∙Classic Sixties Beetle with ‘Towel Rail’ bumpers
∙Desirable 1500 model
∙Imported from South Africa and already in UK with all import paperwork completed
It’s somehow ironic that a car originally commissioned by Adolf Hitler became an international symbol of peace and love, but that’s pretty much the VW Beetle’s position in society in a nutshell.
In an effort to produce an affordable car for German workers, Adolf Hitler commissioned engineer Ferdinand Porsche to design a simple, economical vehicle for the people – the original ‘volks wagen’, or ‘people’s car’.
The Type 1 (Beetle was a nickname at first) had a rear, air-cooled engine and borrowed design elements from an earlier Porsche car, the Type 12 he built for Zündapp.
The Volkswagen factory in Wolfsburg, Germany, opened in May 1938 but civilian production was almost immediately suspended because of World War II.
By the 1960s, though, the war was a distant memory, the VW factory had been revived thanks to the input of a British Army major, Ivan Hirst, and the company was exporting cars all over the world – the inexpensive nature, low running costs and curvy looks becoming especially popular in surf and hippy culture with young Americans.
Although an older model, the Beetle actually enjoyed its best sales years during the Sixties, as the model was evolved to be better than it ever was before.
In 1965, the ultimate Beetle came along in the form of the 1500 – a model that still retained the traditional air-cooled layout but was notably livelier than before with 43bhp and the ability to cruise at sensible speeds.
And that’s what we have here – an early example of the 1500 with the popular ‘Towel Rail’ bumpers fitted as a factory accessory
This car has recently arrived in the UK from South Africa, where the vendor sources a few cars a year from. A British national, he worked in the country for over a decade in the motor trade before returning to the UK and now sources a range of quirky and interesting right-hand-drive cars via his contacts in Cape Town.
The Beetle is one of half a dozen unusual cars he has recently imported and it is now stored in Norfolk.
The seller has completed all of the import and duty paperwork relative to the car so there are no additional taxes to pay, while the DVLA NOVA notification and original South African registration document are included.
It will also be supplied with a full UK MOT, as although the car is exempt from testing the vendor wants to reassure the buyer that it is roadworthy. He is also happy to help the buyer register the car in the UK if that’s where it remains upon sale.
There’s sadly no additional history paperwork with the car, but it is most clearly an original and well-preserved example.
Finished in black over cream, the Beetle looks absolutely terrific.
It’s in fine condition overall – a restored rather than completely original car, it has obviously seen a repaint at some point but it doesn’t appear to have had any major bodywork or welding underneath – it’s sound and very solid under there, needing no structural work.
The two-tone look is complemented by whitewall tyres and period chrome highlights on the front and rear wings, the towel rail bumpers and full-width chrome embellishers around the wheel trims. It’s a wonderful period look and not in the slightest overdone.
There are a few very small marks on the bodywork, but overall it presents brilliantly and is in great condition.
Basic but pretty – that’s the theme of the Beetle’s cabin, which is in very smart order throughout.
The seats and door cards have been retrimmed in a grey leather material, with smart grey carpets complementing the look.
Meanwhile, the cream-coloured steering wheel and gear knob keep the two-tone theme going, while the dash is painted black with a cream instrument binnacle and glovebox lid. It looks fabulous.
There are only two dials – a speedometer (in mph as opposed to km/h as normally found in South-African imports) and a fuel gauge. Both work!
Introduced in late 1965 for the 1966 model year (and thus making this a very early car), the 1500 engine was developed to answer the original 1200 and 1300 Beetles’ lack of cruising ability. It was lower geared as well as more powerful, making the Beetle a better long-distance car – just the thing if you’re looking to clock up the miles going to VW shows.
Of course, everything is relative and the 1,493cc units 43bhp is hardly going to light the rear tyres up pulling away from a junction, but it’s enough to give the Beetle a far more lively feel, especially as peak torque comes in at just 2,000rpm. It has a top speed of 78mph, and for a car that’s essentially based on a pre-war design that’s plenty enough!
It’s terrific fun, though, with the Beetle’s trademark angled-throw gear lever that’s a delight to use once you get used to it.
The vendor reports that the car drives exactly as it should.
The Beetle is an enduring classic and one that will always have a huge and a passionate following, so a rust-free 1500 with right-hand-drive is a bit of a find and a car that’s bound to attract quite a lot of attention, especially given it’s such a well-presented and largely original, unmodified example.
This one has spent its life in a dry climate and has avoided the ravages of rust and moisture. It runs well, looks fabulous and has been given a cosmetic overhaul inside and out, leaving the next owner with little to do but enjoy it.
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