Monday, March 6, 2017

A brand new ride disguised as the most common car in the world

How many Beetles can you pass before you notice one that's special? Sure they're getting more scarce in the rusty Northeast but even here there are several in daily use. I was mid yawn walking by this ride before a strange emblem caught my eye:

VW1302-S? I've seen 1300 and 1500 emblems before which corresponded to the engine size, but what was this?
What it is is a 1972 Volkswagen 1302-S in either Silver Grey Poly or Chinchilla. The awkward 1302-S name was only used for 2 years but it was actually the first Super Beetle.
There are so many differences between the 3202-S/Super Beetle and the standard Beetle that it's hard to believe they look almost identical. The hood is longer, increasing the luggage capacity greatly. In addition the spare tire sat horizontally on the trunk floor for the first time. The front suspension on these larger Beetles was upgraded to independent struts as well. Handling was more like a regular car than a Beetle.
This one is missing the hubcaps and running boards but is in otherwise stellar condition.
Everything you need to know to pinpoint the year on this ride can be found on the back. The previous year 1302-S had 2 banks of 5 horizontal vents on the hood where this has 4 banks. The year after this sported massive taillights and a larger rear window (and is actually known as the 1303).
Confoundingly the 1302 was only available with the 1600 engine in the States.
That little crescent moon shape behind the rear side window is the outgoing vent for the new fresh air flow-through system introduced with the Super Beetle. Air conditioning was a new option.
For the first time in '72 there was a plug-in dock under the hood which can be hooked up to the VW diagnostic computer at the dealership. These early computers can be expensive to replace these days. I had a 1970 VW Type 3 Squareback with fuel injection. In the stack of receipts that came with the car was one invoice for the computer "brain" for the fuel injection. In the mid to late '90s it cost over $1,000 to fix!
The interior has been tastefully redone in cloth and vinyl. The steering wheel looks to be an earlier replacement due to that chrome horn ring.
In various forms the VW Beetle had been in existence since the late '30s. Official sales figures start around 1947 but it was the 1972 model year when the Beetle surpassed the Ford Model T as the greatest selling automobile in history. It has since been dwarfed by the Toyota Corolla.
Well there we have it; a cool little transition car hidden in plain sight. VW history changed dramatically with this ride. The old technology that carried the company from its inception until this car was built was bowing out. The engine was still air cooled and placed in the rear. The gas tank was still up front. The car still looked like a round classic from the 1930s. In the years following this the baton would be passed to the Rabbit (known as the Golf everywhere besides the States), the Dasher, and Scirocco. Engines would change to being water cooled. Creature comforts would take priority. For anyone who remembers the warbling buzz of a Beetle driving by this ride will still make you nostalgic.

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