# The Most Popular Car Ever Made

1. Jul 4, 2014

### zoobyshoe

Something like 23 million sold, all over the world, during the years they were manufactured.

It's not simple to explain why they were so popular. They weren't particularly good cars, though they had their quirky strengths: good in snow, being the one I've seen most often mentioned. They got good gas mileage for the times, in contrast to the big gas guzzlers around them, but, speaking of gas, they were also prone to engine fires due to bad engineering on the fuel lines. They weren't sturdy, safe cars, and if you looked at the engines cross-eyed, they'd start leaking oil.

What really surprises me is how popular they still are. I'm not talking about the new version, I'm talking about the 1978 and older ones. I've been paying attention lately and I see them still out there being driven, all over the place. Every week I seem to see about 4 of them I've never seen before. People won't let them die. Many, many companies are still manufacturing replacement parts for them, even brand new engines. Search Craigslist in your area and see how many are up for sale. My impression is there are more of these than any other "classic" car, being revived and restored, and driven as people's primary vehicles. I would love to find out how many made between '46 and '78 are currently registered in the U.S.

Post your Bug opinions and stories and lore.

2. Jul 4, 2014

### nsaspook

It's a fast car in the right trim. :tongue:

3. Jul 4, 2014

### Staff: Mentor

For 27 years, I either rode in or drove Beetles. When I was a kid, my parents bought a light green '63, then a beige '68. I learned to drive in the '68. When I was in college, they bought a second-hand orange '74. They gave it to me the year before I finished grad school, after they retired and decided they didn't need two cars any more. It was the first car I owned. I drove it until 1989, and did much of the routine maintenance work on it: changing the oil, adjusting the valves, etc. The book I used as a guide is still in print!

https://www.amazon.com/Keep-Volkswa...=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1404463092&sr=1-2

Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
4. Jul 4, 2014

### Staff: Mentor

You can fix it with bare hands. If you really need tools, just look around for a stick and a rock, they will do in most cases.

5. Jul 4, 2014

### Staff: Mentor

One of my all-time favorite TV commercials: "Did you ever wonder how the guy who drives the snow plow... gets to the snow plow?"

Last edited by a moderator: Sep 25, 2014
6. Jul 4, 2014

### nsaspook

My friends and I learned the hard way that VWs can float. Back when you could still drive a car on the beaches (early 70s) in Long Beach, CA we were driving like fools on the surf doing donuts at the waters edge when a huge wave came in and lifted the car up. For about 10 seconds we were spinning around and going out to sea with the tide.

7. Jul 4, 2014

### lisab

Staff Emeritus
I learned to drive a manual transmission in a Bug, when I was 17!

And the weirdest thing about them: they had a distinctive smell. Every single one of them.

8. Jul 4, 2014

### George Jones

Staff Emeritus
Three of my older siblings had classic VWs. My oldest sister had a red bug, my oldest brother had a yellow fastback,

http://www.oldparkedcars.com/2012/03/1969-volkswagen-type-3-1600-fastback-tl_21.html

and my other brother had a blue station wagon,

http://www.oldparkedcars.com/2010/05/1971-volkswagen-squareback-type-3-1600.html

The engine also had/has a very distinctive sound. While walking down the street a few days ago, I heard a familiar sound. I looked around, and, sure enough, an old VW was passing by me.

9. Jul 4, 2014

### phinds

I remember one of my roommates in college had one in the 60's and driving it used to scare the hell out of me because the road was RIGHT THERE in front of your feet.

10. Jul 4, 2014

### AlephZero

You still see a few old VW camper vans in use in the UK.

Same basic design as the "Beetle" cars - rear air-cooled engine. The long linkage from the gearstick to the gearbox could "randomize" gear changing if it got too worn - on a really bad day, toss a coin to decide if you want to start in forward or reverse gear!

If that scared you in the car, look at the (non-existent) gap between the steering wheel and the front of the van! You are actually sitting in front of the front wheels.

Last edited: Jul 4, 2014
11. Jul 4, 2014

### zoobyshoe

Yeah, a considerable percentage of current owners turn them into hot rods and dune buggies with aftermarket engines way bigger than the originals. The first bugs had 1200cc engines, I believe. They gradually got bigger till the stock engine topped out at 1600, I think. Top speed for a bug with a stock engine was something like 71mph, poor even for a 4-cylinder.
For some reason, orange is my favorite color for a Beetle. It seems right and proper. And for some reason white, beige, and yellow Beetles strike me as completely wrong.

There are several different air-cooled Beetle manuals still in print beside the one you mention. Lots of them on Amazon. There's also myriad YouTube videos, everything from how to change the oil to rebuilding the engine. People are really still doing these cars.
You can take the valve covers off with a stick, anyway. Beats loosening 10 bolts. They say the engine was designed so one person could drop it out of the car in one hour with minimal tools. That's good because you have to drop the engine for more repairs than you would on a "normal" car. Like, you can't take the heads off a bug engine without removing the whole engine from the vehicle first.

Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
12. Jul 4, 2014

### zoobyshoe

That could be another reason: they were ahead of the pack when it came to amusing, clever advertising.

There's that Ted Kennedy joke.

The unsinkability of the bug is still important to bug buyers. There's a problem now, that the floor pans are often rusted through underneath the rear seat due to spilled battery acid. This detracts from the value. It's a major fix to make them seaworthy again.
The smell never goes away! Decades later, it's as distinct as ever! They say there's a secret, proprietary formula for the plastic they used in the seat covers.
The Beetles had the "type 1" engine, and the others, type 2, 3, or 4.
At first I always think I'm hearing some kind of motorcycle. But it's even different than that. Since the cylinders aren't jacketed with liquid coolant passages, you hear more raw engine sound.
I see these all over the place also, but I don't pay so much attention. It seems like for every two bugs left there's also one van left. I haven't measured, but they say the van and the bug are actually pretty much the same length. The bugs look smaller than they actually are, and the vans, larger.

13. Jul 4, 2014

### lisab

Staff Emeritus
-- a friend of mine, a long time ago

14. Jul 4, 2014

### OmCheeto

I'll try and keep this short.

Bill chewed that over for a while and it suddenly dawned on him, the woman's insurance company was trying to pay him for his wrecked Beetle. He thought some more, and wondered why they were offering so much. He'd only paid $650, and the only upgrade he'd made was new tires. Confused, he blurted out, "I just put new tires on it." The insurance man misunderstood him to be saying it was worth more than$1200, because it had just been upgraded with new tires. He said, "OK, OK, we want to settle this. We're willing to go as high as $2500, but that's the limit. Bill mulled that over, and, since he didn't have a bank account where he could deposit a check he said, "Is there any way I could get that in cash?" The insurance man smiled warmly and said, "Let's go over to the bank. You sign some papers, I'll make a call." Bill's nightmare dissolved. The woman was considered to be at fault because she'd rear ended him, and rear ended him while he was on the shoulder. The trooper had put in his report that he'd clearly found the shattered remnants of Bill's tail lights off the asphalt, on the gravel shoulder, meaning that is where he was when first hit. All the other cars hitting the Beetle was her fault and no one was going after Bill, so no one ever got around to checking whether he had insurance or if he actually owned the Beetle. 22. Jul 29, 2016 ### Mark44 ### Staff: Mentor In the fairly long list of cars I've owned is Beetle (a '62 or so, IIRC), and a bus ('64 I believe). When I was in the Army I loaned it to a "friend," who managed to blow up the engine. I didn't have a lot of money, so I took the engine out and was in the process of repairing it at a shop the specialized in VWs. While the engine-less bug was in my garage (below the apartment my wife and I lived in), the fuel line flopped down and starter leaking gas on the floor, not far from the furnace. Needless to say, a fire resulted, but I was fortunate enough to wake up in time to get my wife and myself out of there. That was the end of that bug, though. The bus came out of a junkyard, and was minus an engine and windshield. At the same shop, the owner let me use his tools to put together another engine for the bus -- a 1600cc engine with an upgraded cam, extractor exhaust, and two carburetors. I drove that bus back and forth between Wash. state and Southern Cal. a few times, and the motor was strong enough that I could keep out of the way of semis on the highway. The motor ran strong, but had a relatively minor flaw, in that it leaked oil from the main (front) seal. To replace the seal you have to take the motor out, which I did twelve times, none of which was completely successful. I got so good at taking the motor out that I could do it in 30 minutes, including one time when all I had to work with was a scissors jack, a broomstick cut into foot-long rollers, and a small piece of plywood. After a few years I had had it with that car. You have to be religious about keeping the valves set, or you are likely to burn an exhaust valve on #3 cylinder (left front). In addition, you need to change the points and spark plugs about every 10,000 miles. Anyway, I decided I was done fooling with it, and bought a '60 Chevy for$75 from a guy at the college I was going to. It wasn't running, but I determined that a set of points (about \$5) was just the ticket. After I put them in, I fired up the motor, and drove the car away. Wish I still had that Chevy -- I don't miss the bus, though.

23. Jul 29, 2016

### Staff: Mentor

It is funny. Almost all people I ever met had one or another beetle story. Sometimes I thought there must have been an order to at least once in a lifetime everybody had to drive one.

I remember a party - actually not, but the way home. My girlfriend had to drive a couple of us home for obvious reasons. Her bug was so overcrowded, that I had to "sit" on the gear stick and change the gears on call. It's been one of those cars that doesn't complain if you abuse them.

Another adventure is related to a bus. A friend of mine and me had to transport a package of paneling. Of course it didn't fit into the bus. So we stacked it on the dashboard and with the hatchback open. That had two unpleasant side effects. We couldn't really hear or see us anymore and we had to breathe exhausts the entire drive of about 300 km which makes you tired quickly. It took ten minutes and a heavy summer rain added up to all of it. On the highway here you are supposed to drive on the right lane and overtaking on the right side is forbidden, so overtaking slower trucks went like this: (everything shouted due to the open hatchback)

Me: "Can I change the lane?"
Friend: "What?"
Me (even louder): "Can I change the lane?"
Friend: "Wait"
...
Friend: "Now!"
Me: "What?"
Friend: "It's ok!"
Me: "Ok"
Friend: "Not anymore!"

It was a long way home.

And then on another occasion I was driving in a bus some friends to a poker game at somebody's house.
I had never been there before and probably took the wrong highway exist. Since I did not know this I kept driving by the description I had and made a left turn at the next traffic light. What shall I say? The (US) G.I. on watch duty had been so friendly and let us turn on the base's ground.
That were really good old times. Nowadays you would get arrested at best and shot at worst. I miss these times when people have been friendly and had not to assume terror attacks. I am always reminded again when they repeat "Back to the Future I" on TV.

24. Jul 29, 2016

### Staff: Mentor

So did Bill use the money to buy another Beetle?

25. Jul 30, 2016

### zoobyshoe

No. But at a later time he bought a bus on the spur of the moment from a random guy he met in Arizona. He had a few stories about that bus, but none as amazing as getting hit 22 times.

Bill's problem was that he had no interest in mechanical things. VW's are exactly like Mark44 said: you have to be willing to constantly tinker, and sometimes a lot more. For the ones that are still around, that is worse than ever, because they're older than ever. You buy a 45 year old car, and, as one guy put it, and basically you need a new car: everything on it needs replacing. The good news is that they're still so popular that an amazing number of companies all over the world are making brand new parts for them. Someone somewhere is manufacturing some weird little grommet that holds some odd piece of trim that exists only on the 1963 Beetle. It's uncanny.