Rare Notchback: 1965 Volkswagen Type 31

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Let’s talk about nomenclature. Our subject car is a Volkswagen Type 3, but more specifically it is a Type 31. The “3” means it was of the notchback/squareback/fastback family, introduced in 1961; and the “1” means it’s a notchback. The “3” does not mean it was a later car, as in “three follows two”, because for instance, the Karmann Ghia was both a Type 1 and a Type 3 at different times, but never a Type 2. Confused? Think in terms of platforms. The Type 1 is a Bug platform; the Type 2 is a van or transporter; and the Type 3 is a larger passenger car format – but still derived from the Bug platform! Then, there’s the engine, which is only loosely related to the car type. T1 engines are anything from 1.0 to 1.6 liters; T4 engines are 1.7 liters and over. When you see an engine referred to as a T2, it’s really a T1 with a few factory modifications. Whew. Other than being a 1965 notchback, this VW is also a two-owner car being sold on behalf of the heirs of the last owner. It’s located in San Diego and has likely been a California car since new. The Safari Beige paint has seen better days but rust is minimal.

The engine in a ’65 notchback was based on the T1 air-cooled flat-four originally installed in the Bug, but with a longer stroke to bring displacement to 1.6 liters. Another critical alteration was a shift in the cooling configuration, moving the fan to the end of the crankshaft instead of on the generator. The flattened dimensions left more room for luggage in the trunk, and earned the motor its nickname: the “suitcase”. This example runs well though the four-speed manual grinds a bit on the downshift from third to second. The seller believes the engine has just 10k miles after a rebuild by VW Paradise. The odometer reads 175,000 miles.

The interior is an excellent counterpoint to the slightly drab exterior, and it’s in decent condition, too. The carpet is relatively new. The dash is clean with no visible cracks and the headliner is intact with just a few small tears. Corrosion is present on the speedometer, so it’s likely that the other gauges are infected, too. These are minor issues, however, and will allow a new owner to make a quick positive impact on the car’s presentation. Features I particularly appreciate are the steering wheel with its Wolfsburg emblem; the big, centered VDO gauges; and the metal glove box compartment. So vintage!

The notchback is a classic “three box” design, with a front, middle, and rear. Its relative, the Karmann Ghia Type 34, arrived just months after the notchback, situating a coupe body on the same platform. Neither car was sold new in the US. Hundreds of each have been imported over the years, but they’re still rare on our shores. This example is listed here on eBay with a $15,000 minimum bid. No one has stepped up as yet. These simple, stylish Type 3s make great starter classics. What price will it take to entice a new owner to take this one home?

Auctions Ending Soon


  1. HoA HoAMember

    And another one bites the dust,,,I know, turn, turn, turn, I always felt bad for type 3. The KG wasn’t much more popular, but a different crowd. The type 3 always seemed to live in the bug or vans shadow. It was if Americans said, “weeelllll, we’ll let the bug slide, but any other VW, forget it. The type 3 was clearly a better passenger car, but it wasn’t a bug. It took the Rabbit to finally change that. I don’t know about the 175K mileage, or where that came from, the pictures show 40K, and much more believable number, and looking at the headliner, “Jerry” was a smoker.

    Like 11
    • Mountainwoodie

      As a kid I had a friend whose family always bought Squarebacks in the Sixties, I always thought that was interesting when everyone’s parents were driving Ford wagons

      Maybe slam this one with some pimp wheels and that would fix the drab appearance :)

      Like 0
  2. KC JohnMember

    I’m a fan of anything VW. I like these because they’re different. I kinda think 15K is a big ask. I’ve been wrong before though. Glwts

    Like 14
  3. Bill W.

    I bought one of these when I was stationed in Germany, a 1962 notchback. Loved that car over there. Shipped it home. It was unique. I don’t think they imported them to the US, but did to Canada, I’m told.
    Had a luggage rack on the roof. I was driving a friend home to St Louis with it, and we put our duffle bags on the roof. Couldn’t do the speed limit on the interstate, so wound up putting the duffle bags on the back seat.
    Sold the car when I got married.

    Like 14
  4. Bill W.

    Also, mine was a 1550 cc engine if I recall correctly, and we referred to them as pancake engines.

    Like 5
  5. Mark RuggieroMember

    Spent my early years fixing “ferrin” cars, plenty of squares and fasts, but never saw one of these. Once they fuel injected them they became (imo anyway) potential nightmares.

    Like 2
  6. LCL

    I had a fastback version registered as a 67.
    The rear side glass opened a bit at the rear by flexing!
    Same sharp front turn signals.
    Front discs, twin carbs. Aftermarket assist fan under the left rear seat for a real heater.
    Ah youth! I loved that car.
    The rust hit the front fenders in the pockets at the top rear and along that edge, and the tops of the headlamp buckets. No fender liners. New
    England salt .
    With the rear seat back out
    I could pass long stuff through the the rear trunk into the cab.

    Like 5
    • Bill S

      I had a 1966 Fastback while in grad school. Nice little car although the 6 volt battery made it hard to start during Ohio winters. Had the same rust problems as LCL. Traded it in on a 1971 Mercury Capri with the 2l engine.

      Like 1
  7. SteveRM

    These are very popular in the VW world. I’m surprised that there are no bids with only 6 hours to go in the auction. If that interior will clean up the price seems good. Otherwise the interior all needs to be replaced. The Type III
    VWs have become a lot more popular in the last few years. Especially the Type 34 European Karmann Ghia and the Nothchback. The 3rd to 2nd downshift grind is the first sign that the transmission needs a rebuild. The next thing it will do is start popping out of second gear.
    That’s a lot of starting fluid in the trunk.

    Like 5
    • Michelle RandAuthor

      Might have caused the engine fire that someone else referred to… ?

      Like 0
    • OldVWGuy

      You’re right, these have become popular but this one has “tells.” First thing I do is look at gaps/alignment. Engineers spent countless hours on aesthetics and this car is coming up short. Then I stop reading at “accident” and begin to sense red flags until I see some underbody pics. Any accident makes it worth less, no matter how professionally repaired. Relisted, but may not sell again. Not far off an accident-free Notch. BTW, I own a T34. These Type 3s come with mystique, so actual values always fluctuate with emotions!

      Like 0
  8. LCL

    The headlamp dimmer switch was on the back of the turn signal stalk.
    Very nice.

    Like 1
  9. Paul R

    They were sold in Canada, my brother in law had one as their first family car. There were four of them in the car , two daughters.
    I do remember some discussion about lack of power going up hills.
    By the by , re: the Rabbit , that was the “ Bug’s Bunny”.
    That’s all folks.

    Like 2
  10. Barry Koeneke

    My first car was the ’65 squareback! Loved it! Named it Baby Shoebox. Hauled a lot of baseball teammates at 16yrs old. Battery under back seat kept falling over. I should have blocked it in. And I guess I had to single-handedly push-start my Vdub dozens of time.
    Worked great for me til I could afford a trade-in for a new ’69 Torino GT!

    Like 4
  11. Roy MarsonMember

    My Mom and Dad went “home” to Switerland for 3 months in 1950. He fell in love with VW. He regreted not buying one in Europe but arriving in NYC he did buy a split window from the first US dealer, Hoffman Motors which they then drove, with me in the back seat with stacks of luggage. It had a 25 HP engine and a “crash” gearbox (you had to double clutch to downshift).

    Later in 1963, we all went o SZ again for 3 months to work on my Grandmother’s home. He bought a VW Varient, now called a Squreback.. I drove all around EuropeI drive it all around Europe hundreds of miles. He then sailed home with it as baggage, again driving it to CA.

    The following year he again bought a Varient and again drove it to Ca. I ordered one thru a dealer in CA., took delivery and sold it new to and made $500 bucks, big money then.

    The Squarebacks were the best. It sat 4 people had a luggage compartment under to hood and roomfor 2 more large bags innside.

    Great cars for touring.

    Like 6
  12. MikeH

    I bought a ‘67 square back new while living in Germany. It was my first non US car and I loved it. I brought it home to Texas but the years of salt got it in the end. On the twisty roads of Europe, it was a blast.

    Like 3
  13. geezerglide 85

    I remember seeing a few of these when I was a kid in the 60’s. That was in upstate NY, and in New England, but none locally here in Pa. It makes sense to me now, that they were sold in Canada but not the U.S. The Squareback and Fastback were pretty neat but I never saw the reason why VW made these. Maybe they were trying to update the look of the outdated Beatle, and were testing the waters with these?

    Like 2
  14. Steve

    So engine rebuilt less than 10k miles ago? is that when they had the engine fire that damaged the underside of the lid?

    Seller said it was in an accident and repaired and he has pictures, but didn’t include them in the listing (grrr…)

    If I had the space, I’d cheerfully pay $15k for a notchback that is well-sorted, but this one doesn’t look in as good as shape as claimed and there are a few questions that left open, greatly affect the value (IMHO)

    Like 4
  15. Roland

    I grew up with a Bug and Squareback. I remember my Dad showing up when I was three with the ’68 SB, dark blue with a white interior. Ten years and 70k miles later it was junk: the front calipers were frozen, we could not replace a headlight without replacing the fender, and the fuel injection was a reliability nightmare. Both those cars made it less than five years with heat, I remember pressing my hand onto the windshield to melt ice as my mother and I were driving, wrapped up in blankets while ice formed on the inside of the windshield. My first car was V-8 and water cooled because of my experiences with these cars. The squareback’s replacement, a ’79 Rabbit was also unreliable and rusted to junk after nine years – with Rusty Jones. I have never seen an A-pillar rust through before or since. My wife has a Golf Alltrack – nice car – but I cannot own a VW after a childhood of hell with those cars.

    Like 3
    • Cobraboy

      Back in my Lean Years, I bought a Squareback out of desperation and drove it—packed to the gills including a cat—from Nashville, TN, to Portland, OR. It barely made it up the hill at the Continental Pass, but got to OR in one unbroken piece.

      I kinda liked that car.

      It was simple, and I was dumb.

      Like 1
    • Dr Ron

      Sounds like a Salt Belt Rust Bucket?
      My ‘66 Squareback had heat and defrost from 1973-1980…
      But I lived in Southern Indiana and hand washed it topside and undersides multiple times throughout the winter… did the same on other cars in that decade too.
      More sand that salt used down here.
      Maybe twice in a winter at most…
      My sister’s 70 Squareback was Swiss Cheese within five years of Chicago winters.
      Never washed it in winters.
      And everything else from Detroit, Europe and Japan rotted just as fast… the Japanese cars even faster.
      The fuel injection was eventually tossed in the trash with a dual carb and vacuum advance distributor (Or 009?) conversion taking place.
      Owned two Type IIIs
      They were the hot rods of air cooled VWs back then
      Dual port heads, 1600cc’s, better engine cooling, disc brakes and they handled better than a Beetle.
      But they’d all rot out fairly easily in the Rust Belt.

      Like 3
      • Michelle RandAuthor

        My old Squareback rotted from the heater vents outward! It was orange, typical balky shifter, but I loved that car. Ran a small carpool to work about 15 miles away into downtown Portland for as long as I had it. First car I drove in the snow – they’re good in snow! That trip was to the Christmas party for the Columbia Gorge MGA Club…. memories….

        Like 3
  16. chrlsful

    had the wagon (great), fastback (cosmetics modded) all ok. Notch? not so much~

    Like 1
  17. Garry

    Type 2 Karmann Ghia! Sounds interesting, indeed!
    Sitting above the front axle – how exclusive!
    Perhaps a Zagato variant would have been marketed!

    Like 0
  18. Cobraboy

    I like these old VW’s (and old Toyota trucks) for one reason: no electronics, so they’d be King of the Hill after an EMP.

    Your neighbors would laugh today, but not after the SHTF and you’re still cruising while their electronic sled is d.e.a.d dead.

    Like 7
    • jwaltb

      Oh yeah, that’s going to happen…

      Like 1
  19. Robert HagedornMember

    How did the speedometer become corroded? There could be a nasty hidden surprise behind the dashboard.

    Like 0
  20. jwaltb

    Kind of a cute model; I haven’t seen one before.
    Price seems high for a “ quick sale.”

    Like 1
    • Garry

      I agree, a bit expensive! I almost bought one of these, got a beetle instead.
      Parts should be readily available.

      Like 1
  21. bobhess bobhessMember

    Owned 2 of these guys. One here in the states slightly modified to run in the desert of Nevada and one in Norway that we built a 1600 cc, 10 to 1 compression ratio, twin carb engine to run with the BMW 2002s on the Autobahn in Germany. Drove it to the ’76 Le Mons race and back. Both fun cars.

    Like 2

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