An Old VW For Everyday Use?

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My friend (and web ninja master of EPautos) Dom asked me the other night what I thought about getting an old VW to replace his modern car as his everyday driver. He hasn’t owned an old Beetle before. I have owned two – and drove one of them (a ’73 Super Beetle) in DC traffic (the Ultimate Test) as my everyday commuter for several years back in the early ’90s. Here are some thoughts about the pros – and cons – of driving an old Beetle as an everyday car:Hippie Beetle

The Pros:

* Even today, old Beetles are still pretty cheap to buy. No doubt, prices have gone up (I paid $700 for my ’73 circa 1991) but relative to the cost of buying a new (or even recent vintage used) car, they are still very low. The sweet spot for a solid “driver” – which means, basically sound (it might need a tune-up, or minor brake work, but not major engine or transmission repairs) and with a decent (not rusted out, structurally sound) body – seems to be in the vicinity of $3,000-$5,000 dollars.

If you watch Craigs list like a hungry vulture – and keep your “car-dar” on for opportunities locally – you may still able to snap one up for less than $3,000. (I’ve seen one in my area recently that looked good with an “1,800 or best offer” sign on the windshield.)red Beetle lead

You’ll pay more for a convertible, of course – and a lot more for a restored example. But solid, get-in-and-drive ’em Bugs are still obtainable for about what you’d pay for a high-miles, 8-10 year-old used economy car. And the upside is that unlike a high-miles, 8-10 year-old used economy car, an old Beetle is not reaching the end of its economically viable life. Because they are simple, basic cars – without computers, without elaborate emissions controls – they can be kept running at reasonable cost almost indefinitely – the chief limitation being the body (which is vulnerable to rust) rather than the drivetrain. This is the opposite of modern cars, which may not rust out for decades but which can become junkyard fodder when cost-prohibitive drivetrain repairs (usually related to the electronics or emissions systems) render the car not worth fixing.Beetle engine pic

Related to the above is you won’t have to worry about emissions inspections – which in most states aren’t required of cars more than 21-25 years old. The last new Beetles were sold (in the U.S.) in 1979 – almost 35 years ago. And even if your state still requires that a car pass “smog” in order to register it/keep the tags valid, you won’t have to spend $500 on a new catalytic converter (or $1,000 on major engine repairs) to do so. Usually, adjusting the timing and cleaning the carb – maybe a new set of plugs – will do the trick. Shouldn’t cost you more than $25 – or take you more than half an hour.

* The Beetle will not depreciate.

Unlike almost any new or late-model used car, whatever you pay for your Beetle today, you’ll probably be able to get back two or three (or five or seven) years from now, should you decide to sell. Beetles are classics. Their value has plateaued – or increased. Only if you seriously abuse a Beetle and render it in obviously worse shape than it was when you got it will it be worth significantly less than what you paid for it.Beetle cut-away

This makes it a true investment – unlike almost anything new, which will lose value every day you own it.

* It will cost you next to nothing to insure a Beetle – assuming you go for the bare minimum legally mandated liability-only policy. I am assuming you’ll pay cash, of course – which is another money-saver all by itself, since it means no car payments every month. You may have to spend $30 here, $15 there every once in a while for things like a fan belt or a new set of plugs. But recurrent – and significant – monthly drains on your wallet will be a thing of the past.

* A Beetle can be easily – and for the most part – cheaply maintained by its owner. If not by its owner, then by any competent independent mechanic, whose services ought to cost you a fraction of dealership hourly rates.

This, perhaps, is the Beetle’s biggest draw.Beetle cabin view

Assuming you get one that’s mechanically sound, the car’s routine maintenance requirements are extremely basic. You can, for example, change the oil with nothing more than a crescent wrench. It is not even necessary to jack the car up. There are just four spark plugs and a single fan belt – all easily accessed with very basic tools. Being air-cooled, there is no radiator to worry about, no coolant leaks to sweat, no thermostats to get stuck, no water pumps to fail. Replacing brake pads/shoes is simple (and cheap). Ditto tires – which are not “low profile” mounted on fancy aluminum rims, but el cheapos fitted to durable, inexpensive 15×6 steel wheels. I just checked Tire Rack and they stock a set of 165/80-15 tires (factory size) for $272 ($68 each). See here. That’s cheap, chief.Beetle wheel

The one hassle with old Beetles, maintenance-wise, is checking/adjusting the points in the distributor – which you’ll need to do about once every six months or so if the car is driven regularly. But by now, many old Beetles will have been updated with a conversion kit that eliminates the points. If your particular car hasn’t been, you can buy the kit (about $100; see here and here) and install it yourself in about 10 minutes – again, with basic hand tools. I have done this job several times; it’s very easy. Anyone who can remove/install a doorknob can handle it.

* Beetles are great in the snow.

Though rear-wheel-drive, the Beetle is a tough little dude in the snow because of two things: Its air-cooled engine sits on top of the rear wheels, and its tires are skinny and tall. The weight pushes the skinny tires right through the snow, like pizza cutters through a Sicilian deep-dish pie. I’ve driven Beetles in blizzards. They are almost as good as a 4WD truck.snow Beetle

And, finally:

* Beetles are fun. There’s a reason this basic,unassuming little car remains hugely popular decades after the last one was sold new. They are spunky and pugnacious – like a Boston Terrier – and just as easy to love. They are an end-run around the American sickness of acquisitiveness and a thumb in the eye of class-consciousness. Everyone – anyone – can drive a Beetle and not look or feel silly doing it.

They also offer a return to sanity, A to B transpo-wise. Instead of being chained to a perpetual debt machine, you’ll have money for other things in life.

The Cons:

* The Beetle is slow.slow Beetle

Really slow. If you’ve never driven one, you ought to  – you must – drive a Beetle before you buy one. To be certain you can deal. A modern ca is considered pokey if it takes 10 seconds to get to 60. The slowest new cars get to 60 in about 12 seconds.

A Beetle takes about twice as long.

It also tops out around 90 MPH – that’s a Super Beetle, with an 1800 CC engine and a tailwind. On mostly flat roads, it can maintain 70 or so MPH. But it will be obviously working hard to do it. And it will be noisy. The Beetle does not have a modern car’s five or six-speed transmission. There are just four forward gears. (A crude two-speed automatic was available; do not even consider buying a car so equipped. It’s not merely slow. It’s paralytic.)Beetle dash

The upside to having just four forward speeds is you do want the engine (which, remember, is air-cooled) to be running at fairly high RPM on the highway – because that means the engine-driven fan will be spinning faster, helping to keep the engine from overheating. But the lack of a modern transmission’s deep overdrive gearing in fifth or sixth also means the engine will feel (and sound) a lot “busier” at even 60 MPH than a modern car (including modern economy cars) would at 70 or even 80.

There is also not much in the way of reserve power. A Beetle chugging along at 70 is close to maxxed out. A Beetle attempting to pass a Clover doing 63 is a Beetle facing a challenge. A Beetle ascending a grade will probably not be able to maintain speed with the traffic around it. Be ready to move right – and be passed yourself. Much of the Beetle’s slowness can be compensated for by the art of maintaining momentum. But this requires an expert driver – not a sail-fawn gabbler. If that’s you, a Beetle is probably not for you.

Not as an everyday car, anyhow.VW Heater channel

* Beetles do not have amenities – including heat.

That’s not technically true, of course. The VW has an elaborate system of forced hot air directed by the engine cooling fan through a system of ducts and controlled by driver-operated levers. If all the ductwork is intact, if all the cables and so on are operating properly – you will get adequate (but rarely toasty) warmth. Usually, however, something’s not quite right.The tinwork around the engine is leaking. The air ducts on either side of the engine are loose – or have tears. Cables are seized up. The various air doors/channels within the system are rusted out. Result? The hot air stream is minimal – or it is suffused with oil fumes from the engine.

The defroster rarely works well. Ditto the windshield wipers. I kept an old rag in the glovebox to wipe down the interior glass as I drove – and an old credit to scrape ice off the windshield in winter (while I drove, from inside the car). You’ll want to bundle up.

No T-shirts in January.Beetle speedo

* Forget AC. Some Beetles have it (it was usually added by the dealer or an aftermarket shop). But you do not want it. It taxes the Beetle’s already marginal power reserves – and it makes the engine much more prone to overheating. Also forget: Power options, including windows, locks and cruise control. You will, however, have a fuel gauge and a speedometer. Plus a red light for the generator and another for the oil pressure.

* The brakes are terrible. By modern car standards. Drums all around – maybe discs up front, if you buy a later-model Super Beetle There is no ABS to keep you from skidding into the car ahead of you if you failed to maintain an adequate following distance and he stops abruptly – or you’re driving too fast for conditions. If you have never driven a car without ABS, you will want to educate yourself about the lost art of threshold braking, about how to steer into a skid – and so on.rusty Beetle

* Gas mileage is not a strong point. Beetles average about 25 MPG – and low 30s on the highway. In the ’60s and ’70s, when Beetle popularity was at high tide, that was excellent – roughly twice as economical to drive as a V-8 (or even six-cylinder) car of the era. But today, a V-8 powered Corvette gets about the same mileage overall as the Beetle – courtesy of the ‘Vette’s overdrive transmission, fuel-injected engine and other modern advances.

* They rust. It is common to find old Beetles in need of new floorpans and sometimes much more. Even if you buy a solid one, if it is driven in winter and exposed to road salt it is likely you’ll be dealing with rust eventually. It is imperative to thoroughly check any prospect for rot that must be repaired – structural areas and floorpans. (Be sure to lift the back seats and check underneath. The battery is mounted there and this is a common area for rust problems as a result). Sometimes, rusted panels can be repaired at reasonable cost. Other times, not. Know which you’re dealing with before the car you’re looking at becomes your car.VW Hippie 2

In sum:

Be honest with yourself. Beetle ownership can be rewarding, but it will also require more from you in the way of patience and personal comfort than you may able to handle.

Know the car’s limits – and yours.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Beetle – or just interested in a good read – I highly recommend How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive: A Manual of Step-By-Step Procedures for the Compleat Idiot, by John Muir (see here).  This classic work has been around almost as long as Beetles have – and may be partly responsible for that. It’ll tell you what you need to know – and how to deal with almost anything that might come up – in the event you join the fraternity and become a Beetle owner yourself.

Throw it in the Woods?         

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  1. An old Beetle would still make a great “beater” for short trips (100 miles or less). It’s primary virtue is that it’s very easily maintained, and there’s nothing like the frequent valve adjustments and point gapping (and timing) to keep one acquainted with the innards of the Bug. Sure, in stock form, the Beetle is decidedly “no frills”, but it should be remembered that it’s original concept was a cheap, yet reliable and easily maintained vehicle not only for the families that went through the stamp book savings program to get one (keep in mind this was during the National SOCIALIST Worker’s Party regime, what else would one expect?). It also got many government agencies wheels, and when war broke out, the Wehrmacht used them fairly much the same as we “Amerikanen” used the ubiquitous M51 Jeep, even having, in some cases, their own answer to the Jeep in the “Kubelwagen”, which later VW brought back, sorta, as the “Thing”. In the late 1930s, before the Autobahns were even started, most of the German motoring public simply didn’t go all that far, so the Beetle’s relatively cramped quarters and minimal creature comforts nevertheless were good enough. And with those winding, narrow roads, barely upgraded from old horse-and-cart paths, and rolling, hilly terrain, there was more need for a car easily handled than top speed. If an old late 1930’s Beetle (Ger: “Kafer”) with the 988cc engine topped out at 80 km/hr, it was still faster than most of the posted speed limits anyway!

    The Beetle, IMO, is the epitome of cost-effective, pragmatic engineering, and that it was a GERMAN design, whom normally have an obsession with gadgetry and high-tech, say something.

    • The Beetle was a great design, though Porsche based it at least in part on the Czech Tatra 97. I have read that Tatra sued Porsche who wanted to settle, but Hitler put a stop to that saying he would “take care of the matter” – which he did in his own inimitable fashion.

      After the war, Tatra resumed the lawsuit and VW ultimately settled for 1,000,000 DM in compensation.

      And that, as Paul Harvey used to say, is the rest of the story.

      • Jason, indeed Hitler ALREADY had in mind to “settle” the matter, as all the legal hassles between Tatra and Porsche (they had a long history of both collaboration and rivalry, and understandably, Tatra’s chief designer, Hans Ledwinka, was pissed about Ferdy Porsche stealing “his” design, though, as Porsche later put it, “Well, sometimes I looked over Hans’ shoulder and he over mine”), though not specifically over the VW “Kafer”, as he was already fomenting dissension against the Czechoslovakian government by the Sudeten German minority (whom, per capita, had the highest proportion of men of military age in the Waffen-SS), and whom strong-armed Neville Chamberlain and Edouard Deladier into letting him grab from Czechoslovakia after the Munich Agreement of September 1938. Of course, and after both Poland and Hungary likewise helped themselves to pieces of the prostrate country, Hitler wasn’t content to just take the purported part of “Grossdeutschland”, and, after President Hacha, summoned to Berlin and bullied by both Hitler and Goring (whom threatened to have the Luftwaffe bomb Prague), gave in (he may have suffered a heart attack, Hitler’s personal physician, Dr. Morrell, is noted for actually castigating Goring for acting like a jerk, his medical attention likely saving the Czech president’s life), the Slovak part of the country declared its “independence”, becoming a de facto German vassal state, and what is most of the present Czech republic became the “protectorate” of Bohemia and Moravia. BTW, if you go to Winston-Salem, NC, you would be able to partake of Moravian culture as many of them settled there in the 18th and 19th centuries.

        This had a PROFOUND effect on the war that would soon follow. The effective annexing of Czechoslovakia surrounded Poland on three sides by Germany, this would loom large months later when Germany attacked and effectively won the battle of Poland within three days. About a FOURTH of the “German” panzers were the excellent, for the time, Czech Skoda-built models 35 and 38 light tanks, the latter forming, when it couldn’t take a turret to house even the German 5 cm tank gun, let alone the desired 7.5 cm gun, still formed a mount for several excellent tank destroyers, including the famed “Hetzer”. The rest of the vital Skoda works proved invaluable to the Nazis, as they produced an excellent line of artillery pieces, which, owing their design to pre-WWI Austrian-Hungarian Army specs, were compatible with equivalent German pieces. The Czechs and Slovaks, understandably embittered at what would reasonably be considered betrayal by the Brits and the French, cooperated with the Germans, if sullenly. Production from these Czechoslovakian factories proved to be a huge factor in the Third Reich lasting as long as it did, with tanks, guns, and combat aircraft rolling out the factory gates until almost the last day of the war. In fact, with most of the industrial plant still fairly intact after the war’s end, Stalin, whom in a Stavka briefing in Jan 1945, prior to the massive “Vistula-Oder” offensive that could be considered the “Red Storm” on the Third Reich, pointed to this region, saying, “золото!” (“Gold”!). However, unlike most other bombed and heavily shelled factories in areas of Germany and Poland that the Soviet Army occupied, Stalin specifically ordered the Skoda and Tatra factories to be left intact, along with their skilled labor force. These companies were largely left intact while behind the Iron Curtain, nominally under the Czech communists but wisely allowed to operate as freely as a “private” company could under a “socialist” regime; hence why the standard of living of the Czechs was about as well as the DDR, though still well below what Western Europe soon recovered to post-war.

  2. A larger engine will definitely help out if you want more power on the road.

    Front Disc Brakes are a *MUST* upgrade

    If you care about heat, put the time in to getting the ducting and cabling working for your heater ducts, I have had to open the window a little on some cold days because the heat was too much.

    Stock A/C was crap…I still have remnants of it that take up space in the channels of my bug.
    New conversion kits to add A/C should be looked in to by people in a hot climate, the compressor uses very little power and you won’t show up with “sweaty back” everywhere you go.

    Be prepared to replace everything. Your car is 30 years old and may have worn out shocks, steering, torsion bars, etc that will need replacement.

    Replace your transmission oil (for manual transmissions) (instructions online)….it’s probably not been done and your bug will thank you.

    • I would recommend, if you SERIOUSLY want a Beetle as a daily driver, to consider the following:

      1) Brakes – I agree wholeheartedly with John above. Front Discs are a MUST, period, and there are aftermarket kits to upgrade, using easily-obtainable pads and rotors. But DO keep the original stuff, clean it up, coat it with 30W oil where applicable, and bag the pieces up, along with spare shoes.

      2) Suspension parts – again, John nailed it. Acquire a stock of bushings, tie rod ends, ball joints, etc, along with the relatively simple pullers and a pickle fork to facilitate replacement.

      3) There are actually kits to replace the stock VW transaxle with a Subaru 5-speed unit. Rebuild BOTH, store the VW unit for later. This will give your Bug flexibility on the road and let it at least do 70 mph on the freeway, which will avoid you getting killed by impatient fellow motorists.

      4) Also consider an electronic ignition upgrade while keeping the stock distributor, along with spare points, rotor, and cap. It will cut down on the tune-up work. But have the original for a “SHTF” scenario, especially EMP.

      5) Stock up on consumable items such as belts, carb kits, spark plugs, plug wires, lamps, fuses, brake shoes, and generator brushes. Always keep at least ten quarts of engine oil on hand, as well as sufficient gear lube for a gear box change. Have a spare kit of necessary hand tools and a timing light in a “bug out” bag, ready to throw in the Beetle should you have to “shit and git”. When your tires’ treads are about halfway down, start shopping for replacements; keep them in a vacuum-sealed bag, if at all possible, to prevent degradation by oxidation, and especially keep them from sunlight! If your pocketbook and available space permit, acquire spares for carburetor, generator, fuel pump, pulleys, and engine and/or transaxle rebuilt kits. It’s not that I think that a SHTF scenario is imminent, but even about a MONTH ago, about to embark on a week’s vacation in AZ to get in some “Spring Training” baseball, as I did prepare (but admittedly, not as well as I SHOULD have, I’ve taken mental note of “chinks” in my armor, pun intended), but like most other Americans, NEVER believed things would get as they are now.

      Of course, to really go “German” in preparation, automotive and mobility-wise, for what could transpire, I’d acquire a Walther PP. Too bad the PPQ (chambered in choices of .40 S&W or .45 ACP) isn’t “on the list” by Commiefornia. Well, fuck Gov. Gavin Newsome, we know Kimberly Guilfoyle ain’t (she’s currently making “Little Orange Man”, aka Donald Trump Jr, happy at nights).

  3. As for the power, the engine is easy to have machined for a little larger bore for bigger pistons. I bought a 74′ bug off CL in the fall of 2014 for 500 and the engine runs. I plan on investing another 3,500 into it to make it a primary daily driver before 2015 is over. The body was in fairly good condition with no rust. The stock 1600 dual port is slow only making maybe 50 hp at the wheel however it’s still inexpensive to upgrade to the common and proven 1776 engine build and with dual carbs like twin solex 35mm carbs on a 1776 with mild head work , header and better muffler, and obtaining the best tune you can get, you can still get right at 30 mpg on the highway and those issues of having to speed up to gain momentum while approaching a steep grade won’t be an issue. You can still get the longevity of a 1600 but gain at least another 20 hp at the wheels and still be possible to achieve the same mpg. Dual carbs tend to get better mpg on long highways as they can sustain an adequate flow of fuel better than a stock carb where 1 small barrel runs the entire engine.

    The article is right that any upgrades will just boost the value of the VW bug. By the time I’m finished rebuilding mine with as little as I paid for it plus the expense of parts/labor, if I sell it I’ll always be able to get back at least everything I put into it.

  4. I’m interested in the steel wheel in the picture in the article about owning and driving a vw beetle.

    Are those wheels easy to find where you are?

    I’m in South Africa and they are impossible to find here. Cheers Ben

    • Hi Ben,

      In the U.S., it’s easy to find just about anything for an old Beetle. I don’t have any personal experience with the situation in South Africa, though. But have you tried eBay or contacting any U.S. based (or European based) suppliers? Shipping may be high, but I would bet you can find the wheels that way.

  5. I have a 69′ model, its been my daily driver, first car, only car now for almost three years. I love driving it because of the feeling of total control that you get with the 4 speed, manual brakes, manual steering, etc. It just feels like a true machine! I bought it in pretty tough shape, and have been slowely getting around to all areas that need attention and keeping it on the road. It really is not a tremendous amount of maintenance, especially if you aren’t putting a ton of miles on it.

    I have to say the article pretty well sums things up. I would just like to point out that the Beetle never had an 1800cc engine, they maxed out at 1600cc starting in 1970. Also, while they are not peppy, their modest power and acceleration is not quite as crippling as you make it out to be. Stunning performance improvements can also be had with the stock engine by installation of a dual-carb kit and aftermarket exhaust. I doubt the lack of power controls or focus on occupant comfort would bother most who are interested in a Beetle, things like that just don’t fit the simple, timeless spirit of the vehicle.

    • Hi Plat,

      Thanks for the kind words! I often miss my old Super Beetle (as well as other old VWs I’ve owned). As you’ve noted, they are enjoyable – and sensible – little cars.

    • I would just like to point out that the Beetle never had an 1800cc engine, they maxed out at 1600cc starting in 1970.

      Maybe not as standard, but a lot of after-market upgrades could be made to increase their power. I’ve certainly heard of after-market superchargers for Volkswagens.

      • I had a dual-carb set-up on my ’73, along with headers. It wasn’t exactly quick, but it was spry enough to Frogger through traffic with ease, assuming a driver interested in actually driving! Keep the engine in the powerband; anticipate openings in traffic. Be ready to act. Most American drivers are lazy Clovers who putt-putt along using perhaps 20 percent of their car’s potential. See my recent piece about the car as codpiece!

      • I believe the 1800 cc was available in the Type 4 (Kammback or “Square”back) and the later Karmann Ghia. But a run of the “mill” (pun intended) 1600 cc can be souped up for not too many DM so at least your Beetle will “Macht Schnell!”

  6. Well shit, I think I’ve changed my mind. Turns out BrentP had it right the whole time. -cycling

    I’m getting one of these with the ladies included:

    Way better on gas and far more fun than a VW Bug.

      • Dear Brent,

        Actually, being an long time cyclist (as opposed to “biker”), I think velomobiles could have been a great option in a market anarchist society.

        Too bad Big Government overrode market signals about consumer preferences.

        Now we will never know the full extent to which privately financed HSR systems, MRT systems, light rail systems, bike paths, and such could have addressed transportation needs.

        We can only guess.

        • Bevin, over 25 years ago the RR’s stopped town to town delivery and since I was close to tracks I decided to make 4 wheeled human powered things to run on tracks, maybe lease it out and get a lot of people not only keeping themselves fit but with a cheap way to get around, haul good, etc. Just as I figure out how to get this done, they rip up all the tracks, sell the ties and rails and the charge the electric utilities out the wazoo for right of way access on them. It was such a waste. They would have had virtually no upkeep for human powered and low powered lightweight vehicles and could have made money too. oh well.

          • Dear 8SM,


            Under our cronyist mercantilism, not to be confused with laissez faire capitalism, only the Halliburtons and Enrons get to implement their self-enriching “public policy.”

            Anyone else with a good idea that might actually benefit people is shut out entirely.

            Jitneys are another example. They would really add so much convenience if they weren’t arbitrarily prohibited


          • Bevin, thanks. I have dial up but that may be changing soon due to a company providing RF internet. I was unaware of the existence of this show, sounds right down my alley.

          • Dear 8SM,

            I read about the show, but never saw any scenes from it til now.

            Another libertarian website “Freedom’s Phoenix” based apparently in Phoenix, Arizona, ran an article on it.


            According to them,

            “Liberal NBC created the character Ron Swanson on the show PARKS & RECREATION in an attempt to mock libertarians. Instead,…they created a hero.”

            If so, this reinforces a point I made the self-appointed ruling elites suffering blowback from their attempts to brainwash and control the individual.

            Often their spin control achieves the opposite of what was intended!

  7. Thanks for the post re VWs and all the comments, especially about how much fun they are. I used to have a ’60 beetle and loved to do 360s in the snow. Use the hand brake to lock the rear wheels but maintain steering with the front. Steer sharply to one side and tap the foot brake. Blue laws in Massachusetts closed stores on Sunday and parking lots in the winter with a quarter inch of frozen rain were perfect.

  8. So… What about stripping out the car engine, mounting it on a motorcycle frame? Any way to make a rat bike like that? Or is the engine just too different?
    Sounds like it would be a GREAT system, but I can’t put pen to paper and design it. The transmission would be a stopper for me, I’d really need to learn my shit first.
    I could also see it going in reverse; what about a Goldwing engine in the bug? Or something similar, slightly larger, more HP – swap out the tranny to something better/more modern, maybe using motorcycle parts again?

    I really don’t know and am asking, what would work?

    • Jean, we used to have a place in town a guy made Meyer’s Manx knock-offs, really good quality and another way to use up old bugs. I just talked to the guy who owned the place about a month ago(back in the 60’s, early 70’s) and he said the final blow was not being able to get resin for the fiberglas. Those things were great fun and the best I ever saw a friend built in his barn with a 60’s model all aluminum Buick V-6. That baby would scoot and never had problems like the VW powered ones.

      • Tor, one thing a person should do before building or buying a trike is to ride one. Cornering on one is a great deal like….uh, saryuh, it ain’t turning… still ain’t turnin…..OMFG, I’m gonna die….

          • Garysco, ever ridden a trike? I are an old white guy and bikes ride just like always however, I think you need to be young and dumb, strong and ready to always be in danger and work like hell constantly to ride a trike. I could never have guessed till I rode a new Gold Wing trike made by one of the premier companies I forget so as to save nightmares. I didn’t ask to ride the one a guy made out of a Dodge Cummins pickup he’d wrecked. It looked just as safe if not a bit larger.

          • Gary, not sure I’d survive being a passenger….the horror, the horror. They say it’s a personality flaw but I’m one of those people, get on a jumbo jet, (to the pilot)Say, sleepy? Want me to take it? I don’t mind, really, well, just let me know, on the ferry(pop into the control room)Hey, yall need a hand? Naw, I don’t mind, I’ll watch the front and sidescan….uh, you might wanna back up just a little, getting a gap there. To the RR engineer, say, I noticed some smoke on that axle back there, looks sorta hot, want me to pull her up while you watch, BTW, there’s a glad hand just hanging 6 couples back? I can’t help it. Last week I pulled up beside an elderly man with a rr tire nearly flat on his pickup, hey, you got a flat. He did pull over and a young man behind him did too, good deal.

        • Well one of these videos has the word safety in it. So these are probably safer than land trikes.

          Safety Tips For Flying a Powered Paraglider Trike:

          Powered Paragliding S-Trike

          UltraLight Trike TakeOffs and Landings

  9. I will echo the comment about adjusting valves as part of basic maintainence. It a pain in the butt. I do admit that my first girlfriend had a 1600 and working in it probably got me laid.. I still remember the cartoon in the idiots guide of the guy laying in bed with the engine diagram floating in a thought balloon above his head. Only had one more vw in my life, a Karmen Ghia convertible. It caught fire when my wife at the time was driving it while I was out of the country. Sorry to see that one go..

    • Only had one more vw in my life, a Karmen Ghia convertible. It caught fire when my wife at the time was driving it while I was out of the country. Sorry to see that one go.

      Which one were you sorry to see go, the volkswagen or the wife?

    • @Dom – Try tghat with your new $60,000 BMW. :)That $1995.00 is exactly what I paid for my brand new 1970 Bug. Payments were $70.00/ month for 36 months. Damn, just think of the money I would have saved over the years.

    • dom, in 1974 we’re hauling grain into Houston and there’s one of their big floods. Driving along identifying cars on the freeway by their lights they’d left on the night before when they got flooded, water is half way up the radiator on my big rig, maybe higher since I was sweating the air intake. We look over at an intersection that’s even deeper and see 4 guys get of of a VW on the access road, obviously headed to work and just as obviously had done this before. Took off their clothes and packed them on the roof and then swam that VW a couple hundred yards till it hit pavement on the other side, put on their clothes….and they were off. I gave em a couple good horn toots.

      • That is awesome! I’ve been looking at bugs for the past two weeks straight. There are bunches of them everywhere. I’m thinking I’d like to get a ’77 as stock as possible.

          • I’ve had many of the older generation tell me the waters have improved greatly since before the 1970’s.

            That was in the 1980’s I heard that though.

            The crap in the water then, the crap in the water now.
            It’s all crap.

  10. Eric,

    If dom would like some inexpensive transportation, then it will be difficult to find anything cheaper than an Adobe. German engineering with Mexican know how for under $200. 😉

    If dom can spend $300 then this 1974 Gremlin might be a better option.

    If anyone can find video on the Adobe, I would appreciate it.

    • Ha, that is a funny ad! I’m kind of digging the idea of getting a bug though. I’d like something cheap, easy, fun, and something I can work myself. I’m getting rid of my ’94 Saturn, my ’91 box truck, ’10 Yaris, ’85 Honda 350x, and perhaps my ’82 El Camino. It’s time to lean out the fleet. I’ll be keeping my ’96 Electra Glide, ’81 KZ1100, and my ’02 4Runner though. I just can’t keep up with it all anymore! Really don’t want to either.

      • Shit, dom. That’s a full stable.

        I came this [-] close to getting a bug.
        I still might?
        The Muir manual is all I have so far. …Such a cool manual.

        I wonder if you could put some kind of plastic pipe in the heater channels to keep it from rusting out, or to avoid fixing it? The kind they use for Geo-Thermal heating.
        I wonder if a plug-in electric heater(s) would solve the ice on the inside of the windshield problem? I’ve experienced the ice in other modern vehicles (leaky windshield gasket?) It’s bothersome/irritating, for sure.

        I’m thinking it’s not a good idea to get a bug unless you have a garage to park it in, and maybe don’t drive it in the Winter IF they use road salt in your area. … IF you want it to last.

        I hate road salt.

        Also, that commercial below is hilarious (and cool, they don’t make em like that anymore). Reminds me of an FJ Cruiser called, The WaterDragon. Where’s the snorkel? …Oh, that gives me an idea! Where’s my saws-all?

        • Anyone who wants to fight the inadequacies of a vehicle is more than welcome in my book, hopefully that will make my choice of brand cheaper. I had an 84.5 Nissan pickup with 4 flaws, any of them I considered a reason to chunk it. Windshield wipers would not touch the windshield above 55mph, not acceptable and I even put doubles along with 2 sets of airfoils. The heater was pathetic, letting snow and ice run rampant on the windshield, not acceptable. The cooling system was inadequate, a killer in Texas, the head gasket did just like all of them you work so I was told by old time users(and this held true for Toy’s too)gave up around 125,000miles causing extensive engine damage, even took a chunk off the edge of the cylinder, not acceptable. I sent Baby pickup to Mexico, viva la revolucion!

      • That pacer video was the opposite of porn. Imho.
        However; it would be good if every cop in the unitedstate had to drive a car like that. It might help to prevent them from letting their position go to their head? May be just a little?

  11. Having owned three of the air cooled VWs in the 70s I could add to the Cons. I was a starving student, had to drive many miles and needed cars with good mileage and cheap to maintain.

    The mileage was never impressive even when perfectly tuned.

    These cars require a lot of maintenance. I have heard dubious stories about the person who never did any maintenance and drove 100,000 miles. In practice I found these were unforgiving of neglect. I have memories of changing oil and adjusting the valves while lying on frozen ground. It seems my finger nails were always dirty because there was always something to fix when one owns two VWs. It seemed I was constantly replacing cables and starters. The parts might be cheap but time is expensive.

    The lack of heating/defrosting was amazing. I kept a windshield scraper for the interior windows. Replacing heat exchangers is not cheap and the heating and defrost features were inadequate with a brand new set. I don’t know how Germans could design a car without an adequate heater.

    When the Japanese cars came along I had much more time in my life and a 12+ improvement in the miles per gallon along with much more power, even AC. The maintenance was a small fraction of the VW maintenance.

    Looking back at the 24 cars I have owned the air-cooled VWs were the worst by far. It was simply an awful design from the 1930s. Peoples’ love for these cars baffles me. I suppose there is a cult of Yugo and Chevette lovers too.

    It was pleasant remembering the toils of those days and my copy of Muir’s Compleat Idiot was stained with grease on every page.

  12. Another good choice would be a Dodge Omni/Plymouth Horizon. Not quite as easy to maintain as a Bug, but not by much. Get the 2.2L 5 speed; surprisingly peppy, great handling, more room than a Bug, very good mileage (I had an 87 that got almost 48 mpg on one trip from Ohio to Colorado) and easy to get parts for, as they made a gazillion of them ( the Omni-based Charger, for example). With front wheel drive, it handled snow better than any other vehicle I’ve ever owned except my 95 F-250 4×4 diesel.

    • Sorry – but NIX on the Dodge Omni /Horizon…when was the last time you saw one on the road?
      I had a 2.2l with 5 spd – was a fun car at the time while it lasted but blew up at 60K miles, and mine wasn’t the only one….there is a reason you don’t see any of these on the road any more – POS-squared, Caveat Emptor!!!!!

      • Have to concur on that.

        The Omni/Horizon was a fun little shitbox (a GLH-S almost beat my hopped-up ’78 Z28 back in 1987) but ultimately, it’s a throw-away car. It never had the legs the Beetle had. Has. I see at least one old Beetle every time I go downtown. No exaggeration. I can’t recall the last time I saw an Omni or a Horizon on the road. It’s probably been five years, at least.

        Maybe 10.

        Keep in mind, the Beetle was already several years out of (US) production before the first new Omni/Horizon left the factory. Yet Beetles are still chugging along as everyday drivers – almost 40 years after the last new one left the dealer’s lot!

        • eric, I used to watch those front drive drag races and seems like some good head gaskets made those cars pretty tough. An intercooler was the ticket on the aftermarket parts for them too. If they just had those two things they may have lasted much longer. A couple HD half shafts and a street car might have gone a long time mechanically. Of course you don’t want to lean on them too hard, I mean put too much of your weight on the sheetmetal.

  13. I’ve always been a sucker for Beetles. They prove the point about it being more fun to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slow. I owned a ’72 Super Beetle with the semi-auto transmission in the late ’90s, and I mean, that thing was SLOW! Accelerating required a combination of timing, luck, gravity, wind — and lots and lots of patience.

    And yet, it was a hoot to drive — getting it up to the speed limit felt like taking your life in your own hands. Driving on the highway was darn near terrifying, and I only tried it a few times.

    I second the recommendation on the Muir book as well, Eric. It’s great if you have a Beetle, but if you’re thinking about buying one, I think it’s even more valuable, because it gives you an idea of what it’s like to live with one of these contraptions. And most people probably aren’t up to all the ‘care and feeding’ that’s required.

  14. My first car was a 1961 Ghia. The 1200cc motor was weak but with some fine tuneing and minor mods it would run 80mph flat out as long as you could sit behind the wheel. I have been driving and rebuilding VWs ever since. I drove a 66 Bug 150mi round trip to work for 22yrs in SFO traffic. It only quit twice; once when the battery died and once when the fulcrum pin fell out of the fuel pump on the GG bridge. Got pushed across the bridge and robbed the handle off an old metal trash can to replace the pin; worked perfect and was not even late to work! Getting tired of other drivers playing games I built a 2110cc motor with dual 40mm Dellortos and a mild cam. The car was then exhilirating to drive and would touch the speedometer needle to the back side of the peg on the flat. It did require a fine touch and good skill to stay out of trouble. I still drive that car and would not trade it for anything except a good 356 Porsche. It is faster than the Porsche BTW. There are more mods and excellent speed parts available today than ever before for the Bug. I suggest that a well set up one is more fun to drive than just about anything else especially if you are a feel the wheels on the road fully engaged driver.

  15. Several points to be made as a long time mechanic and LOTS of VW aircooler time:
    1) Aircooled vw engines need 3000 mile services; Valve adjust, points and timing adjust, carb adjust, brake adjust and oil change. Failure to adjust valves will end up destroying the valve due to lack of heat transfer and snapping it off into a piston. (valves tighten with wear as they cup against the valve seat eliminating the needed clearance for heat expansion. This is a serious design issue demanding service.
    2) Engine only holds 3 qts of oil and has no real filter.
    3) Keeping heater boxes and engine air seals sealed up is very important to avoid carbon monoxide poison that was common on these abused vehicles. Air leaks around the engine allows exhaust gasses to be sucked up by the engine fan and blown into the car. 1-75 serviced air coolers had correctly sealed engines
    4) The engines leak oil… The design of the engine has many flaws. A very savoy mechanic addresses the multitude of areas during a build and always has one of many cult like followings about a particular type of sealant. I am a Yamabond 3 guy myself, but most traditionalists will swear by permatex….
    5) The engine must be warmed up before throwing a load on her… The heads of which are aluminum, do not have a gasket and set on cast iron cylinders that set on magnesium cases (unless a type 4 Porsche) held together with long steel studs that thread into the magnesium cases. These pieces expand with heat at different rates, combined with vibration… keep them all from working together peacefully for very long…
    6) Transmissions must use GL4 fluid. without it; sticking syncros will soon destroy the transmission. GL4 is getting as rare as hens teeth and is priced like liquid gold. Transmission building requires a special “JIG” to set up fork placement.
    7) Quality parts are hard to come by, Chinese reproduction stuff is sad-

    Hundreds of valid modifications and modernizations to the engines and cars are available and I would recommend a serious wanna-be air cooled driver to look into them. Here are a few;
    1) 5 speed transaxles
    2) Subaru or VW tdi diesel engine installations. The last type 4 air cooler engine is also a MUCH improved engine but it is expensive and not up to par with the previous mentioned units.
    3) Engine oil coolers, filters, upgraded cases with shuffle pins and inserts for the top end retaining studs, Hydraulic lifters ETC are available for the oem engines
    4) Engines respond to hot rod mods! A short drive around town in a Beetle with a 175hp engine is exhilarating. 275hp is a drive you will not soon forget- including wheelies, power spin outs and body twisting toque steering that gives the Scandinavian flick a new meaning as a method of surviving the drive..

    • In college a guy I knew had a VW with what he said was a Porsche engine. Whatever it was it was bad to the bone. He had big tires on the rear and was king of the parking lot drags, nothing else got close.

    • Good info, Ken – thanks for taking the time to post!

      I should have mentioned the 3,000 mile valve clearance check/adjustment. For those who haven’t done this, it’s not a tough job. Just a little bit of a dirty job that requires some patience and the ability to follow a procedure.

  16. And the upside is that unlike a high-miles, 8-10 year-old used economy car, an old Beetle is not reaching the end of its economically viable life. Because they are simple, basic cars – without computers, without elaborate emissions controls – they can be kept running at reasonable cost almost indefinitely – the chief limitation being the body (which is vulnerable to rust) rather than the drivetrain.

    That issue was addressed in the Trabant, which had body work made out of a cheap wool and plastic resin based material that was practically indestructible. Somewhere out there, there’s even some footage showing what happened when some people persuaded a goat to eat chunks of it: it passed through basically undigested.

    This is the opposite of modern cars, which may not rust out for decades but which can become junkyard fodder when cost-prohibitive drivetrain repairs (usually related to the electronics or emissions systems) render the car not worth fixing… by now, many old Beetles will have been updated with a conversion kit that eliminates the points.

    Beep! There’s a possible issue here. Replacements like that avoid the regular adjustments, but only by risking those same high tech vulnerabilities blowing them out at a crucial moment. At least they can still be replaced with yet another conversion kit, but that’s not as simple to do in the field as a regular adjustment, if only because you would need a spare conversion kit.

    Gas mileage is not a strong point. Beetles average about 25 MPG – and low 30s on the highways highway.

    Actually, it was a (fairly) strong point in the earlier models, because they had even lower powered engines – with a trade off giving even lower speeds and acceleration. I doubt if many of those ever reached the U.S.A.

    They rust. It is common to find old Beetles in need of new floorpans and sometimes much more. Even if you buy a solid one, if it is driven in winter and exposed to road salt it is likely you’ll be dealing with rust eventually.

    Curiously enough, in most parts of Australia (basically, away from sea air) climatic conditions favour preserving machinery – including cars. Since many farmers et al only bought new cars in good farming years, that let them keep the cars going until the next good year. Since the cars had little resale value by then, particularly with other farmers also buying new cars and getting rid of older ones, they often got dumped at the end of a paddock – which means a lot of cars with antique importance are around and salvageable.

    I notice that you don’t cover the rear-heaviness from the Volkswagen’s rear engine that affects its handling – or the after-market superchargers that were developed for the engines.

    What are “bake pads”?

    • P.M. – “Bake pads” are those little squares of quilted cloth that grandma sets the cake, pie or bread pan on when she takes it out of the oven, so she won’t burn the counter top. 😉

  17. Great article Eric. Everything you said is spot on. My first brand new car was a 1972 Super Beetle. Owned it for 8 years and about 130,000 miles. Drove it coast-to-coast 3 times. Three dollars for a tank of gas.
    I also bought John Muir’s book (still have it) and a few tools and learned auto maintenance on that car. You forgot to mention the valve adjustments every 3000 miles. I began to neglect that and at about 125,000 miles it swallowed a valve. I expected it might and that I would have to change a piston and cylinder. Then the inevitable happened and I chugged to a stop. I opened the lid and there was the head of the valve sitting in the engine compartment. It apparently got into the crankcase and was pushed out the side of the engine. Trashed the whole thing. But after about 4 hours work with a friend I had a new engine installed and I was “back on the road again”.
    The thought of owning another one has been in the back of my mind for some time. I heard they are still making them in Mexico. Any truth to that?

    Thanks for the memories.

    • I saw a nearly new Mexican beetle on craigslist a few years ago. It was traded to the owner by an illegal to settle a debt. It was in perfect condition and the guy only wanted around $1500 for it, but apparently being Mexican it couldn’t be properly registered here.

      • Hi Jake,

        That could be easily gotten around since very few people can tell the difference between a US-spec Beetle and a Mexican one. If someone were to swap VINs from one to the other, I doubt anyone would be the wiser.

        • Dear Eric,

          Speaking of differentiating cars from each other, here’s an article I just stumbled across that should be of considerable interest to car buffs here.

          This article should come in handy for the next time you’re stuck in traffic: have you ever wondered why the Audi in front of you has a logo of four interlocked rings? Did you know that the Cadillac emblem was inspired by a family crest of a nobleman who later turned out to be a fraud? Or that Volkswagen was Hitler’s idea?

          We took a look at the evolution of tech logos before. Today, let’s take a look at the fascinating stories behind the logos of some of the most popular cars in the world:

      • Joe, I was in Mexico a while in ’04 and the most prolific cars were new VW’s, the same looking car that was new here, with some sort of Nissan almost as prolific. I rarely saw an old Beetle. Does the VW plant there not still supply a great many cars? There was a little boxy Nissan sedan a great many cab companies used. I spoke with the owner of a cab company who had about 100 cars and he showed me everything about them. They had lots of room, were comfortable and got good mileage as well as being fairly fast. I can’t remember the moniker on them now. His cab fleet was about the only place I saw cars that had paint other than white for whatever reason. I saw a few new Ford pickups(regular cab only) and more GM’s but never saw one that wasn’t white. Strange that. I was sorely tempted to bring back a diesel Suburban but knew it would be a major hassle to make it appear US spec. Never quite figured why no diesel option on them. I used to have many friends who drove bugs and I’d be telling them “your valves need to be adjusted” and they never listened. Finally one guy has his shell out after I told him that and asked me how I knew. Easy, you can hear them squeaking when they get tight.

        • Eight, the following hearsay which I can’t vouch for but take it FWIW. (1) I have heard that the Puebla plant was first to make the new Beetles and has the most output. (2) also have heard that Puebla was the last plant making old Beetles which it quit doing in 2003. I’ve been here since 2003. There were Beetles all over the place, air cooled type. These are still not rare but I’d guess we have only 1/4, at most 1/3, of the 2003 fleet.

          • Joe, I was there Feb./Mar 2004 and don’t ever recall seeing a beetle on the hiway, maybe in towns to some degree. On the road you’d see the new(and it looked the same as the one sold in the US)VW mid-size car, lots of them, hauling ass, same for a Nissan I can’t recall and lots of small Chevy’s I don’t think I ever knew the name of, a Mexico only car and then there were these small El Camino type Chevy’s that were replete also. Another boxy Nissan sedan seemed to make up the taxi fleets. I saw my one and only Smart Car there, insane looking. I didn’t get to see as much as I’d have like to due to traveling in the only vehicle of its kind in Mexico as all my friends pointed out to me even before coming and I confirmed the entire time I was there, a ’93 Chevy one ton 4 WD 6.5L Turbo ext. cab long bed that was black from front to back, bottom to top and everywhere else. It was THE only black vehicle of any sort I saw my entire time in Mexico. I never saw another pickup like it either, some reg. cab gas Chevy pickups from that era and that were much like mine, pretty much pristine. Federales drove some Crown Vics or similar cars as well as various SUV’s. It was strange that the police dept’s in most towns of any real size had B&W Chevy reg cab pickups without a single thing on them. You’d have 3-4 muchachos in front and 4 or more in back, trying to hold on to the back of the cab, all short beds and generally hauling ass with these young guys in uniform standing in the bed eating the wind, strange. I take it back, it ended up the guy I was to do business with turned out to be the head of what was their DEA. He traveled with several stone cold killers in a new, recently confiscated black Texas Bronco. I spent a lot of time in Puebla. Wish I could remember the names of the towns. We first turned west out of Tuxpan and went to the first town in the mountains about 45 miles away. So many of the towns have basically the same names I stayed fairly confused since we went high into the mountains on very small roads, into villages so small I had to take 2-3 stabs at getting through intersections. It was really beautiful though. I’d take a small SUV next time.

  18. The “modern” replacement for the VW is the Geo Metro, three cylinder with the 5-speed manual transmission. Comparatively simple, superb gas mileage, and surprise! quite good reliability. Had I known all of this when I bought mine way back when (and which my kid rolled at 330,000 miles) I’d have gotten another at the time.

    • In the years ’93-99, I owned and drove a ’91 Geo Metro. At about 110,000 miles in 1995, while doing 65 down a two-lane highway, the original engine sprang a major oil leak around the main crankshaft bearing and seal and self-destructed quickly. (This was about 1 year after I had gone to a lot of trouble to replace the timing belt). I replaced the engine with a used one that had 65,000 miles on it. The used engine did the same thing at about 125,000 miles in 1999. That’s when I decided that the Geo’s all aluminum engine was designed to be “disposable.” I’ve since seen that a few still run, but they are rare. It must be one of these that you owned, as most of them lost their engines in catastrophic failures between 90,000 and 190,000 miles. It’s now difficult to even find them in junk yards to get parts that will keep them going and, as a result, they are becoming even more endangered. For the most part, I say good riddance.

      • Dear dom,

        I’ve long been a fan of the external combustion engine, specifically the steam engine, and the steam car.

        The sheer simplicity of it appeals to me. Anything flammable that will generate heat to boil water will propel the car.

        Your ultimate SHTF vehicle.

        • Actually, it takes a lot of work to achieve that “simplicity”; the Sentinel steam wagon and the early de Dion-Bouton cars are examples. Many approaches only managed decent responsiveness by burning liquid fuel, sacrificing simplicity. Also, the performance is often terrible, in open circuit systems because you have to keep stopping for water and in closed circuit systems because the condensers are either too small to be efficient or too heavy to allow good performance.

          All in all, and given the availability of internal combustion based vehicles that can be converted, I prefer the gasifier based approach (google the holzbrenner Volkswagen).

      • I and others more knowledgeable than me and all of us after having gotten as much info as possible came to the realization that almost anything with an electrical system could be done in for the long haul. We finally figured if a good enough protection could be provided(whatever that might be, depending on the size, strength and proximity)the event would be, every bit of that crap could be fried except for maybe the points, the rotor cap and the rotor. I think the military has a really good idea due to testing but they ain’t sayin.

        • Eightsouthman – Our concern with EMP is more electronic than electrical. Unsophisticated electrical systems will probably fare pretty well albeit with a temporary interruption of service. IIRC, the Soviet MIg-25 Foxbat used “micro tube” technology (as in electron tubes) for its avionics and communications to endure a nuclear induced EMP. Tubes are supposedly very EMP tolerant. The US military developed “rad hard” semiconductors instead. Since we don’t have “our” tax money to work with, a micro tube or rad-hard vehicle ignition / engine control system is probably out of the question for all of us except Warren Buffet.

          I suspect that a points & condenser distributor or a magneto will survive an EMP. Electronic ignitions, ECU and electronic fuel injection will be iffy (ECUs are usually fairly well shielded from the factory). If the vehicle is parked in an all metal building (and the skin is grounded), that should act like a Faraday cage and take the brunt of the pulse to ground. If the vehicle body is grounded as well, that would be even better. But how many of us are going to go through a grounding procedure every time we come home from work or the store?

          Some preppers recommend having a spare ECU (and other spare critical electronic devices) stored in a sealed and grounded metal box for the “inevitable” EMP strike. I guess it just depends on how paranoid you are vs. how much disposal income you have. I figure if I’m close enough to the strike for the pulse to smoke my toys, the shock wave and flame front won’t be too far behind. After that I probably won’t care if my car won’t start.

          • Boothe, on another forum we’ve been researching this for years, have some govt. experience working with it. Proximity of course will be the main factor. I’ve read some books on this by people who specialized in this very thing while in the employ of the military. A typical strike will be 40-45,000 feet above the ground so that only about 3 of these will span the nation. Condensers and capacitors are likely to be affected as fairly close range. Some electric motors might be also. It really is a hit and miss thing. Keeping some spare parts in a Farraday cage is definitely the way to go and not only auto parts but parts for other purposes also. Older generators won’t have near the problems newer ones do but spare parts for them as well as spare parts for ground electrics is a good idea too. There just isn’t specific enough information known on the subject. I can tell you though that the main power grid in this country uses a transformer that takes about 18 months to build in a functioning facility where they’re built.

          • A very simple, effective, and inexpensive Faraday Cage can easily be had – go to Lowe’s, WalMart, any box store or hardware store, and buy a standard steel garbage can with lid. Cut out plywood to fit the inside bottom, use 1″x1″ trim wood for supports, and cut out shelves to fit in notches in the 1″x1″‘s. Attach a 6 gauge wire to the outside of the garbage can, and ground it to any steel or iron pipe or rod that goes to ground. The wooden shelves/supports with insulate anything inside such as computers, cell phones, walkie talkies, automotive electronic spare parts, etc. very well. For added security, when you close the can, put aluminum foil around the top lip/edge of the can before seating the lid.

            Cheap, reliable, efficient, and MOBILE.

    • @Brandon – It won’t matter. If the EMP / EMI blast is that bad nothing electrical will work for months. That includes gas stations and refineries.

    • By 1975 pretty much every car had electronic ignition.

      If you want points, 1973 and older.

      The good news is that other people have wondered what would happen to modern cars so exposed. Turns out they stop running and then can be restarted. Like old cars when encountering a UFO.

    • Mercedes diesels up through the late eighties. Also simple and low maintenance. And comfortable and classy. Also very easy on fuel (my 83 300SD is a big car and averages 30- I keep really neurotic records to document it. My 84 190D has averaged 42 for the 10 years I’ve had it.) Parts are spendy but plentiful used. And fuel is as near as any bulk oil tank, store shelf, etc. Another option is the awesome 6BT Cummins diesel in a D250 Dodge Ram- if it is older than the mid 90’s. And if you can score an escort/tempo/chevette diesel in decent shape you won’t regret the purchase. Any mechanically injected diesel is a good bet for your scenario.

      • Shucks mang, I hope you can come up with the funds! I’m sure Eric would be happy to cut you a deal, or something. Perhaps something like purchase nine comments and get the tenth free or discounted. Eric is funny like that! I mean it’s worth a shot.

      • Poor ‘ol Clover!

        We took a poll. I asked everyone whether we ought to let you eruct without charge. The vote did not go your way.

        So, stand and deliver! …. just like the government “asks” us to. No, scratch that. We really do just ask you. No guns will be pointed your way to make you pay. Too bad you won’t extend the same courtesy to us, eh?

  19. If “ambiance” is not worth a lot to the owner, I bet a mid 1980’s Corolla could provide more bang for the buck. Equal or better mpg and reliability, with superior performance and amenities.

    I can’t even relate to the concept of driving a Beetle as cool, let alone enjoyable. But if piloting a Beetle rocks your boat, it does make economic sense.

    • Hi Mike,

      That Corolla would be a very good choice. It’s just a bit more complex than a Beetle – and probably harder to find a decent one now. The other issue is – probably – parts. I know it’s a snap to find virtually anything you could conceivably need for an old Beetle. The aftermarket supply of parts is vast. I’m not so sure about pushing-30-year-old Corollas… anyone here have direct experience?

      • I have owned them all at one time or another, and have a 94 Metro now. It is a Hobisons choice. The Metro’s & Toyota’s are great and have more creature comforts, power and you can have an air conditioner. But anything that can go wrong with the bug can be fixed or replaced in an afternoon with a tackle box full of hand tools. If not then just duct tape or coat-hanger wire it until you can get it fixed.

      • My first car was a 78 Corrolla. Outstanding car, and almost as simple as a bug.

        The parts situation, then, was abysmal. But by the late 90’s, when I acquired another one, the parts situation was pretty good, and that’s for the rear wheel drive 2nd gen models. I can’t speak to the mid 80’s, because I didn’t like the FWD’s and never owned one. It wasn’t till around the end of the unlamented 20th century that FWD, IMAO, became a viable option. Prior to that, most FWD cars were too front heavy. Sure that meant they didn’t lose it in the snow as easily as a RWD, but when they did slip the only “recovery” was you eventually stopped moving. Hopefully without hitting anything.

        My next car was a 77 VW scirocco. I loved it, except in the snow for the above reasons. Both these cars got hot rodded for mountain racing. The Corolla was ok for that, but required a lot more modification of the suspension. The Scirocco just needed stiffer shocks and better brake pads to be adequate. Which left me way more budget for the engine. The Toyota’s engine held up a lot better under serious abuse than the VW, but never developed the same speed. OTOH, I killed three engines in the VW. The Corolla still had it’s original (albeit heavily modified) engine when the rest of it was no longer serviceable.

        As a daily driver, I think I would prefer either of these cars to the Bug. Bugs are kind of cool, but driving one on the freeway would be suicide unless you modify the hell out of it. Which takes away the simplicity and economy. Plus, and this is huge to me, they don’t have a heater. Yeah, I know, they technically do, but there ain’t no way to make that bitch work good. I’m scrawny and I hate being cold. I’ll take a few layers of complexity over being cold!

        • Hi Kevin,

          I like those old RWD Corollas, too. Problem today is finding one! Occasionally, I’ll spot a Japanese economy car from the ’70s/early ’80s; every now and then an old Subaru Brat. Once in awhile, a Pinto or a Chevette. But I see Bugs routinely, even in my area – which is rural and low density. I think the reasons for this come down to:

          * People just like Bugs – and so they get kept instead of crushed.
          * They built more of them, over a longer period of time – so there are more of them to attrite.
          * Despite the car’s flaws, they remain the archetype of simple transpo, especially with regard to maintenance.

          I saved a small fortune as a just-out-of-college kid by driving a $700 ’73 I paid for with cash. I tell kids coming out of college today: Do not sign up for a new car payment. This is the first step on the road to debt slavery for life. Now the bastards want to force everyone to pay a monthly fee to the got-damned insurance mafia.

          The revolution can’t come soon enough.

          • The revolution will not be televised ever happen.

            People these days have been socialized to the point you could bend them over & chain them there, and as long as they had a video screen to watch, they wouldn’t even complain.

            We will need to BE the change we wish to see in the world, in all the various ways we can make that change. (Including the revolution.)
            The sheeple will sit there and bleat. But they do that regardless – it’s like “who won the game” talk.

            I hold on to hope; perhaps that is why I despair?

          • Here in the land of road salt I haven’t seen anyone use a bug daily since 1996. And that was one guy exploiting AV plates.

            I don’t think I could use 1970s basic transportation in today’s traffic nor put up with the constant maintenance requirements an old car used daily demands. Just to survive and not become a clover’s victim on the road would demand at minimum braking upgrades.

            As to new cars, maybe the way things are today that is true, but the key to everything is discipline and planning. There’s no reason why a car payment will be a step to debt slavery if it’s done right. It’s doing it wrong that leads to debt slavery. Sadly most people do it wrong.

          • Jean, perhaps you should get outside of your normal circle and just talk to people you meet, tell them about EPA or LRC and such, tell them to go visit, and why and what they’ll find there.

            I did it a couple of times and it felt pretty good. I didn’t set out to do it, it just happened.
            I didn’t expect a positive reaction.
            I thought they would be sheep and scoff. But they surprised me and wanted to know more.

            One woman said she wanted to know about government to know what exactly is going on, but she didn’t want to hear about it from someone in government. Her eyes lit up when I told her about LRC.

            Another used the word ‘conspiracy’ in a condescending way, but changed his tune when I told him the office people of the company he works for ‘conspire’ everyday to try and get me to buy their product. I practically had to shoo him away he wanted me to keep talking but I had things to do.

            I’m thinkin’ maybe I *should* buy a VW, and start a club, the freedomista-Bug-club, or some such? …Maybe.

          • Jean, “What is the best government? That which teaches us to govern ourselves.”
            — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
            So how to implement that? It all comes to the same thing but comes from many implementations.

          • Dear RAH,

            “I thought they would be sheep and scoff. But they surprised me and wanted to know more.”

            Good to hear! These everyday miracles are what the eventual society wide political transformation is made of — millions of “mere mundanes” coming to the realization that “The Government” is nothing more than a bunch of strangers who formed a gang, then started barking out orders and demanding money, on threat of violence.

            Enough people coming to this realization IS the all that is needed for us to finally be free. Once this happens, no further “revolution” needs to be waged. The governments that currently oppress us will simply disintegrate like vampires exposed to sunlight.

          • Bevin wrote, “like vampires exposed to sunlight.”

            And those people I wrote about *were* seeking sunlight, as if it were a thunderbolt, something they could actually use, in a useful way.

            The guy I mentioned, he musta been about twenty. Now that I think about it, I should’ve taken more time to talk to him. At the time, I was blown away that he even cared.

            During the Primaries, the Ron Paul people said to take three tries on a person, and if they didn’t give positive feedback in any way, just move on to the next and forget about them.

            Those people I encountered were hungry at the first try.
            I just had this feeling there’s tons more people out there just like them. …Waiting.

            Anyway, your comment reminded me of this blog entry:

            For Conservatives Who May Actually Be Libertarians…But They Just Don’t Know It Yet

            “… Hopefully, there’s a part of you that gets upset with being treated like a child instead of a free-thinking adult.” …


            When I think of the liberty movement these days, I think about how it was once ‘cool’ to wear polyester color striped pants and Herb white shoes. … Then, on a dime, things turned.

            I think, maybe, things in the bigger picture can be like that too.

            Nobody wears the swim suits the 1920’s generation wore. Someday, saying you’re a democrat or a republican will be like wearing one of those suits to the beach. It-Just-Doesn’t-Happen.

          • Dear RAH,

            “Someday, saying you’re a democrat or a republican will be like wearing one of those suits to the beach.”


            I often fantasize about the world in the distant future, centuries after we here have all turned back into dust.

            Will future humans look back at us and pity how gullible we were to buy into the Myth of Authority?

            How ridiculous it was of us to believe we were obligated to obey “The Government” merely because of its trappings? Badges. Costumes. Official looking documents. Latin legal jargon.

            Will they look at us and shake their heads, the way we do when we watch documentary films of cannibal tribesmen in New Guinea?

  20. Great write up on the pros and cons of a bug Eric. As a teenager (late 60’s) I worked for a real Stuttgart Germany trained VW & Porsche mechanic in his independent shop in Los Angeles. When I was able to pull an engine in 15 minutes, and R&R the brakes in about the same time he almost stopped yelling at me in broken German. 🙂 I think the best bugs made were between 69 and 72. Those models had the fully matured engines, electrical and even the heater sort of worked. There is an aftermarket fan unit at places like J.C. Whitney that I have seen in the bug and bus heater ducts to help in colder regions too.

    • Garysco, I think you’re right about the models. One friend has a ’70 that ran well and had power and the heater worked. My wife and I were escorted to Odessa to an Alice Cooper concert for a wedding present….and made it back. Another friend had one of those ’72 Super Beatle jobs, a ragtop that was quiet, comfy, roomier and the heater worked even in a plains blizzard. That was the nicest bug I ever drove or rode in. Orange with a black top and seemed like a wing on the back(cause it was so awesomely fast). I think the wings did add stability in crosswinds. Hell, it even had a good stereo and you could hear it. That was the all time quietest bug. I kinda think it had a/c too.

    • The ’67 was the last good bug. (mine was destroyed by a Roadrunner with a 440 Magnum and four children) Low-back seats. No smog crap compared to ’68. Bug bumpers instead of 5mph bumper-car. Why get sophisticated if the object of the game is to be simple? Tip: do tuneups in front of the parts store so you get the points that fit. I had three ’59s but the ’67 was only a minor refinement. Maybe I’m missing something else but the high-back seats killed the bug.

  21. I’ve been searching. As soon as I find a decent deal I let you know. I’m completely sick of my car beeping at me and hitting the brakes when I don’t want it to.

  22. Great trip down memory lane, Eric. I drove a ’65 VW around here while I was a student and for a few years after; it did go great in the snow but heat was sorely lacking. Only problem I ever had was the engine would tend to sputter out in a driving rainstorm, I guess due to water getting thru the vents onto the wiring. Never died completely though, one of the more reliable cars I’ve ever owned. I see lots of them still on the road when I visit family in California, unfortunately around here the road salt really eats them up. Would love to have one again though; if I ever decide to move to Florida in my old age (66 now) I would definitely get one. all the roads are flat and heat is not a problem; even my wife could drive it without grinding gears since the clutch is so soft. The lack of electronics, airbags, etc. is another bonus!

    • Mike nB, best fun in a bug, mud and water, preferably deep water you can float in and use the front wheels as rudders. Now and again, you hit something with the rears and get a big lunge but some long periods can go by and all you have to do is float and grin and wait for the LAST spot you can get out. And then there’s snow and ice, mucho fun too. Driving in the heat sucks, in hard wind, sucks, rutted roads, sucks but easing where big cars can’t go and sipping a cold one, can’t slap that smile offa my face. I don’t know how they did so well in Germany cold since west Tx. blizzards would leave you with frozen toes. Maybe the ducts weren’t as clogged with dirt and mud.


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