THE SMILING CAR
Boy is this thing late to the party! Here she is wearing all white after Labor Day and dressed up for summer just as it's leaving us behind. Regardless I ran across this little crumpet at the terminus of Ocean Parkway where the road gives way to the boardwalk between Coney Island and Brighton Beach. You know it, I know it, so without further ado . . .
this is obviously a Volkswagen Super Beetle convertible in Alpine White. While pinpointing the years on these cars takes a maniacal eye for detail we can call this a 1975 for 2 reasons: the words FUEL INJECTION were added to the trunklid in '75, and the rear window defogger (which this does not have) was added in '76.
What can you say about the Beetle that hasn't been said before?
The larger Super Beetle was introduced in 1971 to accommodate a larger, better front suspension among other things. This necessitated completely different body panels from the windshield forward for the new Super Beetle. I used to bemoan the chubbier look of these larger Bugs but now I can appreciate how much better they handle than the charming earlier Standard Beetles.
Those large taillights are affectionately known as the Elephants Foot were introduced in '73.
Here is another departure from every VW Beetle since the '50s; a single tailpipe as opposed to the familiar double. While the warbling whistle it produced was pretty much the same, the fuel injected engines can be identified by that single pipe.
Look this is the deal with this ragtop; it is FUN FUN FUN! If you want to feel like you're driving around in a little boat or amusement park ride, aren't in a terrible hurry to get anywhere, and aren't concerned about the lack of airbags or much protection whatsoever in an accident it is easy to love this car. Beetles are basically smiley face emoticons as cars and the convertible even more so.
If and when you're in the market for any Beetle the first thing to inquire about is rust. They all rust easily and like a house with no insulation the outside wall is the inside wall so small holes can quickly become tragic. The first thing to go is the battery tray. This is located under the passenger side of the backseat! Lift up the backseat and look for holes under the battery on the floor. If there aren't any you're in great shape. If there are it's still not the end of the world. The sides under the doors and bottom of the front door jam are areas need major welding when rotted out.
Behold the "modern" Super Beetle dashboard! First of all there's an actual dashboard with padding and everything as opposed to the classic Beetle speedometer mounted on a metal wall. Faux woodgrain compliments a plastic radio looking very 1975 with its big black knobs. A windshield wiper stalk is a departure from the nondescript dash mounted switch of yore.
Somethings never change though; see that tiny wood tipped lever next to the inside of the seat? Lifting that opens the heater channel tube to allow barely warm air to leak out into the cabin. Using that to heat a convertible Bug in winter? Better bring a blanket!
I wanted to highlight the tiniest of fancy moments on this car; that three-stripe chrome piece between the hood and the door has no purpose other than to beautify. Why is it here? It doesn't match any other part of this ride. It's almost like noticing an original ornate brass banister in a far corner of the underground Penn Station that somehow escaped demolition from the original structure (those do exist by the way).
This is the quintessential mid-to-late '70s Super Beetle wheel. It's funky and quirky, kinda mag like kinda tractorish, and the hub cap is literally a tiny cap on the hub itself. I dig these wheels, and in the words of the immortal Q-Tip; "the wet look's complete when the tires say Pirelli".
Well we'll leave this old dog sniffing its German brethren out by the mighty Atlantic. If what you see is what you get with this ride it's in spectacular condition. At this very moment it's a light sanding and paint job away from looking perfect for years to come. As you might imagine every part is available for this thing without exception (the VW Beetle was the worlds best selling car in history from 1972 (when it surpassed the Ford Model T) to 2013 when the Toyota Corolla took the crown.
I've had several Beetles and highly recommend them as great little cars for those who don't mind tinkering and think discomfort can be charming. Driving with a blanket over my knees and a cloth in my hand to wipe the windshield all winter was just what you had to do you know? If that doesn't sound good to you stay away!