Junkyard Find: 1973 Volkswagen Super Beetle


1973 VW Super Beetle in California junkyard, LH front view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe 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.

1973 VW Super Beetle in California junkyard, RH rear view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe 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.

1973 VW Super Beetle in California junkyard, 1988 rear glass - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsHere 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.

1973 VW Super Beetle in California junkyard, 1988 Alameda Times-Star - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe East Bay newspapers from 1988 suggest that this car spent the last few decades slowly decaying in the great outdoors.

1973 VW Super Beetle in California junkyard, red tag - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsAt some point, the Alameda County Sheriffs red-tagged this car, and the tow-truck man showed no mercy.

1973 VW Super Beetle in California junkyard, engine - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsIf 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.

1973 VW Super Beetle in California junkyard, McPherson strut front suspension - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsWhat 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).

1973 VW Super Beetle in California junkyard, LH rear view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThis 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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