1972 Volkswagen Beetle – Project Profile

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By Chris Pollitt

There are a lot of classic cars out there that are instantly recognisable. Cars that even people with zero interest in wheeled things can identify from 100 yards away. There are cars like the Mini, the 2CV, the Capri and of course, this, the Volkswagen Beetle. Helped in no small part by the fact it was the subject of Disney’s hugely successful run of ‘Herbie’ films. Which in essence, were a cheerier take on the whole ‘car possessed by some sort of spirit’ theme. You had the murderous car in The Car, there was the bully-killing Plymouth in Christine and then there was Herbie. A car with no sinister intent, though it did once fall in love with a Lancia Monte Carlo, which is entirely understandable. 

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As for the car we have selected here, the seller hasn’t stated whether or not it is inhabited by a cheeky spirit. However, it does strike us as being a fun little car all the same. Running, driving and in apparent good mechanical health, this could be your perfect love bug. Ahem. 

What is it? 

What we have here is a 1973 Volkswagen Beetle. It started life as a 1200cc model, but the engine has been upgraded to a Mexican (meaning much newer) long block with a 1,378cc cylinder head kit fitted. It’s no drag racer, but it’s got a bit more pep than when it was new. 

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It’s been modified further, too. There is a narrowed front beam that includes a disc brake conversion, the car sits on a set of staggered EMPI style alloy wheels, the front wings have been swapped for the more attractive pre-1967 ‘sloping’ items and there are other little touches that make it unique. It’s a cool, cheeky little thing that won’t fail to make you smile. 

Why is it a project? 

The seller is advertising it as a rolling project. That said, it doesn’t have a current MOT as it’s not required. We would get it booked in for one first though, just to see if there is anything serious that needs tending to. Beetles love to rust, and this one did have advisory for a fracture in inner body structure during its last MOT in 2019. That needs investigation. 

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The car is a bit rough around the edges. The paint isn’t brilliant, the front bumper is twisted, and the interior needs some love. However, this is a Beetle, so it can wear a bit of ‘life’ without anyone questioning it. There is no pressure for this to be mint, as the ‘rat look’ these is as popular as it has ever been. 

 

The car needs some work to make it truly usable. Comfier seats, fit the new window rubbers (included), maybe give it a service, too. There are some front drop spindles included to get the car lower, which we would be inclined to fit. Paint? That’s up to you. We like the weathered aesthetic it currently has, but you might want to make it a bit fresher. That’s up to you. 

It certainly has a lot of potential. The mechanicals are pretty bulletproof, so there is little to worry about there if it’s as good as the vendor says it is. It just needs someone to take care of it, and to take it to the next level. And given the following and the companies out there specialising in these cars, it won’t be a difficult job. Plus, let’s not beat around the bush, Beetles are just cool. 

Five things to look for:

1) End float

Open the engine cover, grab the crank pulley and see if there is any play. If there is, it can often be a sign that the engine is on its way out. Given the history of this car, it should be fine, but even so, it never hurts to check. 

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2) Suspension

The seller states that the suspension has been overhauled. There is a narrower front beam, the bushes and ball joints and so on have been replaced, and as such, it’s pretty fresh. The front should be fine, but check the rear swing arms, look for any damage or corrosion. 

3) Floorpan

The Beetle is actually a body-on-chassis design, so if the upper half is rusty, it’s not that big of a deal. However, the floorpan is crucial. It’s the literal backbone of the car. Lift the carpets and have a look. Heater channels, rear sections, transmission tunnel, they all need a good look.  

4) Body

Okay, so the Beetle is body on frame, technically speaking. But the body isn’t just plonked on top, it is actually responsible for a great deal of the car’s strength. As such, you need to check for any scary rust. Sills and pillars are hotbeds, and can kill these cars, so look there first.

5) Brakes

This car has been fitted with a 2inch narrowed front beam so as to allow for a disc brake conversion. This is, of course, good news. However, you should still check the brakes and the quality of the conversion. You want to be able to stop!

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What should you do with it? 

It’s a Volkswagen Beetle, so the world is very much your oyster. You could go down the route of restoring the car, which would be simple enough. You could go the other way and build it into a really cool custom – the groundwork is there via the wheels, the upgraded suspension and the engine. Or of course, you could just enjoy it as it is. Well, we say as it is, you’d want to do something with those front seats to make it a bit more comfortable. But that’s about it. It looks pretty cool as it stands, and we would be happy to roll it as is. But as we said, the world is your oyster. This Beetle is a blank canvas, just ready to be whatever you want. 

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