By on April 26, 2021

1978 VW Beetle cabriolet in Colorado junkyard, RH front view - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsVolkswagen sold the air-cooled Beetle in the United States all the way through 1979, amazingly, overlapping Dasher and Rabbit sales by more than you’d have expected. By that time, the only air-cooled VW left standing here was the Beetle convertible (if you want to get nit-picky, that car was really a Super Beetle, since the last year for the original not-so-super Beetle was 1977 here and all the Beetle convertibles were Supers after 1971). I’ve never found a ’79 Beetle in the junkyard, though I’ve tried my best, but here’s the next-best thing: a ’78 in a Denver self-serve yard last year.

1978 VW Beetle cabriolet in Colorado junkyard, rear view - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThis car’s final parking place ended up being next to a Turbo New Beetle and a purple ’76 non-Super Beetle. One must assume that the junkyard employees had a sense of style.

1978 VW Beetle cabriolet in Colorado junkyard, rear view - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsJunkyard shoppers generally grab air-cooled VW engines right away … but I suspect this may be the result of a single VW hoarder in every metropolitan region around the continent.

1978 VW Beetle cabriolet in Colorado junkyard, front suspension - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe most important difference between the regular 1938-style Beetle and the Super Beetle may be seen in the front suspension; the original Beetle had a funky torsion-bar suspension while the Super got a modern McPherson strut rig. Having owned and driven both types of Beetles, I must say that neither the ride nor the handling feels any better in the Super.

1978 VW Beetle cabriolet in Colorado junkyard, interior - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsWhile the Beetle was strongly obsolete by about 1951, it managed to get its job done for many decades after that. By the late 1970s, though, there was no affordable way to squeeze it through American crash-safety and emissions requirements.

1978 VW Beetle cabriolet in Colorado junkyard, cassette tape - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsIt will go to its grave with a Stone Temple Pilots home-taped cassette inside.

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16 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1978 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible...”


  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Rust must have done this one in – these are worth money in good shape and from what I gather, they’re pretty cheap to buy and fix.

    I’d love to have one of these as a weekend car.

    • 0 avatar
      Steve Biro

      Body rust isn’t that big of a deal. Lots of replacement parts are out there. But if the floor pan rusts through – as it finally did on my Super Beetle – the car is pretty much just a parts source.

      The pan on my car began to fail under the battery – which was under the rear seat on the passenger’s side of the car. I shored it up for another year or so by welding in a stop sign taken out of the city dump. But it would only last so long.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    In case anybody was curious about the parking sticker: “Auraria Campus is a dynamic and vibrant higher education community located in the heart of downtown Denver. The 150-acre campus is shared by three separate and distinct institutions of higher learning: Community College of Denver, Metropolitan State University of Denver, and University of Colorado Denver”

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      My kid went to Metro State. It’s a great place to go if you want to get a good education and not end up in a hundred grand of debt. Between scholarships and grants, her entire junior was about 90% paid for.

      The whole “go away to school” thing is overrated, if you ask me.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    The traditional way to determine if your VW Beetle is ‘rusted out’ is when you have to lift the doors about 1/2 inch in order to close them.

    Learned this through trial and error with many Beetles.

    I do believe that between the Cabriolet and the purple Beetle, that an enterprising person could cobble together something that would sell.

  • avatar
    theflyersfan

    Man, this has me digging deep into my memory here…when was the last time I saw a running Beetle on the roads? These things were a dime a dozen in my HS parking lot (early 1990s), but fast forward a few decades and it’s looking like even the best kept Beetles might have finally gone to the junkyard in the sky.

    But this is the Midwestern US where more salt gets dumped on the roads than actual snow that falls and that takes out a car’s body quicker than anything. Maybe there are still some loved and running ones in the Sun Belt.

    @Arthur Dailey – your rust test reminds me of the old Vega test. When you can see the road through the door while sitting in the driver’s seat, it’s time to get rid of it. I swear those things arrived from the factory pre-rusted.

    • 0 avatar
      SaulTigh

      My experience is the same. In the 80’s and early 90’s these were still EVERYWHERE. Now, I hardly ever see one, though there is a restomod/cosplay/just plain weird one running around town with fake 50’s luggage on top and a sort of Herbie but not quite Herbie paint scheme.

      The only Beetle I every drove was a red convertible with a two speed semi-automatic transmission. Putting your had on the stick put it in neutral, so I had to resist my natural urge to rest it there. Belonged to a girl I worked with as a teen. She HATED it, but her Daddy had fixed it up for her and insisted she drive it.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      There are decent numbers of Beetles still put-putting around SW FL. Which given that even those that nominally had A/C don’t REALLY have A/C, takes some commitment, IMHO. Lots of late convertibles like this one, but a decent number of sedans too. Mostly in VERY nice shape, though I have seen a couple beaters too.

      A nice Beetle is not that cheap to buy anymore.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    The car may not be solid, but the soundtrack is. Scott Weiland was yet another 90’s rocker gone too soon.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    What’s interesting is these later Beetles had a simple fuel injection system while the only American vehicles to have them at the time were the upmarket Cadillac Seville and Eldorado.
    If the pan on this is solid and rust free like many Colorado vehicles it could be used on another Beetle or kit car.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    This really brings me back. My older brother had a series of bugs all yellow. 1967 VW Bug convertible bought new and totaled 2 years later, 1970 VW Bug convertible that rusted in a few years, and a 1974 Super Beatle hardtop that rusted as well. I really enjoyed driving the 1967 VW Convertible.

  • avatar
    Steve Biro

    “Having owned and driven both types of Beetles, I must say that neither the ride nor the handling feels any better in the Super.”

    Agreed. In fact, I always thought the original Beetle was more fun. I like its somewhat more-immediate steering control and the flat windshield/dashboard.

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