Volkswagen Beetle – The Most Hackable Car

If you build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door. Of course it helps if your mousetrap is reliable, simple, cheap, and easy to work on. In the car world, look no further than arguably the most successful, and most hackable, car in history: the Volkswagen Type 1, more commonly known as the Beetle. The ways in which this car was modified to suit the needs of a wide range of people over its 65-year-long production run proves that great design, ease of use, and simplicity are the keys to success, regardless of the project or product.

Built by Ferdinand Porsche in 1930’s Germany, the Beetle was designed to be a car for anyone and everyone. Its leader at the time wanted a true “people’s car” (i.e. “Volkswagen”) that was affordable for a German family, could reliably travel at sustained highway speeds on the new German autobahns, and easily be repaired by its owners. The car features an air-cooled engine for simplicity and cost savings: no radiator, water pump, or coolant, plus reduced overall complexity. The engine can be easily removed by disconnecting the fuel line, the throttle cable, and the four bolts that hold it to the transaxle. The entire body is held on to the chassis by eighteen bolts and is also easy to remove by today’s standards. There’s no air conditioning, no power steering, and a rudimentary heater of sorts for the passenger cabin that blows more hot air depending on how fast the engine is running. But possibly the best example of its simplicity is the fact that the windshield washer mechanism is pressurised with air from the over-inflated spare tire, eliminating the need to install another piece of equipment in the car.

It’s not too big of a leap to realize how easily hackable this car is. Even Volkswagen realized this and used the platform to build a number of other vehicles: the Type 2 (otherwise known as the bus, van, hippie van, Kombi, etc.) the eclectic Karmann Ghia, and the Types 3 and 4. Parts of the Type 1 were used to build the Volkswagen 181, commonly referred to as “the Thing”. Ferdinand Porsche also used design elements and other parts of the Type 1 to build the first Porsche, essentially making a souped-up Beetle. The rear-engine, rear-wheel drive layout of modern Porsches is a relic of this distant Beetle cousin. But the real magic is what people started doing to the Beetles in their backyards in the ’60s and 70s: turning them into buggies, off road machines, race cars, and hot rods that are still used today.

At some point around this time, a few people realized that the Beetle was uniquely suited to off-road racing. The type of suspension combined with the rear-engine, rear-wheel-drive layout meant that even without four-wheel drive, this car could excel in desert racing. There are still classes in this race for stock Beetles and modified Beetles called Baja Bugs.

Baja_Bug
A “Baja Bug” Races in the Mojave Desert Race (MDR) Series in Southern California. DevkotlanPhotography.com

It’s also very popular to use these cars to build various styles of buggies. The most famous of these is the Meyers Manx, which uses a shortened Beetle chassis and engine but has a different open-style body. The car was an immediate success, winning many off-road races and becoming popular even as a street car. It’s still common today to see these or other buggies that are built in the same style.

The Beetle has been co-opted for use in road racing as well, and not just by Disney for really fun movies (you can probably just skip the second one, but the rest are great). Formula Vee is a class of open-wheel race cars using the engine, wheels, transaxle, and a few other parts from a 1963 Beetle, all installed in a custom tube frame and body. The class is popular due to its relatively low costs and ease of getting into the sport.

FormulaVee2010SCCARunnoffsWinner17RickShields

The Formula Vee winner Rick Shields at the 2010 SCCA National Championship Runoffs at Road America. Source: Wikimedia Commons via Royalbroil.

Beetles are also popular in drag racing for the same reasons that they make great off-road vehicles: the weight of the engine and transmission is directly over the rear wheels. For this reason they’re prone to doing exciting wheelies. With slight modifications, however, Beetles are still tearing up drag strips, although some have non-Volkswagen engines. In a related race, a mostly-stock Beetle beat a brand new Porsche 911 in a mile-long race, despite the participants’ bias against the Volkswagen.

The ease by which these cars can be modified also makes them popular with hot rod enthusiasts. The “Volksrod” community is very vibrant, with modifications ranging from extensively modified suspensions and new axles to removal of body panels, chop tops, and engine tuning. There are other styles of Beetles that aren’t quite as extreme. Essentially, anything is possible with these cars, parts are readily available, and all of this combined with the car’s uniqueness make it extremely popular for a wide range of reasons.

Dubrod

Hotrodding, Volkswagen-style. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Source

The Beetle isn’t just popular in the garages of car enthusiasts, though. Until 2012, Type 1s were used as taxicabs in Mexico City. In 2006, the trustworthy old Beetle accounted for around half of Mexico City’s taxis, which slowly declined as taxi licenses expired. Beyond taxicabs, the Type 2 has been used extensively as a basis for
trucks, offroad campers, and even ambulances.

The iconic Beetle has made a lasting impression on the automotive landscape. If you’ve ever considered buying or working on a classic car, the Beetle is a great choice for your first one. What started as a cheap family car for German families in the 1930s turned into a diverse array of different vehicles, all because the design focused on simplicity, ease of use and repair, and practicality. The Beetle was the most produced car of any platform with over 21 million cars produced from the ’30s all the way into the current millennium. In fact, the last Volkswagen Type 1 rolled off of the assembly line in 2003, and the world may never see a car as ubiquitous, useful, or hackable again.

117 thoughts on “Volkswagen Beetle – The Most Hackable Car

  1. I wish there was a few cars being made today with the same philosophy. Simple, easily serviceability, interchangeable parts. I get the feeling that if I want that I have to go for a car 30+ years old.

      1. Some of the GM cars in the 80’s through the 2000’s were easy as pie to pull. you simply park the car put stands under the cradle and then remove 4 bolts and lift the body. out comes the whole drive train. disconnect wire connectors and hoses and you can pull the whole assembly rapidly.

        The nice part is that they did some standardizing, The Grand Prix GTP assembly fit the Minivan with very little effort so that I was able to help a friend make a 3800 Supercharged Minivan that was eating corvettes.

        Honestly all cars are as hackable as the bug….. you just need different tools and knowledge.

        1. Most modern cars are built by lowering the body onto the engine and transmission, so that’s usually the easiest way to remove the engine, but you probably need access to a hoist to do so.

    1. There is at least one: the Jeep Wrangler. Also many parts from Subarus are compatible from 1970 through 2005. Peugeots from 1983 to 1999 all snap together like LEGO too.

      1. The only thing better than owning a Jeep is owning two. I have a 2002 TJ and a 1997 TJ. I blew the engine on the 02, and when I bought it the 97 needed a new steering column, roof, doors, windshield, fenders… the list goes on. I’m in the middle of swapping everything over from the dead one to the live one. When I’m done I’ll have one good TJ and a shell that I’m going to turn into a teardrop-style trailer. Now that’s going to be a hack.

        1. You should make it so you tow it backwards behind you and just change the headlights to be the brake lights. It’d be so weird to come across that on the road.

      2. I’ve done a few Subaru engine swaps. Seems like nearly every year on that flat four they changed a ton of stuff on the intake manifold. Every swap I’ve done, I’ve had to keep the intake from the car the engine is going into. Once I had to also swap the back plate on the engine because the 4×4 wagon had an extra bit on the top with a truss rod going back to the firewall, below the spare tire.

    2. There could never be a simple car like that today. Safety and pollution considerations would rule that out. Those cars were death traps, The best you could do today would be to get an electric car.

    3. Survivors bias just won’t die.

      I’ve made projects out of a 1973 Datsun 240Z. 1981 Toyota Pickup, 1985 Toyota 4runner, 1990 Toyota 4runner, 2008 Volkswagen Rabbit and my latest machine, 2010 Toyota FJ Cruiser.

      Guess which vehicle is easiest to work on, has the most thoughtful engineering and most amenable to modification? The FJ by a mile. . . and unlike all of the other projects, there is actually little I can to you “upgrade” because it’s so well engineered to begin with.

  2. My first car was a 63 VW. We did all kinds of hacks, big wheels, mufflers, even tried super charger (failure).

    Fun car, always said it was my first sports car back in the 60s and early 70s. We used to race and built a dune buggy. In one race our best engine was exchanged after I race my car we put the engine in the dune buggy right at the race. Got first place in both.

    Fun times I miss the VW, but hey I will keep my vette I have now.

    1. OK I will bite, how do you know sounds like a story.

      BTW I was driving to my college apartment in my VW when someone was honking and I looked in my rear view mirror to see flames coming out of the engine compartment. Luckily I had the engine hood off. Once the fire was out no real damage except some wiring that turned out was bad anyway.

  3. I think there’s someone in the SF bay area who converted a beetle into an EV with self-made 18650 battery packs. IIRC, it’s got an 85-mile range on a charge.

      1. I use to have one ! Amazing car, use it as my daily runner for about 5 years. Never left me “on foot”. Also have a Mehari, a Mini and Unimog at sometime Still looking for a LandRover and Izetta.

  4. No way as hackable as the British Land Rover Defender or its predecessors going back to the Series 1.
    Available anywhere in the world except the USA as the rules were too strict.
    They say 75% of the production run since 1954 is still on the road in one form or another.
    They only stopped producing them this year.
    And Ive got a 300tdi 110 Station wagon that will out last me.

  5. >”But possibly the best example of its simplicity is the fact that the windshield washer mechanism is pressurised with air from the over-inflated spare tire, eliminating the need to install another piece of equipment in the car.”

    That’s not simplicity. That sounds like stupidity, because the use of the washer will deplete the spare tire pressure, and then you have no spare tire and no washer. That in turn would require you to carry along a foot pump, and manually re-pressurize the washer-tire every few hundred kilometers.

    A far far simpler mechanism would be just a regular electric washer pump and leave the spare tire alone. For that reason, I’m calling that anecdote bullshit.

    1. And how on earth would an air-operated washer system even work? Pressurize the whole tank and leak all the air out?

      A pneumatic cylinder pump, or a turbopump, would have been just as complex and costly as the electric pump.

      1. The washer fluid reservoir is located on the right (right) side of the luggage compartment, where it rests diagonally. The bottom, which has a fitting for the fluid leaving the reservoir, rests in a circular bracket on the inside of the fender. On the top there is a larger fitting that rests rather freely in a crescent-moon shaped bracket that is also attached to the inside of the fender.

        The system receives its pressure from the spare tire. A rubber hose extends a short ways from the top of the washer reservoir; on the end of it is a female tire valve stem fitting. Just a few inches away in the washer bracket is a standard tire air fitting, to which the hose from the washer reservoir attaches. This fitting has a hose that extends down to the spare tire, where it attaches to the tire fitting by way of a female fitting.

        The Owner’s Manual for the ’73 SB says that it is possible to fill the spare tire with air by way of the standard tire air fitting in the washer bracket.

        Dave ran into a problem at this point – the washer ‘kit’ did not come with the piece that runs from the washer bracket down to the spare tire. Also, the washer reservoir that Dave purchased did not come with the bottom tubing connection. On the nozzle on the bottom of the reservoir has a very small nipple sticking down, with a larger female thread up closer to the tank. None of Dave’s normal VW parts outlets carry the fitting for the outlet on the bottom of the washer reservoir. However, a friend in B.C. wrote to say that –

        It’s quite simple how it attaches. There is a screw fitting that fits over the threaded part and has a hole in the centre. Once you have the plastic screw cap that goes over the thread nipple on the reservoir the hose tightens up and will not come out. It automatically crimples the hose so the pressure from the tire will not push it off.

        The friend thinks the fitting might be available at Bow-Wow Auto Parts. (?)

        An e-mail friend in New Hampshire keyed Dave into a Bug shop in Florida –

        Sun Ray Bugs
        16016 Us Highway 301
        Dade City, FL 33523
        (352) 521-5660

        Dave called Sun Ray Bugs and found some very friendly and helpful people. They had the fitting and sent it to Dave, free of charge! Many thanks to Sun Ray Bugs (I wish they had a Web site or an e-mail address, but they don’t). Dave has yet to find the piece of hose that runs from the washer bracket down to the spare tire.

        Back to the operation of the system – there is a one way/pressure limiter valve built into the fitting on the top of the washer reservoir — this will allow the spare to only drop to about 26 psi and no further. The spare is always pumped to about 42 psi to allow for this.

        When the washer switch on the steering column is activated by pulling the wiper handle toward you, washer fluid exits the bottom of the reservoir, then travels through a rubber hose to the left side of the luggage compartment, then through a hole in the firewall, and on into the cabin to the washer switch on the steering column.

        There are two nozzles on the washer switch — one for pressurized washer fluid in (the bottom one), and one for fluid out to the squirter (the top one). Note that these nozzles are quite long; you need to push the hoses onto them as far as possible to prevent them from coming off and squirting water all over the cabin floor! The hose from the upper nozzle on the steering column goes up through a hole in the firewall (with a grommet in it) about 2-3 inches to the right (right) of the steering column, into the fresh air box. The hose then goes on up to the squirter in the center of the body, aimed at the windshield. You can adjust the angle of the nozzles by inserting a straight pin (sewing pin) in the nozzle and moving it around.

        The system is quite simple, though it does require water and electrics in close proximity under the steering column.

        1. “The Owner’s Manual for the ’73 SB ”

          That’s not the same thing. That’s the 1973 Super Beetle, whereas the original 1962 VW Beetle washer was made differently. See comments below.

        2. Yeah and since I’ve always had super beetles (the first picture is me with my ’72 super) I thought they were all this way. At least I wasn’t claiming they all had mechanical turn signals! But really my point was simplicity above all, not details about every model year revision of the beetle.

          1. My first Bug was a ’72 Super too! What a great car. There was nothing I couldn’t – or didn’t have to – fix on that car. Except the pan – eventually rusted through to the point where I was Flintstoning to stop. Replaced the car wth a ’69 that was only marginally better. They got me through high school and a few year beyond, until I was sick of freezing to death in the winter.

          2. And my point was that a super-soaker windshield washer system isn’t exactly simpler from a small electric motor: it’s more complex to use, has more parts and more points of failure compared to a little DC motor with a centrifugal vane pump. Even the switch in the dash is more complicated as it has to be a valve with diaphgrams and o-rings and whatnot to hold back 35 psi instead of an electrical switch that’s just mashing two ends of wire together.

            It’s pretty hard to justify such a choice unless for some odd reason they simply didn’t have little DC motors available for cheap.

    2. Your right, It wasn’t for simplicity, it was for cheap-skateness and low build price. And yes pretty much every bug I have been involved with by now has a washer bottle with a little electric motor on it apart from the ones belonging to diehard restorers…

      1. Turns out the tank wasn’t pressurized from the spare tire, but was simply located next to the spare tire. It was a 1 liter bottle with a tire valve on top, you filled it and then re-pressurized it to 35 psi with a bicycle pump or an air hose. I tried to post a reference to it but apparently the comment system ate the whole comment and it will appear later.

        Of course you could bleed pressure off of the spare tire to fill the tank, but that wasn’t the design intent.

        “http://www.joesherlock.com/11-08-VWtnk.gif”

          1. Guess again

            http://1967beetle.com/windshield-washer-system/

            “Pressure in 1961 was generated by a diaphragm—the switch was pulled to activate a diaphragm which pulled water from the unpressurized fluid bottle and pushed it through the washer nozzles onto the windshield.

            For 1962, the bottle was changed so that it could be filled with liquid, the cap screwed shut and the bottle pressurized by use of a tire pump or some other source of compressed air.”

    3. http://www.joesherlock.com/My-Cars3.html

      Found something to contradict the claim:

      “new for ’62 was a windshield washer powered by compressed air. It was located behind the spare tire. To service it, one had to depressurize the one-liter holding tank, pour in the washer fluid and then repressurize the tank to the correct 35 psi.”

      The tank it seems wasn’t pressurized from the spare tire, but had its own valve and you simply pumped it up, possibly with a bicycle pump or an air hose if at hand. You can see the valve body on top.

    4. NO the PROPER factory system in a 73 super had a spring loaded pressure regulator that turned off the washer fluid supply at about 32 PSI. it failed often and was usually thrown away. everything else had different variants

  6. Interesting review, maybe a bit overly rose tinted?
    My vw memories are of welding in new floor pans to counter rot, fighting the geometry problems of the swingarm suspensions trying to get my kitcar to handle properly, the weakness of the trans when it started making actual power, lack of brakes. Jacking in corners under power, which makes them unpredictable in some conditions. You can dial it down with z bars on the rear suspension, but thats not a good thing at times either. Maybe go to a porche box if you can find one but it all starts getting horribly expensive.
    Also if you peek inside a vw drag engine, theres not much vw left inside. Driving a stock camper van at stock ride height is a exercise nearer boating more than driving as the steering is so vauge. Source, I’ve still got a devon camper, and a kit car that once used a vw beetle chassis (Nova Sterling) but now has a lotus esprit underpinnings instead.
    Yes theyre simple, I certainly wouldn’t recommend one to someone as their only and first car though…

    I saw a electric beetle conversion 20+ years ago that fascinated me at the time, with a small genset in place of the engine trying to maintain charge on the lead acid battery bank powering it, top speed about 65mph and range about 200 though that was from chatting the owner so may have been inflated.
    Nova were developing a electric version of the vw beetle kit at one point but died a death as 40 odd years ago ev was a outlandish idea and they were only a tiny company with limited resources. I see now sterling cars (usa development of the original Nova kit) offer a full ev kit for the shell…

    If you want simple and interchangeable and tough, land rovers are also good for that unless your in the USA where the prices seem insane. Their body layout is even more mechano like than the beetle, ie you can unbolt the rear sides on a van and bolt in the safari window body and have the country 5 seater variant, swap the roof for a short cab top and cab back, take the uppers off and have the pickup variant. They don’t handle on road any better than a bug though and just look make you look stupid in a urban commuter setting and they fall apart quite often also. Source, I live somewhere rural, drive a pre-defender 90, and I’m waiting for a 101 forward control to arrive on a transporter to replace it with.
    2cv’s are chassis and shell b pillar rot boxes also, and they vibrate a LOT, they still have 2cv autocross here though which is a sight to behold, 5 abrest 2cv’s stuffing themselves into a muddy rough corner wide enough to take two, roll overs are common .

  7. Don’t forget there was almost a cult built up around them in terms of self-repair. John Muir’s “How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive; A Manual of Step-By-Step Procedures for the Compleat Idiot” was important, but I thought there were other books too.

    Michael

      1. A little off topic — I was 17 with my long hair flowing working in a shop at a drill press. The boss comes over to bum a cigarette and tells me a story about a woman working in a plant during WWII getting her hair tangled up in the machinery. He thanked me for the smoke and just walked away.

        Needless to say, I shut it down and tied it up. Did not have to think twice.

    1. Muir’s books were like my bible when I was driving VWs. I had one for my parents’ ’77 Rabbit, and one for my ’72 and ’69 Bugs, Not only were they fantastic manuals for the VWs, they were amazing tutorials to teach the basics of car mechanics. On top of that, they were beautifully illustrated and the text was often hilarious. I used to read my copy late into the night, laughing hysterically. My mom poked her head in my room one night and asked, “What’s so funny?” When I held up the book she said, “You’re laughing at a car repair manual?” Yep, they were that funny.

    2. I still have my copy.

      I had a ’59 in high school, sold it when I went to college. Went through 3 engines, Redid the brakes myself. It was even on the road occasionally. The heat was permanently on. It was, in retrospect. a total death trap (my work was none too good), but somehow I lived through it. Spent $100 for it, probably $1k on it, and sold it for the same $100.

  8. This is some horribly simplified bit of philosophy on my part, but it’s mine and not your reality so here it goes.

    I think the mandated safety requirements have made cars in America too expensive. There was a time that if you wanted safety, you paid for it. It was a luxury item found in Saab, Volvo and Mercedes Benz. Safety was also a choice.

    If you could afford the safe cars, you could go buy ya one. What if you couldn’t afford safety? Well you had options, frugality over surviving a crash. Not the most sensible choice, but sometimes ya gotta.

    Now we’ve got some great innovations that are required, and yes it truly makes it safer for everyone on the road as a result. But man it’s starting to hurt the wallet. Cheapest new car is $12k right now, no one is forcing ya to buy new. But even the used market is getting prohibitively expensive. Combine inflation with the ever increasing list of requirements set by the government in a new car. It seems like we’re heading to a near future where a 16 year old might have to get a 15-30 mortgage to buy even a used car.

    So I like the Beetle for what it is, simple, cheap, dangerous and affordable transportation that made it a ‘people’s car’.

    But I also like electronic fuel injection and ABS so I’ll stick with my wife’s 2012 Beetle for safety and my motorcycles for frugality, simplicity and dangerous fun.

    1. All those safety regulations have also reduced the number and severity of road accidents to the point that you don’t then have to pay yourself sick for insurance to own a car.

      It’s all relative.

    2. Two of my mother’s friends are now permanently crippled due to accidents they experienced in VW Beetles. They can still walk, but slowly and painfully. One guy had to give up his job as a basketball referee.

      The main issue was serious leg injuries due to the flimsy construction of the front of the car. Had they been in more modern cars (say, ’90s and later) they likely would have walked away from the same accidents, and fully recovered.

      A lot has been learned about safety engineering since the 1970’s. It’s worth the money.

    3. @Eric Cherry
      The issue is that when people sacrifice safety to save money, the law of averages combined with the nature of insurance ensures that we all still pay for it in the long run. There is no free lunch.

      I just wish huge SUVs and bro-dozers would go away so small cars could be safe again.

  9. My best VW hack was in 1990 when I melted a hole in the #3 piston because of a wad of shop tickets plugging the fan of my recently acquired ’68 Ghia. It failed at Carl’s Corner on I35 on the way from Dallas to Austin.

    Not to worry. Once I diagnosed the problem, I pulled the rocker arm, took out the pushrods for #3, replaced the rocker arm and drove the 90 or so miles back to Dallas. on the remaining 3 cylinders, albeit more slowly. Actually used it regularly to drive to work while I waited for a new engine to arrive.

    Second best hack was when the center button in the distributor went out in the middle of the night in the wilds of Arkansas. Rummaged around and found a small oval head phillips screw in the glove box. Inserted in distributor and drove the rest of the way to my destination.

    An air cooled VW will be the last car working after civilization collapses.

        1. Give the man a gold star! During WWII, the some Brits ran their cars on gas produced by destructive distillation of wood. IIRC Lindsay used to sell a book on the subject. Which also probably means i have it somewhere. But certainly ethanol would be available at small group organization levels.

          The VW was owner serviceable by design. My favorite was my ’67 bus. To pull the engine you just parked on a level surface, blocked under the engine, removed the bumper, disconnected the engine and rolled the car away. When finished you rolled it back and hooked it up. A skillful person can repair an air cooled VW with almost anything. But after 200,000+ miles, they start to fall apart. I had the mirror bracket fracture as well as the clutch operating arm. Both broke from fatigue.

          I lost the #3 exhaust valve on the bus just outside of Woodward, OK early one morning. Got a ride to the nearest truck stop. They said I could fix it in their parking lot, so we got in the tow truck. I finished the job late the next day because my parts didn’t show up until 2 pm. The motel where I stayed the night before no longer had a room so I drove off in the night in a rain storm, very nervous. Turned out that I’d disturbed one of the piston bases taking it down. A speck of grit had gotten in and kept it from sealing. I was blowing oil everywhere. It took 3 teardowns to figure it out. Such things are usually caused by the pushrod tube seals. I also had a bad piston slap, but that was another adventure trying to sort out.

      1. In the post-WW2 fuel shortage, many people ran Volkswagens and C2Vs on turpentine exctracted from tree stumps, mixed with ethanol and wood alcohol, acetone, etc. whatever stuff that burned. They had to be started on petrol, but once hot they ran with just about anything – even lamp oil.

    1. The difference is that the last “classic” VW Beetle is almost the same as the first one off the production line. A 2016 Toyota Corolla shares almost zero parts with an early model.

      1. The 80’s corollas were complete rustbuckets. The 90’s corollas fixed that problem and made for a well running if somewhat bland and uncomfortable car, and then the 2000 and later corollas became so filled with electronics that they again became unreliable and finicky, and the modern corollas are basically as un-serviceable as any other computer on wheels.

      1. I considered using a 4l as my everyday-use car but at 650€ with a fuel economy of about 10l/100km it would be a stupid option. Now i want to build a wood-framed mid-stirling-engine(4cilinders 1 combustion chamber beta configuration with camshaft) rear-whell-drive cvt without clutch (reverse made in the differential)

      2. Answering to your question, there is a huge 4th handed car market in portugal(because we r poor and the import taxes are colossal) and these car weren’t fully destroid, only the chassy and the rest was sold as parts to repair other cars

  10. My first job way back when was as a pump jockey at a full service station in South Florida. Used to have a customer with a VWthat was turned into a single seater by narrowing the body. It had the shifter between the guys legs and big Baja fenders made it look like some weird insect.

  11. “If you build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door.” No if you build a better mousetrap the world will build a better mouse. Anyway it seems to me since the KdF Wagen is so popular maybe somebody should set up shop building knockoffs in China, you’ed make a mint (if you didn’t get your ass sued offed by the boys from Wolfsburg.)

    1. (if you didn’t get your ass sued offed by the boys from Wolfsburg.)

      They’re preoccupied right now, with not going to jail. You’re probably good to go.

  12. Subaru has continued the flat four in it’s wet design, with a wide timeline as an above comment goes. They run a billboard advert for hiring at the local Subaru plant that shows a flat four as a photo spread with the moniker “does this get you excited?”. It is the most sensible engine around. A few have airworthy status.

    1. “Subarus can save you money,
      Subarus can save you gas.
      Subarus are a lot more fun,
      and Subarus are built to last!
      It’s got a quadrazontal engine,
      and that’s great too!
      You could sell it on gas mileage alone,
      but you get more car with a Subaru!”
      – old radio ad jingle

  13. We had a 68 bug (my sons now) ,was a crash and hailstorm victim updated to a baja style. updated the brakes to all disk, swapped the engine from a Subaru . Installed interior from a 99 cavalier adding racing safety harnesses. The first engine was 1985 modified with a Delorto 2 barrel carb, updated again to 2008 Subaru efi controlled with a hand soldiered Megasquirt3 controller. Put in street racer transmission. Painted it red the first time with paint roller and rolled on Hercliner on the roof. Son and friends stripped and painted again last year but kept the roof ( to many un-fixable dents). My sons now know more about car repair and mods. Son recently rewired the entire car from headlights to taillights. The never endinG story
    Hack , Hack ,etc.

  14. There’s a crapload of cars and trucks that are just as hackable and even more reliable than VW bugs ie any non-EFI Ford/GM/Chrysler trucks especially those with manual transmissions. They have heaters that work, can carry a useful load and tow trailers. Can’t tow crap with a Bug!

  15. I have proudly owned a lot of cars, including almost all the “hackable” cars in the comments above
    WV bug (hacked into a Baja first, then a tubular buggy)
    Land Rover (lifted and engine swapped to a Volvo Marine Diesel)
    Jeeep Wrangler TJ (lifted, ARB locking diffs, winch and other offroad enhancements)

    But the ones I have worked mostly on is a car that almost noone wants to work on, the SAAB 95/96 V4.
    There is not a lot of on the shelf parts for it anymore, although it was once a sucessfull rally-car.
    I also used to race with them, but had to do most of the work myself.

    I ended up turning down Opel 1900 pistons in the lathe, boring out the cylinders, stroking it with Ford crankshaft and rods and cutting out a part of the cylinderheads and re-welding in new exhaust ports, porting it and putting bigger valves in it, dual weber carburators and a new camshaft…

    It ended up 1840cc, and putting out ~170bhp, witch was enough in a 750kg ligth car on graveltracks.

    But there was also the pitfalls, like the transmission not really handling that power (had to weld the uniqe free-wheel mechanism and the differential), the steering arms that was to weak (beefed them up) and the front dual A-arms (beefed them too), every race had me working for days after, and I swapped a few bodys after rollovers, but it was fun and inexpensive racing, and around here the parts were plenty and cheap.

    Now I have slowed down and just toys around i the forrest with the Jeep TJ, I envy those who live in the US and can buy tons of cheap parts for them, around here it is harder to find parts for it, and a lot more expensive…

  16. Yeah they were awesome. Smelled of gas inside the vehicle, floorboards that would rust out on a dewy morn, and windows that decided when to let themselves down. I know a lot of folks learned a lot about mechanics on their beloved bugs, but ask yourself if you would put up with that shit with any other vehicle. Pfft. Rock and peanut steering, fenders that would light up like the forth of july on a gravel road, and slightly less horsepower than my first bike. I guess it was good that they were light and you could push them back home and dump another $130 (always that amount) of parts into it and piss away another weekend. Main reason most Beetle owners had 2 or 3 to part swap. Rust in pieces… fond memories.
    It DID make building my first remote controlled helicopter easier ;P

    1. Well, those technically *are* roads, but yeah, a Kombi can get places you’d never expect. The Bug was pretty handy like that too – I used to off-road regularly with mine. Cockroach tough.

  17. Why did VW abandon the Super Beetle with its curved windshield (except 1st year of SB) that gave better forward visibility and aerodynamics, and the MacPherson strut front suspension which allowed for much more trunk space?

    Why axe all those improvements and go back to the old flat windshield and leaf torsion spring front suspension which used up a huge amount of space in the front?

    That’s a bit like how Bridgeport made their much improved Series II milling machines for a while, then quit and went back to the old 1930’s design J-Head, which Hardinge still makes today.

    I’ve seen a few volksrods with the front suspension arms reversed to point forward.

    1. I have a 73 and my daughter has a 75 Superbug L, still curved windshields and Macpherson strut front ends of both of those . Im not aware of any step back from that design

        1. I’m pretty sure they sold both until they dropped both because of the EPA NoX rules. I looked at new ones, but couldn’t afford either.

          VWs are dangerous. Drive a bus and you’ll be very aware of it. As a friend used to say, “You’ll be the first one to arrive at the accident.” A smart driver compensates for it. I don’t expect to live in a perfectly safe world. Such things don’t exist.

          I’d love to be able to buy the equivalent of a ’67 bus with all flat glass. But I lost my interest in the constant work an old one requires. And US law won’t allow the overseas clones into the country.

  18. Quote: “Its leader at the time wanted a true “people’s car”…”

    Translation: The “leader at the time” was none other than Adolf Hitler of ill-fame. And many Germans noticed that, although they’d contributed from their paychecks to get themselves that “people’s car,” when Hitler started his war, the VW factory was converted to war production.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volkswagen_Group#History

    When it comes to older, quirky cars that require a lot of hands-on work, I’ve always been partial to an ancient Citroen:

    Conceived by Citroën Vice-President Pierre Boulanger to help motorize the large number of farmers still using horses and carts in 1930s France, the 2CV is noted for its minimalist combination of innovative engineering and utilitarian, straightforward metal bodywork — initially corrugated for added strength without added weight. The 2CV featured a low purchase cost; simplicity of overall maintenance; an easily serviced air-cooled engine (originally offering 9 hp); low fuel consumption; and an extremely long travel suspension offering a soft ride, light off-road capability, high ground clearance, and height adjustability via lengthening/shortening of tie rods. Often called “an umbrella on wheels”, the bodywork featured a distinctive and prominent full-width, canvas, roll-back sunroof, which accommodated oversized loads and until 1955 reached almost to the car’s rear bumper, covering its trunk.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citroën_2CV.

      1. Hitler also did design work on the VW

        Well, maybe he gave inputs, but Porsche did all the work. KdF-wagen for the win. You (as a citizen of the Reich) got a coupon book and pre-payed for your KdF-wagen in monthly installments. Built for the new autobahns.

  19. I wish I could have the very first version of Beetle. The modern Beetles won’t take aftermarket parts, and OEM VW parts cost through the roof. You can easily be taken to the cleaners once the warranty is up

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