Junkyard Find: 1973 Volkswagen Super Beetle

junkyard find 1973 volkswagen super beetle

The air-cooled Volkswagen Beetle was pretty well obsolete when North American sales took off during the late 1950s, and so this mid-1930s design had become shockingly obsolete by the 1970s. Still, Americans understood the Beetle as a comfortably known quantity by that time and the price tag was really cheap, so Beetles and Super Beetles still sold well in 1973.

In the parts of the continent where the Rust Monster remains meek, plenty of these cars still exist, enough for them to be fairly common sights in the big self-service junkyards. Here’s a ’73 Super Beetle in a San Francisco Bay Area yard.

The regular, not-so-super Beetles seem to have held their value better than the Supers, so nine out of ten air-cooled VWs I find in junkyards nowadays will be Super Beetles (the Type 3 and Type 4 VWs mostly got crushed decades ago). Before today’s Junkyard Find, I’d documented this ’71, this ’72, this ’73, this ’73, and this ’73.

Here we go, a genuine San Francisco Bay Area Vietnam War-era American-flag peace-symbol sticker in the back window.

Of course, the rust on this car looks bad, so maybe it came to California from a more oxidized sort of place. On the other hand, no Rust Belt car owner would have bothered to shoot spray foam into a rust hole, so we might be looking at your typical top-down California-style rust here.

The East Bay newspapers from 1988 suggest that this car spent the last few decades slowly decaying in the great outdoors.

At some point, the Alameda County Sheriffs red-tagged this car, and the tow-truck man showed no mercy.

If this is the original 1600cc engine that came in the car when new, it had a 46-horsepower rating. After owners neglected to adjust the valves and do regular tune-ups, its real-world output dropped to about 22 horses. Air-cooled Volkswagens are very good at running badly for decades.

What made the Super Beetle so super, you ask? Futuristic McPherson struts in the front, plus a few other changes that didn’t seem to make the Super drive much better than the regular Beetle. Note the front drum brakes, which worked well enough in a car that weighed a mere 1,911 pounds. The regular Beetle not only weighed 169 pounds less, it cost $2,299 instead of the Super’s $2,499 (that’s $15,088 versus $13,880, after adjusting for inflation,making these cars about the same cost in 1973 as a new Nissan Versa or Mitsubishi Mirage are today).

This car lived long enough to be parked near a New Beetle in the same junkyard.

Now with a big curved windshield and big padded dash!

If you like these Junkyard Finds, you’ll get links to more than 1,800 additional ones at the Junkyard Home of the Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand™.

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  • Redgolf Redgolf on Jan 14, 2020

    "The rear-heavy VW was the only car available that could travel snowy forest tracks," also fun to drive in the Michigan snow! another friend of mine had a mid 60's that the local custom painter had put a beautiful full custom paint scheme on, talk about a head turner, that little Beetle took on the looks from wherever it went!

  • Superdessucke Superdessucke on Jan 14, 2020

    Not looking so super now, are 'ya? LOL!

  • Snickel Fritz I just bought a '97 JX 4WD 4AT, and though it's not quite roadworthy yet I am already in awe of it's simplicity and apparent ruggedness. What I am equally in awe of, is the scarcity of not only parts but correct information regarding anything on this platform. I'm going to do my best to get this little donkey back on it's feet, but I wouldn't suggest this as a project vehicle for anyone who doesn't already have several... and a big impressive shop with a full suite of fabrication/machining/welding equipment, and friends with complimentary skillsets, and extra money, and... you get the idea. If you don't, I urge you to read up on the options for replacing anything on these rigs. I didn't read enough before buying, and I have zero of the above suggested prerequisites... so I'm an idiot, don't listen to me. Go buy all of 'em!
  • Bryan Raab Davis I actually did use the P of D trope, but it was only gentle chiding, for I love old British cars of every sort.
  • ScarecrowRepair The 1907 Panic had several causes of increased demand for money:[list][*]The semi-annual shift of money between farms and cities (to buy for planting and selling harvests)[/*][*]Britain and Germany borrowing for their naval arms race[/*][*]San Francisco reconstruction borrowing after the 1906 earthquake and fire[/*][/list]Two things made it worse:[list][*]Idiotic bans on branch banking, which prevented urban, rural, and other state branches from shifting funds to match demands. This same problem made the Great Depression far worse. Canada, which allowed branch banking, had no bank failures; the US had 9000 failures.[/*][*]Idiotic reserve requirements left over from the Civil War which prevented banks from loaning money; they eventually started honoring IOUs illegally and started the recovery.[/*][/list]Been a while since I read up on it, so I may have some of the details wrong. But it was an amazing clusterfart which could have been avoided or at least tamed sooner if states and the feds hadn't been so ham handed.
  • FreedMike Maybe this explains all the “Idiots wrecking exotic cars” YouTube videos.
  • FreedMike Good article! And I salute the author for not using the classic “Lucas - prince of darkness” trope, well earned as it may be. We all know the rap on BL cars, but on the flip side, they’re apparently pretty easy to work on (at least that’s the impression I’ve picked up). On the other hand, check the panel fits on the driver’s and passenger’s doors. Clearly, BL wasn’t much concerned with things like structural integrity when it chopped the roof off a car designed as a coupe.