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Barn Find Bug! 1973 VW Beetle Convertible

I have a little bit of familiarity with a ’73 VW Beetle, my sister bought a new one in May of ’73 and I drove it occasionally though not too often. Her VW was not a convertible but nevertheless, I thought that it would be interesting to review this example and see if there is any memory that might get jogged. This drop-top Bug is located in Houston, Texas and is available, here on eBay for a current bid of $3,950, with 43 bids so far tendered.

This ’73 VW convertible is based on the Super Beetle, a larger variant of the standard beetle that was first introduced in 1971. There were several differences between this new larger bug and the standard beetle but most notable was an enlarged front end, from the windshield forward, and a MacPherson strut front suspension system riding on a wider track. Total worldwide Volkswagen Beetle production topped out at about 21 million vehicles with approximately 1.2 M in 1973 alone.

This 78K mile example is listed as a “True Barn Find” that has not operated in twenty years. Overall it looks pretty straight and there is no evidence of significant rot or crash damage – it is believed that the finish is original and it and the convertible top both present well. It seems that a good cleaning would be of the first order and that may be all that is needed. The seller mentions a dent in the passenger side fender, but it’s minor, and some rust in front of the passenger side rear wheel well. The seller does mention that this convertible has had some floor repair work so it has encountered adverse conditions at some point in its life.

Power is provided by a 58 HP, 1600 CC, flat four-cylinder engine. The motor in this Beetle will turn but it will not start – at least it’s not seized! And being air-cooled there is no ancient, cruddy coolant and a rotted out radiator to contend with. Nothing looks amiss in the engine compartment so hopefully, it will no take a lot of coaxing to get this VW to fire. The rear-mounted engine is attached to a four-speed manual transaxle.

The interior is pretty moldy looking – perhaps a condition related to the needed floor repair? Both of the seat’s upholstery is starting to disintegrate and the carpet is showing signs of wear but it is entirely a serviceable environment. As with the exterior, a good cleaning would work wonders. The dash pad is still in nice shape and the simple instrument panel checks out well. And now that I think of it, the instrument panel is the only item that I recall from my sister’s car – so much for that memory.

The seller suggests, “Great bones for a fun restoration!” I have described restorations in many different ways, “fun” is usually not an adjective that comes immediately to mind. The reality though, is that this VW may not need a full restoration, it may just need some servicing, upholstery work, and a strong dose of elbow grease to return it to road-worthy and, and yes, “fun” driving status. Good bones? I agree, how about you?


  1. Avatar photo Too late

    My sister as well bought a new Beetle in 73′. Blue in color with sunroof and AC. Strange to see factory ac on a bug. Hers had the “curved” windshield as well. I noticed quickly how much quieter it was with pushing the wind around the car at highway speeds as opposed to the flat wind shields of her previous 67 & 68 Bugs. Question were these considered ” Super Beetles” with the curved windshield ? Her blue 67″ with sunroof was the coolest of the three

    Like 0
    • Avatar photo JustPassinThru

      The “Super” Beetle was designed with a new front suspension, bigger nose-trunk, and steering system. It was intended to take the higher-speed handling deficiencies out of the Type 1 chassis and keep the format up to date…the project was launched prior to NSU being absorbed by VW.

      The NSU “merger” is what brought the design that would be the Golf/Rabbit, into the VW fold. It was NSU’s design people who had the water-cooling and front-drive know-how.

      But, anyway…the Super Beetle got MacPherson struts for the front corners, with delicate lower arms, alignment held by a combination sway-bar/drag link. Rack-and-pinion steering replaced the worm-and-roller setup of the original. A dogleg steering column with universal joints, was to provide driver safety in front-end collisions.

      The first two years the Super shared the cowl and windshield with the Standard Beetle. In 1973, seeing the Super not take off in sales, the dash was redone. Remember, VW’s management, both conservative and in turmoil after the death of Heinz Nordhoff, did not know how the Dasher and Golf would fare in the market. The Super was to carry on the Beetle brand for another ten years.

      They missed it by five, as the Super Beetle was discontinued in 1975. The chassis continued as the basis for Convertibles until 1980, but was not a big seller, nor intended to be.

      Fun fact: After the Super Beetle plug was pulled, tooling was sold to one of the South American operations…wish I could remember which one; but they commenced to manufacturing a standard Beetle with the bulged-out windshield. Kit-bashing the cowl of the former Super with the chassis of a Standard.

      Like 4
      • Avatar photo alphasud Member

        Good write up however the Super Beetle didn’t get rack and pinion until 73 which helped cure the death wobble so prevalent in the 71 and 72.

        Like 0
  2. Avatar photo Malcolm Boyes

    If the price is right and its not too rusty this would be a fun, and, not too hard project. BTW the fan belt has flipped over. Put a new belt on properly, new battery, a little gas in the carb and give it a gentle try..like many old VW’s it may well spring to life. ( Hoping the same is true for my 73 Thing that has been sitting at our beach house in the Caribbean for nearly a year thanks to Covid!!)

    Like 2
    • Avatar photo AJ

      Take another look at the belt.. it’s most likely a top cog Dayco that doesn’t look too bad.

      Like 2
  3. Avatar photo Rabbit

    Turns over, but won’t start. Come on, now. We grew up with ACVWs. Sixty bucks and an afternoon can get her tuned up & the valves adjusted. Cap, rotor, points, condenser, plugs, wires & a pair of valve cover gaskets. Worse comes to worst, another 15 for a carb kit & a can of Gumout. Easiest engine in the world to work on, if you have a clue about these cars. Get her running & double your money. Just my $.02

    Like 9
  4. Avatar photo Buffalo Bob

    Add another $15 for the possibility it needs a coil.

    Like 4
  5. Avatar photo Dave

    We had a 74 Super Beatle convertible when I was a kid, Ravenna Green, looked like an M&M. I got my driver’s license in that car. The prices must have gone up for 1974, the sticker price was $3552 and it didn’t have AC or anything expensive. Dad bought it new in April ’74 and sold it 20 years later for $7K. By then it had been repainted, new top, new front seat upholstery and still under 80K miles
    The right side, rear floor had also been replaced. That was common in these cars, the battery is under the back seat and the acid takes its toll.

    Like 0
  6. Avatar photo Victor

    Had a 72 Cameroon red beetle from brand new under 2g out the door, Fun car until it was stolen

    Like 0
  7. Avatar photo JonArd

    In high school, my girlfriend – and later ex-wife – had a ’68 blue convertible with the automatic trans … we painted red and yellow flowers on the dash … had a lot of fun with that car … her grandfather gave it to her sister and bought her a ’68 Firebird, a much more fun car …

    Like 0

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