Relative to overall Beetle production, the Karmann Beetle Convertible is a rare beast, accounting for less than 2% of Beetles made, despite being available since 1949. Known for the quality of the multi-layered hood and the rigorous approach to chassis reinforcement, its development has mirrored that of the base car which saw tens of thousands of detail changes during its lifetime. This means that when VW introduced the most comprehensive reworking of the design in the form of ‘Super Beetle’ in 1971, with increased luggage space and more sophisticated suspension, the convertible followed suit.
The 1303 version which was available from 1973 saw further changes including, for the first time, a curved windscreen which again fed through to the convertible. The final set of changes the following year saw the indicators incorporated into the front bumper and, aside from detailed trim changes, the convertible carried on unchanged until 1980, meaning that the 1975 model year represents the model in its most evolved form.
The classic VW scene goes from strength to strength and, while the Super Beetles may once have been shunned by Beetle purists, nowadays they are warmly welcomed and just as well supported.
This example was originally registered in Italy in 1975 and imported to the UK in 1982. It is believed the car had a full respray around 1987 and two years later was put up for sale by the importer. The vendor went to view the car and agreed to buy it on the basis that it would be converted to right hand drive. Next time he saw it, the conversion had been completed. He has owned it ever since.
Christened ‘Harriet’, the car was initially used as a daily driver by the seller’s wife. Finding the original 1300cc engine to be a little underpowered for everyday driving and being an by professional engineer, he decided to swap the engine out for a 1600cc unit and never looked back. However, after five years of frequent usage, the Beetle was retired to lighter duties and became a high days and holidays car. Always garaged and stored under a purpose-made cover, it’s rarely been out in the rain since then and, during recent years, has scarcely been used at all, covering just 80 miles since its June 2017 MOT Expiry, at which time it became a Historic Tax Class vehicle.
Since he purchased it and despite the lack of use in more recent times, the seller has always serviced the car himself on a regular basis. The only gap was between 2007 and 2011 when the owner was working abroad and the car was laid up. It received its last service 18 months ago although has not been used much since. It recently received a new battery after 9 months in the garage and fired up straight away. With such a lack of use and in need of garage space, the reluctant decision after 32 years of ownership has been made to let someone else enjoy the car.
Having been home-serviced, there’s not a vast pile of garage invoices but there is the original sales invoice and that for the right hand drive conversion, together with a collection of old MOT’s and the owner’s manual. The V5C is present in the owner’s name and the car is now MOT exempt.
The Beetle convertible has a simple, uncluttered cabin and is here finished in a tan colour which contrasts well with the black exterior. The seats are in good condition save for the lower outer bolster on both the driver and passenger seats which have worn through and would benefit from a visit to an upholsterer while the rear seats have been fitted with inertia reel seat belts. In the front, the door cards have both lasted well but the rear side panels both have a hole where a speaker once was fitted, the radio having been removed.
A leather-wrapped steering wheel with a Wolfsburg crest badge sits in front of the right hand drive dashboard which remains in good order with the few buttons and switches that are present all operating as intended. The front boot contains the original jack and a steel spare wheel covered by a well-preserved carpet. Although not intentionally taken out in the rain these days, the seller reports that the hood remains watertight and is unmarked on the inside. The hood has its original tonneau and folds down and up again with ease. The three layers (canvas, quilting and vinyl) make it well insulated and a boosted screen fan means that the windscreen can be swiftly cleared so it can be used all year round.
The bodywork is thought to be all original, with a tap on the front wings revealing them to be the expected heavy gauge steel rather than a lightweight replacement, for example, and the respray is wearing well and, although not concours, the paintwork is said to be in good condition. There is a tiny amount of bubbling on the right hand side of the engine cover but otherwise no discernible rust spots. The bumpers and mirrors were replaced in 2012, the bumpers are starting to show some pitting but the chrome work is in generally good condition on the door mirrors, window surrounds and other ancillary areas.
The new hood remains in pristine condition and, of course, contains a glass rear window which affords good rear visibility. All the wheels are original Rostyles and are finished in grey stove enamel although the finish is starting to look a little the worse for wear when viewed close up. The tyres, though, all have excellent tread. Underneath, the news is all good with indoor storage over the years paying dividends as the seller reports that there are no signs of corrosion.
With its fresh battery, the car starts for the first time and, although the floor hinged pedals can take a little getting used to, it’s reported to be lovely to drive. The ride is fairly soft as befits the character of a car like this but there is no slack in the steering, the clutch engages without judder or slip and, on the move, there are no untoward noises. The 1600cc motor pulls a lot better than the earlier 1300cc installation (the non running spare engine will be included in the sale) and the front disc brakes pull the car up smartly. Mechanically, it’s right on the button.
With its three layered hood, you can enjoy a convertible Beetle all year round and, with the support of the huge network of VW enthusiasts in the UK, there are few easier classics to own.
Yes, there are a few cosmetic jobs to attend to in order to bring this example up to the standard of the very best but it’s still very presentable in its current state and, most importantly, perfectly usable in the meantime. After more than 30 years with a caring owner, you now have the chance to benefit from the fruits of his labours. The seller assures us that it will be sorely missed but this is your chance to pick up where he left off and to continue to enjoy ‘Harriet’ for many years to come.
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