By the mid-1970s, Volkswagen’s front-drive, water-cooled Golf (called the Rabbit in the USA) had ascended the throne at Wolfsburg to unseat the Beetle as the company’s primary breadwinner. Despite the Beetle’s status as a cultural icon, its late-1930s roots were unsustainable in the new era of increasingly stringent safety and emissions standards. Yet, while the Golf/Rabbit hit the scene in 1974, Volkswagen wasn’t ready to kick the profitable and beloved Beetle aside. The Super Beetle had arrived in 1971, bringing improvements, including more powerful engines and McPherson strut suspension, with improved practicality, refinement, and safety, so VW was keen to capitalize on its investment and keep the Beetle alive for a few more years. While Mexican and Brazilian Beetles carried on for another two-plus decades, mainstream European production of the Beetle sedan ended in 1978, and the Karmann-built convertible survived another year, with US sales officially ending in 1979, marking the end of an era for one of the most influential European cars of all time.
This River Blue Metallic 1979 Super Beetle is an incredibly preserved, original car, recently out of single-family ownership and showing a mere 3,800 miles from new. It is accompanied by extensive original documentation, including a window sticker, purchase agreement, receipts, and a stack of Ward’s Motor Record books, each meticulously filled in to record the mileage and expenses through the years. Documentation shows the original owners bought the car from Lantzsch Volkswagen of Fairfax, Virginia, in 1982. While the Beetle was three years old, accompanying odometer disclosure statements reveal it had just 17 miles when delivered to its first owners. The window sticker shows the Super Beetle started at $7,140, with the only option being metallic paint, for $195. The owner opted for dealer-applied rustproofing, accessory plush floor mats, and a service contract.
Thumbing through the multiple Ward’s Motor Record Books provides insight into the original owner’s meticulous nature. He painstakingly and unwaveringly entered mileage and expenses every month, tallying them up, calculating cost-per-mile, and carrying over the balance to the next book – of which there are fifteen. The bulk of the mileage was accrued in the first year, and even during extended periods when the car didn’t turn a wheel, the owner dutifully logged insurance and inspection expenses. By 2001, the Beetle had just 2,941 miles. After the owner passed away, the cherished Beetle transferred to his widow, and she kept the car carefully stored away, adding just a few more miles on rare occasions.
It remains in fantastic “box fresh” condition, with superb original River Blue paint, factory black vinyl upholstery, and outstanding original exterior trim. It rides on correct whitewall Michelin X radials mounted on pristine styled-steel wheels. Basketweave vinyl upholstery looks just like it came out of the factory, while the original carpets are still nicely protected under the accessory floor mats fitted in 1982. Switches, controls, and instruments are as-new, showing virtually no wear after 43 years. Likewise, the black pinpoint vinyl top is amazingly well-preserved, showing only a few creases from being folded.
Under the engine lid sits the 1.6-liter flat-four, equipped with Bosch fuel injection and mated to a four-speed manual gearbox. Detailing is to factory-correct standards, down to the VW branded fan belt, proper Bosch ignition parts, and correct hoses and lines. Originality is the name of the game, while receipts on file show the car was serviced as needed and not simply ignored. For example, in 2012, the brake system was reconditioned with new hoses, master cylinder, and wheel cylinders, while the fuel tank was removed and refurbished. Accompanying documentation includes the window sticker, purchase agreement, owner’s manuals, inspection & registration slips, and more – all of which serve to verify the extraordinary story of this remarkable little Beetle.
While there’s no denying the Beetle’s near-universal popularity, its economy car status meant most were driven hard and used up, making low-mileage survivors like this wonderfully charming collector-quality Beetle Convertible an exceptionally rare find.
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