Earlier this summer, Volkswagen of America offered media loans of vintage vehicles from its historic collection. We gathered three of them—a Beetle, Karmann Ghia, and Rabbit GTI—for a well-spent July day motoring around southeast Michigan.
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Beetles and Karmann Ghias have been hot for years. Recently early Rabbit GTIs have going crazy on Bring A Trailer, bring big dollars for clean examples with well over 100,000 miles!
Ahh yes the long throw VW shifter. My family owned several starting with a 1958 split window with semaphore turn signal to a hot rodded Westphalia Camper that would do 75 mph in third gear. My Dad would say "you didn't drive a VW bug you rowed it"
I've had two Beetles, lost one in a divorce and sold the other one when it was between the car and groceries. I haven't forgotten either one, moved on to a collection of mostly Domestic cars, and I found a Beetle under a tree for several years (order the floor pans) on land owned by an acquaintance. It is repainted Screaming Yellow. Yes, I can't help myself. I'm trying to own it.
Nice article, fun read - but you youngsters unfamiliar with carburetors should know the pump of the pedal squirts fuel into the venturi FROM the float bowl not INTO the float bowl!
One other thing: At college I fell in love with an extravagant heiress, who had a Ghia and never put the top up (West Coast) who disappeared to Europe after Graduation. The Ghia white with black interior. I have no idea what color the top was. I never saw it. Sweet air cooled memories............
Memory lane. Growing up in CT in the 60-70’s volkswagens were as common as Country Squires. Our family had various bugs, super bugs, dashers and jettas. I longed for a Rabbit for my first car but wound up with a Mustang. I was almost disowned. After driving American my entire life, I still dream of that Rabbit I never owned.
Great article. I concur that old Volkswagens are fun--we have a '73 Thing, '68 camper Bus, and just got a '67 Fastback. For what it's worth, though, both the Bug and Ghia featured here have been retrofitted with 1600 cc engines and 12v electric systems.
My daughter had a used VW Rabbit back in 1990. Worse car I ever saw. One problem after another, from broken sunroof cable to porous engine block casting to burnt exhaust valve. When I sold the car I looked at how much I had spent on repairing it and realized that the cost of operating the car had been something like $2 per mile.
I love the red Ghia in the article. I have one in the garage that looks just like it, except that, being a 1970, (built the same month I graduated from high school,) it has 4-bolt hubs and 8-spoke mags
My 68 cabriolet, Fred, is like a sedative. Get in, turn him on and relax. Fred goes at his own pace and doesnt care about deadlines, pressure (except in the spare to operate with windscreen cleaner) or being first or fastest on the road. Great article, great cars. Heading out for a little Fred time.
The GTI of 82 had no 6th gear so the gearing and exhaust was very much a nuclear post Reagan drone bucket on highways. I don't know what the author meant by 'no a/c' as it was available. In any event, I had a 82 Rabbit convertible, and I'd have keeping up with the Joneses with a kid whose parents had died in a car wreck in Indiana. He got the VW and went out cruising with some of my friends to "overtake" my lowly convert (88bhp), and very quickly totaled it on a wet road (no abs). This GTI was a parts bin from the US line that had no more foresight than my poor friend, lost in an accident not of his making that showed no integrity of design, or of the unfairness of life.
I bought "Golf" badges and 120mph speedos, in my own waste of attempted under engineering (the true, untuned Euro Golf convertible GLI had 120bhp and could cruise the motorway effortlessly). I couldn't "afford" a Callaway turbo to blow up the engine, nor drop in a Euro GTI motor, so I had a bored and stroked head put on-which had a weird tendency to make a cloud of white smoke behind me on hard acceleration-James Das Boot or something...didn't last much beyond that.
Nice Articles! Eric, I do want to point out that depressing the accel. pedal "a couple of times" will NOT empty the fuel bowl! Depressing the accel pedal ONCE and leaving it alone, sets the choke plate into position for starting the car and idling with an enriched fuel-to-air mixture. As the choke heater warms, and the car is driven, the coke plate will be released gradually and the throttle lever idle screw will jump to the next level on the idle cam--automatically. I note that both '63s have been switched to 12 volts, complete with alternators, 009 dizzies and later carburetors. This is unfortunate for a couple of reasons--you did not have a really authentic '63 Experience with either. The other reason is that such alterations affect vintage value. Eric, you may want to read from 1967beetle.com, since you have that 1967 Beetle in your personal garage. Keep up the good work. jay
My uncle had a bug. He'd always tease me about how his beetle could beat my dad's chevy. So I asked my dad if our car could beat uncles. My dad sniped, "IN REVERSE!" (ha,ha)
Oh man, this article pulled at my heartstrings. I've had mostly customized VWs through the years and absolutely loved every single one: 1965 Bug, 1972 Super Beetle, 1968 Ghia, 1971 Bus, 1982 VW Pick up, 1990 Jetta GLI, and a 2006 Passat VR6. Gentle ladies and men, there IS a God!
I have a 76 standard Beetle and a 79 Karmann cabriolet, both are daily drivers and not stock BECAUSE they are daily drivers. Going up an inclined on-ramp to get on the interstate which is doing 75-85 mph during morning rush hour with a stock engine is terrible way to die. I have custom engines on both and i can cruise with the big dogs. Yes, it decreases the value of the car as it is not stock but since I never plan on selling my babies, it doesnt matter. What does matter is the look on the face of the guy in the Mustang when i fly past him, seeing Boomers punching each other in the arm in the grocery store parking lot, or my ear-to-ear grin when someone yells “ I love your Bug!” as i tootle down the street. Old Bugs bring smiles so the Bug Community should consider it their civic duty to drive as much as possible. 😁
Thanks for the ride down memory lane. Red '67 Bug, indeed! In 1967 I bought a new red VW just before my wife and I got married, immediately after college graduation and immediately before being drafted. Irene drove the bug while I was in Viet Nam, and then we drove it cross-country to my next duty station in Maryland. In Maryland, I bought a red Alfa Romeo GTV with the money we had saved while I was overseas and then we drove both cars back across the country to Seattle when my tour of duty ended. In 1973, Irene decided she needed an upgrade, so we bought a 1973 Super Beetle. She drove it until 1985, when an Audi Quattro supplanted it, but it stayed in the family. Her brother drove it to work, and it survived the high school years of two nephews. Today, Blue Max, the '73, is back with Irene and I, nicely restored and insured by Hagerty. Max doesn't have to go out in the rain any more, but he'll stay in the family for the rest of our days and hopefully beyond. But it all began with Rapid Transit, the red '67. And I didn't even mention Mass Transit, the '71 bus....
I had 3 Beetles - 1969, 1972, and 1979 convertible. They were fun to drive, but the 1972 was something of a lemon. The other two? Great cars, in their slow, likable way.
I drove a Karmann Ghia convertible (one of my dream cars) once, and felt like I was setting on the floor, in a bathtub (even worse than today's cars). So much for that dream!