan Cube? There was one in Junkyard Finds. CVT transmission was the guess on its early demise.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      Not surprised at all. For someone taking this to a non-fair-priced indie mechanic for service, they probably got tired of getting nickel-and-$1000’d to death by their VAG wundermobile. These earlier 1.8Ts had a whole litany of issues that could crop up, the most serious being throwing the timing belt well short of the service interval and bending the valves. Throw in a few failed window regulators, and overall deteriorating interior, some dead LCD pixels, some CELs, and it’s hardly surprising.

      I had my quick fling with a B5 Audi and jumped ship before anything could really bite me. I got off easy with a few CELs and a small coolant leak in the 6 months I had mine.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        Emm-Kay-Four bones on this New Beetle — ‘nuff said!

        Your Audi was the B5 cousin to the Passat—almost as bad as the MkIV.

        • 0 avatar
          gtem

          Mine was a 2.8L V6 at least, notably longer lived and less problematic as I understand. The car was a mixed bag of a Russian-Baptist rebuilt title and abuse from its first 2 owners, and 5 years of solid service history with its third owner (timing belt, clutch, anything it needed). I drove it out to PA and back for the holidays and it did great, aside from a pucker-moment when I started it up on Ohio and the CEL was flashing for a misfire at idle. Cleared up in less than a minute and I never saw it again *shrug*

      • 0 avatar
        MRF 95 T-Bird

        I’ve considered a 2000-06 Audi TT but have been a bit leery because of the host of issues that you describe which concur with most owners forums.

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      I don’t think much of VWs, but this is an 18 year old car. The condition of the seats say nothing to me about mileage. All that soft-touch stuff that delicate flowers love in VW interiors turns to compost before the last payment if they don’t lease. Still, this car is old enough to have hundreds of thousands of miles, although the paint on the hood points to it having less than 100K miles.

      • 0 avatar
        Guitar man

        – All that soft-touch stuff that delicate flowers love in VW interiors turns to compost before the last payment if they don’t lease.

        Except this is 18 years old and the dashboard is in excellent condition.

        • 0 avatar
          gtem

          I’ll confirm what Todd said. Really rich materials, that age like spilled milk. I’ve never had plastic b-pillar trim degrade and crack before, but on a 90s-00s era German, anything is possible! Impossibly dried and cracked shift boot, totally shot seat leather, headliner starting to droop, door/roof fabric trim becoming unglued, rubber-coated plastic trim starting to peel. Easily the most degraded interior in a car I’ve ever experienced.

    • 0 avatar
      spookiness

      Its an 18 year old car. If you have an older car, my take is the sweet spot for junkyard shopping is probably 12-18 years. This one looks well-worn and not surprising. When I first started junkyarding, I was shocked at how many cars (especially the German makes and faux luxury cars sold to people with bad credit) are put to pasture but don’t look very worn out at all.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      I know it doesn’t seem possible that 2001 was so long ago, but this car is old enough to vote. It’s depreciated to the point that any major failure means chances are good it gets junked. Timing belt, head gasket, or clutch/transmission would be my WAGs. 18-19 years is a pretty good run for any car.

      Also, pretty sure these were 1.8l 20Vs, not 2.0l.

  • avatar

    I remember speaking with a gentleman of ample proportions who owned a new Beetle. It was surprising to me as I had only ridden in an older air cooled model which was quite close feeling. Sitting inside his vehicle I could see why he liked it. It “felt” quite spacious – not cramped at all. At one point I toyed with owning one, but that never came to be. It’s very possible that Murilee’s posit is correct – a high dollar repair contributing to the early demise of a low value vehicle. The exterior looks to be in relatively good cosmetic shape rust wise.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      did he go by the nickname “Fluffy?”

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      What is it with large people being attracted to small cars? Are they in on the joke? I guess if they go by the name “Tiny” they’re in on it

      • 0 avatar
        MiataReallyIsTheAnswer

        Let’s just say more than a few people have notably widened eyes when I emerge from a Miata :)

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          I *exactly* fit in my Fiata. If my torso was any longer or my legs any longer it just wouldn’t work. I have no problem at all getting in and out of it.

      • 0 avatar
        dividebytube

        I’m 6’2″-ish and got a lot of flack for driving a MINI.

        “You’re the tallest guy in the department and drive the smallest car!”

        • 0 avatar
          Lie2me

          So, at least part of the attraction is the attention. When I was a teenager I had access to a Rolls Royce, it wasn’t much fun to drive, but I did enjoy taking it through McDonald’s drive-thru for the reaction

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            The Old Man was 6’2″, 240lbs when in shape and in the early/mid 1960’s his daily driver for him, his wife and 3 sons was an air cooled Beetle. Beetles were often a choice for ‘bigger’ guys because of the head room they provided. He was just one of a great many coppers who drove Beetles in that era.

            Prior to the Beetle, he drove a Mini.

            As for anyone being surprised about an 18 year old vehicle being in the junkyard, here in Southern Ontario, we are just as or more surprised to see an 18 year old vehicle on the road. The statistics cited are somewhat contradictory but indicated a pattern. .

            According to a government study in 2016 the average age of vehicles on the road in Canada was just over 9.5 years

            As per an article published in The Star by the President of TADA on March 23rd 2018, “the average life expectancy of a vehicle in Canada is 12.88 years.” That includes ‘light trucks’ which tend to stay on the road much longer than passenger cars.

            That year it was estimated that approximately 54% of all vehicles that were currently licensed (cars, light and heavy trucks and buses) would last 15 years or more.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            Hardly. I think for me it is a Yankee sensibility of not buying more than you need.

            For me it is no different than houses – I could afford a FAR bigger house than my little 770sq/ft pad in FL – I was approved for a $350K mortgage – that will buy a PALACE down here. But this house is all I need and cost $90K. I had the flashy M235i for a while, but it was just a bit too showy for me.

            I tried VERY hard to talk myself into a Cayman. But ultimately it was just too much car and too much money in just one car, the Fiata gives me the fun toy I wanted for 1/3rd the cost, and I kept my GTI.

        • 0 avatar
          tankinbeans

          Reminds me of High Tower from The Police Academy who ripped out the front seat in order to drive his Mini

          • 0 avatar
            psychoboy

            Hightower tore the seats out of a 1st generation Civic to practice driving before the academy’s driving test.

            It was not his Civic, however.

            https://www.imcdb.org/vehicle_11386-Honda-Civic-SB2-1978.html

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Why do you need more space than necessary? An inch is as good as a foot when it comes to space around me. I’m 6’2″ and 350+lbs, and drive a GTI and a Fiata daily here in FL most happily – I don’t want or need anything bigger (though a GTI wagon would really float my boat). And the GTI is roomier in the front than the Cadillac XTS I last had as a rental…

      • 0 avatar
        OneAlpha

        I never understood that myself.

        It’s like those street-racing shows where the barely-streetable Civic hatchback is always driven by some 300-lb dude in shorts and a backward hat.

    • 0 avatar
      DaneClark

      “Do you find something comical about my appearance when I am driving my automobile?”

  • avatar
    analogman

    These cars don’t have a great reputation, and people give them a hard time. Usually armchair experts that have never actually driven one (like with the Mazda RX8). I’ve owned two ‘New Beetle’ turbos with sticks (2000 and 2003) and they’re a more fun car to drive than you’d think.

    You have to have a sense of humor to drive this car. Most people think it should be driven by high school or college age girls. So if you’re a middle-age (or older) guy, you have to pull the stick out of your butt before you get into one.

    It drives very much like a Golf (big surprise, it’s the same car under the skin). Yes, it’s less ‘practical’, with a smaller trunk, and that bizarre yard-long dash that makes the windshield look like it’s out in the next zip code. But it’s quirky, as fast as a turbo Golf, and puts a smile on your face if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t take themselves too seriously (on the other hand, if you can compress coal dust into diamonds with your anal sphincter, this car is definitely not for you).

    It’s fast enough to be fun, has hatchback practicality, and can be tuned as easily as any turbo VW. After some cheap and easy mods, I had my 2003 putting out 284 hp at the wheels. No doubt engine longevity was significantly shortened, but it sure made the car an absolute blast to drive. The shortened engine lifespan was well worth it to see all the shocked looks on the faces of Bee-Em-double-U drivers I would blow past.

    The market for quirky iconoclasts isn’t big enough to justify this car. I’m surprised it lasted as long as it did. As an ‘older’ gearhead who came of age driving the original air-cooled Beetles (and rebuilt my first engine using John Muir’s legendary guide), I’ll miss this car. I tried to buy one of the last current Beetles before they vanished, but of course, VW dropped the manual option long ago.

    Whatever you think of this car, and VW’s nefarious dieselgate aside, they get kudos for having the stones to build something with more personality than the homogenized appliance blandness most cars are regressing to.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      “These cars don’t have a great reputation,”

      that’s because they’re unreliable, un-durable garbage.

    • 0 avatar
      WallMeerkat

      It was the era when VW were building everything for everybody from the Golf chassis

      VW Golf, Jetta, Beetle

      SEAT Leon, Toledo, Altea

      Audi A3, TT

      Skoda Octavia

    • 0 avatar
      Old Scold

      Ours (DW and Mine) was a 2003. We knew it was a turbo because it said “Turbo” on the back, and it had 20 valves because it said “20V” on the engine cover. My DW drives a stick (one of many reasons, you know…) and we scooted about Central Ohio and long trips with a big Samoyed in the back seat. Eventually we put a baby in the back, too. No coil packs, working PW. Silly odometer lost some LCDs and we had to replace the whole instrument cluster to pass inspection. Once or twice got some catcalls, but up theirs. Haters gonna hate. I was not embarrassed to drive it. Our needs outgrew it, but who needs a Toyota?

    • 0 avatar
      Nick_515

      “on the other hand, if you can compress coal dust into diamonds with your anal sphincter, this car is definitely not for you”

      AHAHAHA you just made my day, analogman! Or should I say, anal-OG-man :)

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      VW was copying the Japanese when they launched the new Beetle. Cars like the Nissan Be-1 and Nissan Figaro had been capturing the retro nostalgia market for years.

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      There was also Turbo S version had the four light facade with the driving lights and the 1.8L 180hp six speed out of the Audi TT.

    • 0 avatar
      formula m

      Well in my experience anyone who owns an RX-8 will have to sell the armchair to pay the specialist that will work on it. If they can find one.

      • 0 avatar
        Redshift

        Have had my RX8 for 16 years and counting. Only failures have been a fuel pump and a catalytic converter. Did regular track days and autocross with it for the first 4 or 5 years I had it. Otherwise regular maintenance which I do my self.
        What problems did you have with yours?

  • avatar
    MiataReallyIsTheAnswer

    Still the stoopidest looking car of the last hundred years.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    MK4 era of VW was a simultaneous zenith and nadir. Maybe someone will turn this into a LeMons car.

  • avatar
    analogman

    JimZ, Lie2me, I completely agree with you that the reliability and durability of these cars made old British Leyland iron look good. But it doesn’t take away from the character and personality of the car, or the offbeat fun of driving one.

    Unfortunately, dismal reliability and nosebleed repair/maintenance costs afflict pretty much every VAG car, and truth be told, any German car of the past 20+ years. They’ve been milking their past and long-dead reputations for ‘bulletproof’ reliability and ‘bank vault’ construction quality which was true back in the 60’s and 70’s, but not so much lately. I think the New Beetle was no better or worse in that regard than most other over-rated contemporary German cars.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    In Southern California these began to litter the self service junkyards before they were ten years old and still looked good .

    My son’s then GF now wife had one and he flat refused to maintain it although she liked it and it never left her afoot .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    I didn’t realize these things had plastic fenders. I’m currently on The Used Car Search From Hell, with Daughter Number 2, and Volkswagens are definitely not in the running, as are Nissans with CVTs and Focus/Fiesta cars with the PowerShift DCTs.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      dukeisduke what sort of budget? I’ve found Mazda3 to be an under-valued option in the compact class in terms of overall reliability and asking price. I helped a friend sell his ’09 last summer and was surprised at the low demand, if it was a Corolla or Civic we would have sold it within a week for $2000 more than we did (sold for $3500 with 156k miles).

      • 0 avatar
        bumpy ii

        The 3 has a reputation for being thirsty and rusty, and it’s a bit obscure for the Civic/Corolla crowd.

        • 0 avatar
          gtem

          In 2.0L trim it’s plenty efficient enough IMO. Yes they might start rusting sooner, so just find one that’s less rusted. ’03-’08 Corollas are starting to get some rocker/fender rust now too these days. Mechanically they are rock solid IMO.

  • avatar
    seppi

    “Mouth breather”? That Chevelle is worth 10,000 times what a POS bug ever will be.

  • avatar
    Cactuar

    My most fond memory with the Beetle is playing it in Midtown Madness.

  • avatar
    Avnut

    My wife leased 2 back-to-back, one in black and the other navy blue before her current ’07 Rabbit. When she sees ones, she says she misses her “bubbly bug” and wants one again. She thinks they are so cute and loved the headroom in them which has spoiled her compared to what’s offered for headroom in vehicles now.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    On the subject of a larger person in a smaller car, while I don’t know about butt room, the New Beetle definitely had a huge space in front of the dash and windshield. It really felt like it would be no problem to swing a dead car around in there.

    Another point worth mentioning is that, due to the retro windshield rake (upright), the New Beetle was one of the few (if not only) convertibles left where the headliner didn’t feel like it was going to smack your forehead. You could view the sky above the sunvisors, and that’s all too rare with any convertible these days.

    But all those retro niceties aren’t enough to overcome the maintenance issues. Sadly, pass.


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • Serpens: Well the hard points have changed along with the wheelbase, so I’m going to go with yes it has changed....
  • geo: I’d like to buy a Flex, but I had the dreaded water pump issue with a Taurus X. Also a driveshaft issue,...
  • krhodes1: We have a winner! At least in Canada. I worked for a courier service in college that had a couple of first...
  • krhodes1: The only engine ever offered in the Volvo 960/S90 in the US was the 3.0l inline six – agreed about...
  • ToolGuy: “Ueda said both the Z and GT-R are cars that inspire young designers to apply for jobs at...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Contributors

  • Timothy Cain, Canada
  • Matthew Guy, Canada
  • Ronnie Schreiber, United States
  • Bozi Tatarevic, United States
  • Chris Tonn, United States
  • Corey Lewis, United States
  • Mark Baruth, United States
  • Moderators

  • Adam Tonge, United States
  • Corey Lewis, United States