Art Bug: 1957 VW Beetle

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The seller of this heavily sunburnt 1957 VW Beetle here on eBay sees his vehicle as more of an art installation than a project car. No matter how you look at it, though, this is one of the more authentic forms of patina I’ve seen, and although we’ve all grown a little tired of the word, this is a deserving candidate for preservation. Plus, the Bug comes with some added OEM features that make it a unique find regardless of the exterior. 

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Amazingly, the interior has remained in very nice condition despite residing in a field for many years, taking in every ray the sun could throw at it. The seller claims what we see here is just the result of a solid cleaning and not any sort of restoration attempt. After sending his son out to inspect the car in person, he had it shipped back to Nevada where a more intimate inspection revealed options like factory-installed fuel and amp gauges, along with a reclining passenger seat and front seat belts.

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The engine runs, but the seller is a bit coy on the details. They did tackle some deferred maintenance to get it to run, drive and stop, but he claims it feels weak. I’m not sure any engine with less than 75 b.h.p. will ever feel strong, but to his credit, the seller does offer up that the Bug returned compression numbers between 70 and 100 across the board. Given this is such an authentic oval window, I wouldn’t alter the engine much beyond stock – but that’s only if it can be confirmed that this is the numbers-matching unit.

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The early Beetles were among my favorites, with the aforementioned rear window, slim tail lights, chrome bumper guards and covered headlights. This one is all there, right down to the optional chrome hubcaps. I would love to know the story behind this VW and how it came to slumber in a field for years while staying almost perfectly preserved. The only rust found was a rotten battery tray that has proactively been replaced. Bidding is already over $8,000 with the reserve unmet, but I guess that’s the price of patina today.

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  1. Howard A. Howard AMember

    Art Who? If you looked up the word patina, this would explain it all. Bidding will go thru the roof for this thing. One thing I remember about VW hubcaps, they sure had chrome plating down to a science, even though, for years that was just about all the chrome. Somebody sure found a gold mine. Probably the 36 hp. Adequate, I suppose. Lot of valve problems, I remember, but good, basic cars. I’d leave it as is.

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  2. DolphinMember

    Jerry would love this! And after selling all those Porsches I believe he’s got the cash available. Anybody got his email address handy?

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  3. Lee Hartman

    That’s a much newer engine than the original 36hp. Easy to tell by the air hoses on the fan shroud, and the separate generator stand. Sure is a neat old bug, though!

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    • DrinkinGasoline

      “That’s a much newer engine than the original 36hp.”
      Don’t be so sure…My Type 1 ’66 1300 shares the same generator “perch” and ’66 is not that far newer. At best, it is a 49 hp engine as the 1500’s were subject to design changes. Some 1301’s (yes, there was a 1301) as well as 1302’s and later 1303’s (European,Mexican and Venezuelan, built vehicles maintained the 1300 design specs.)
      Oval Windows are highly desirable, as the earlier Split Windows are damn near impossible to obtain unless your last name is “Leno”. I’ve seen Ovals turn over at 10k, in worse condition than this specimen. Albeit the front bumper is missing it’s guards and overiders, as they would be replaced by front and rear assemblies (hopefully of quality) anyway, it is still a serious prime candidate for a proper restoration. If the pan is straight, the front end is un-compromised, and most of the original pieces are intact, then it’s a serious GO. Restored with the proper colors both in and out, TLC and the right resources…30k reserve at auction….easy. What most folks do not know is that there are many resources available to restore these gems including suppliers in Germany, which hold original molds, fabric patterns etc. not to mention the American companies that have reproduced replacement parts to original factory specs. without compromising quality. The VW Type 1 was the only vehicle that challenged the Ford Model T in sales volume, and quality of manufacture…..What does that tell you…..Any research about the KaferWagen will reveal that Adolph Hitler revered Henry Ford for his beliefs, not to mention his mass production practices. The two most successful vehicles in history remain….the Model T, and the VW Beetle. I am fortunate to own one of each. That my friends….
      is by intent.

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    • Mike H. Mike H.

      I’m going to have to agree with Lee on this one. The 1957 model should have the 36hp engine with the cast generator stand. The bolted-on generator stand appeared in 1961 with the 40hp mill.

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  4. Lee Hartman

    A little more research indicates it is a ’61 engine (built in Aug. 1960), It is a 40hp engine with the fan housing from a ’64-’65 engine. The fan housing was probably added because of the better heater operation.

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    • DrinkinGasoline

      Agreed, as it was deeper and allowed for a larger impeller for increased air movement within the channels. My accessory fuel heater is simply for show and would never be connected.

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  5. Mark S

    Patina is nice word for rust and if left will soon be Swiss cheese. In fact there will already be soft spots. If the patia is delt with now you might be able to save this car body

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  6. Alan Brase

    It IS a pretty good car. For a driver the 40hp engine with fresh air heater is a lot better, more durable. (Not to mention, a few mph higher top speed, something that becomes more of an issue with horsepower so dear!).
    BUT, why did he cheap out on a few things like the headlight glass, turn signal flasher, rubber floor mats, carpet and headliner? And RADIO? It has the speaker, the antenna, why no radio? Not like it would cost very much, I’d think a Sapphire I could be bought for $50-100.
    All this neglected would make me distrust some of the other work, like front end parts, transaxle, etc.
    There was a learning curve when fixing these things and I fear very few shops left that would get it straightened out.
    With everything right, one could drive this thing flat out for tens of thousands of miles, with only tuneups, oil changes and valve lash adjustment.
    The seller must know what he is doing, he has set the reserve at least over $10k.

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  7. DrinkinGasoline

    In the States during that time, a purchaser would have faced an optional $ 20 add on for the Sapphire AM Radio. Radio delete packages did not include the speaker. This model had the radio, but was deleted later, as it has the speaker. Delete panels were readily available, as they are today. Why the radio delete? That’s anyone’s guess.

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  8. Blindmarc

    Having been in SoCal during the 80’s, the purists don’t want to hear what I’d do to this one. Great find……2180, duel webers, big cam, stinger exhaust….. Not to mention one piece Windows…..

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    • Audifan

      What a horrible thought………..
      Please, please, leave this car alone. It deserves it.

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      • Matt Tritt

        It agree completely. “Having been in California in the 80’s”? Having been in California in the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and up to today, I can’t see how being here in the 80’s has anything to do with a tendency to alter vehicles. It seems fine to me to change the body of a vintage car with a bad body and viable frame, but it also seems absurd to do this to already rare vehicles at a time when they are getting scarcer by the minute. It just seem so blind.

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  9. jim s

    i see the hole above the gas pedal where the reserve lever for the gas tank was. the 40hp would have been a period correct upgrade, at least at the VW dealers in my area. i hope this has the upgraded transmission also. great find.

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  10. David

    Sorry. No where near $30k with a non-matching engine, and holes for gauges in the dash. The originality ship has sailed. What is that gas line doing running by the driver’s side of the center tunnel? “Reclining passenger seat”? I suppose. If by “reclining” you mean “broken.” And a cigarette lighter??

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    • Rick

      Not a gas line, but a brake line. All Beetles had the brake lines running on the driver’s side, inside, down the side of the tunnel.

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  11. Rich

    Factory fuel and amp gauges? Never. The engine’s out of a later car, and the throttle pedal is wrong, maybe just the pedal assembly was swapped, maybe the floorpan is post ’59.
    Still, a nicely sunburnt oval, with some upgrades to make it slightly more 21st century friendly. This would be snapped up in the UK.
    Oh and “DrinkinGasoline”, sorry but there were no 1301’s, VW wanted to use that tag but Simca already owned that numbering system, same as Peugeot owned 3 digit ones ending “01” which is why everyone’s favourite Porsche is a 911…

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    • DrinkinGasoline

      Oh, and “Rich”….sorry, but there was a 1301, but it was “introduced” as a 1302 for the reason You cited,seemingly from Google, meaning that it did exist in conception as well as production, like i stated in my post. That’s like saying that the NSU never existed because it was never mass produced.

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    • DrinkinGasoline

      [Quote] : “which is why everyone’s favourite Porsche is a 911…”
      That is a very bold, arrogant statement. I’d bet that there are those who would disagree. Not that it would matter, given your point of view.

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  12. Matt Tritt

    Deary me. So this car has had upgrades to make for better roadworthiness, so what? The collector mentality seems Almost as irritating as the hot-rodder one, but at least it doesn’t mean ruining an original vehicle forever. My second car was a 57 VW that I still believe to be the best Beetle ever – except, perhaps, for the 58 with a rear window you could actually see out of. As a 19 year-old, I drove that thing everywhere in every season. It handled snow and loose sand about as well as it did hard surfaced roads – without a rattle or squeek, and always got 30 MPG. Every time I see one that’s been modified it makes me cringe. Another bit of history lost, which seems to be a very unfortunate part of our culture. There were so many great bugs sacrificed to absolutely shitty dunebuggys and light aircraft (the engines) it boggles the mind, that every last one remaining whole deserves preservation and USE.

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    • DrinkinGasoline

      I am of same mind. I look at it as “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”. Folks built Doodle Bugs out of Model T’s, and folks built dune buggies out of Bugs…..the irony of it all. I have a 500 ft. driveway and my ’66 Type 1 still makes it out during the winter months when the modern front wheel drives won’t. But, I have to admit, I’d love to have a Split Window KaferWagen.

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