Dusty Barn Find: 1973 Volkswagen Beetle

The original Volkswagen Beetle was conceived as an affordable “people’s car,” but World War II got in its way, and series production didn’t commence until 1947. When production finally ended in 2003, an astounding 21.5 million Beetles had plied the roads across all corners of the globe. This 1973 model is a little treasure that has just been unearthed in a barn. It was parked in 1999, and the heavy layer of dust shows that it has seen no action since. It needs to find a new home, so the owner has listed it for sale here on eBay. It is located in Paris, Tennessee, and 36 bids have pushed the price to $3,050. The reserve is met, so the new home is mere days away.

The Beetle’s build total and longevity are both impressive figures, and I admit that I count myself among the 21.5 million people who have parked one of these little classics in their driveway. I don’t think that anyone could have envisaged just how the Beetle’s popularity would explode, especially over the past three decades. Mine was in decent condition, was roadworthy, and it drove nicely. I paid less than $500 for it in 1985, but look where the bidding has already gone on this one. It isn’t hard to see why because below all of that dust hides a VW that looks to be in pretty reasonable shape. We don’t have any information on the condition of the floors, but there is no evidence of rust when we look through the supplied photos. The front fender wears some damage, but this looks repairable. I would be very tempted to treat the Beetle to a wet sand and polish before I did anything because I think the results might be surprising. Apart from touching up the fender, the little Beetle might not need any other work.

Nestled under the rear of the VW is a 1,585cc air-cooled flat-four engine that sent its 60hp to the rear wheels via a 4-speed manual transmission. Acceleration was not that great in one of these little classics, but that is to miss what these cars were all about. They were designed for cruising all day at 60mph on the German autobahns, and when in good health, they can easily do the same thing on American highways. It seems that this Beetle hasn’t run since it was parked in 1999, and everything in the engine bay looks pretty dusty and dirty. The owner hasn’t tried to coax the car into life because he doesn’t have any keys. It seems that he hasn’t tried turning the motor by hand, so we don’t know whether it turns freely. If it does, it might not take a lot of work to revive this classic.

The first thing that the Beetle’s interior is going to need is a deep clean. It extremely dirty, but I think it might present reasonably well after a bit of old-fashioned elbow grease. The next thing that it will need is for someone to tidy the rat’s nest of wires hanging down below the dash. These would need to be checked properly before being pushed back into place. There’s nothing that can ruin a day’s cruising more than to be left standing on the side of the road due to an electrical fault. Actually, it can get worse because that fault could leave your classic as a crisp and charred shell on the roadside. Once the cleaning and electrical issues have been addressed, this interior doesn’t look like it will need much. There is a small hole in the driver’s seat, but I think this could be patched. Otherwise, it all looks pretty good.

The German government coined the term “people’s car” for the humble Beetle, and it is one that I have always found to be interesting. If we take it in its most literal sense, there really is no such thing. The Beetle sold in impressive numbers, while the same is true of the Ford Model T, the Toyota Corolla, and several European models. The fact is that as I write this, approximately 1 billion passenger cars are occupying the world’s roads. However, the world’s population currently sits at 7.8 billion people. That means that even if you filled every vehicle to capacity, there would still be people who would be forced to walk. So, while there is no real people’s car, the humble and charismatic Beetle does its best to fill the void. Would you like to join the 21.5 million people who have parked one of these classics in their driveway?


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  1. bobhess bobhess Member

    Not this one. Clean it up so we can see what we’re bidding on and you might have something.There are several descriptions of the word “Dumb” and this is one of them.

    Like 12
    • David Taylor

      Here’s what I noticed. 1) What I first suspected as rust over driver side is, I believe, dirt dobber nests. 2) The tires show the VW sat in deep mud for at least some time. 3) There is “bubbling” paint on the bonnet. 4) Front bumper shows some pitting. 5) That damaged left-front fender indicates some kind of HARD crash – maybe running into something. Bent frame? Undamaged bumper is absolutely a replacement. 6) what’s with all those assorted wires hanging below the dash?

      Like 4
  2. alphasud Member

    Buying a Beetle sight unseen is a risky proposition. That can be said for just about any car but with a Beetle they hide the rust better than most. I worked as a technician in PA for many years before moving and the first shop was a VW and Audi independent. Back in the late 80’s we killed off a lot of these cars that looked decent on the outside but one up on a lift you could see the terminal rust in the frame horns that support the engine and transaxle and up at the frame head where on this Super Beetle the lower control arms attach. Heater channels (inner and outer rockers) are repairable as well as floors.
    This is what many consider the least desirable model and year. The first choice among the sedans is pre 72 and the standard bug is the best. 71 and 72 Super Beetle with the flat windshield and strut suspension are next followed by 73 later standard. My personal choice is a 67 with the first year 12 volt, 1500 engine but old style bumpers. Then 66 and older for the sheer charm followed by 69-72 standard with the IRS suspension over swing axle, then the flat windshield Super.
    The new owner will undoubtedly spend more than the value of the car to get this running again. Used to be able to buy a 1600 dual port long block for $600 back in the 80’s. Now that figure is realistically 3K. Nice thing about the beetle is the strong parts support from aftermarket companies.

    Like 22
    • Mr.BZ

      Looks like great, common sense info, alphasud. I’ve never owned a bug, but if I was shopping for one I would use your info as a guide.

      Like 6
    • Tom D

      Glad someone noticed this is a Super Beetle. 1973 was the first year those had the curved windshield and bigger dash. Plus you got a fan for the heat. It’s also true the photos don’t tell enough about rust in the heater channels. Bugs are notorious for water getting in around the running board bolts to start the rust process. Then there’s the heater (J) boxes themselves and if they aren’t rusted the levers get stuck open or closed so you get all heat or none. Regardless, for their era they were great cars. My family had a bunch of them, including me. I had a 64 and when it broke a valve on #3 I got a 73 regular beetle.

      Like 5
      • Erik

        To add to Tom D’s comment:

        Standard Beetles were designed to use torsion bars, while the Super Beetles were upgraded to a Macpherson strut and coil spring setup. … Early Super Beetles looked much like Standard Beetles, including flat windshields. In 1973, VW made further adjustments to the Super Beetle to distinguish it from the standard model, including the introduction of a curved windshield and flatter roofline. This change increased ride quality and improved the Bug’s poor turning radius. The accuracy of the steering and the smoother ride can easily be detected by taking both cars for a road test. The best way to distinguish a standard Beetle from a Super is to check the location of the spare tire and look behind the front wheels for a Macpherson spring compressor.

        The current price (at time of this BF article) for this example is already maxxed out if not overpriced. Air-cooled VWs hold their value but that value is and has never been especially high unless you get into the really older vintage air-cooled VWs and certain models. As I have stated in past air-cooled VW listings here on BF’s, if you want to find the true values and asking prices of air-cooled vehicles, school yourself via the genuine air-cooled VW sites and classifieds on those sites. Because of their down-to-earth and “hippie” origins, the air-cooled VW crowd has traditionally always been helpful and fair when it comes to helping fellow enthusiasts and not gouging others with asking prices. Unfortunately, like every other aspect of our classic car hobby regardless of marque/brand or following, the air-cooled VW crowd has been affected by “reality shows”, “auctions”, “foolish uneducated newbies”, “deep pocked buyers”, and “huge profit-minded sellers and resellers”.

        Like 3
      • David

        Besides the curved windshield on later cars, the quickest way is to tell it’s a super beetle is the gas door on the passenger side.

      • Terry

        Another unique thing about the early Super Beetles(curved glass). They were among the first cars to come with onboard diagnostics. It was rudimentary to say the least compared to what is current today, but they had it!

        Like 1
    • David Taylor

      My favorite is the 52-53 – one with split rearview window and “cute” semaphores. My more-like-a-brother-but-now-deceased friend took me shopping to help him decide what to buy as his first brand new car. WE selected a silver one with bright red interior. It was a blast learning all about that car. VWs were so new back then that we got a lot of attention. Now, I cannot see a Bug of any vintage without remembering Don’s Bug and all the mile we traveled together.

      Like 2
  3. Steve Clinton

    I wonder how many more bids this would attract with just a simple cleaning (and removing the hornet’s nest!) Just asking.

    Like 6
  4. Dave

    Hopefully there’s not a real rat’s nest up under the dash…

    Like 1
  5. Beav

    I would clone it into a GTO

    Like 2
  6. Autoworker

    Dirty. Should have washed it. Looks like a Dung Beatle.

    Like 3
  7. DeeBee

    Not like parts are extremely scarce! it’s worth it to work out the kinks, then drive it into the ground!

  8. John McGrath

    First ear of Beetle was 1938 .

  9. jon Member

    I tried to buy a new one in 1973, could not afford the $3,700.00 they wanted then, I note it has not depreciated much since then :)

    Like 2
  10. steve

    Sorry, no “fan for the heater” except the cooling blower for the engine (and this one needs the hoses replaced on the engine) There was a blower for fresh air which also wasn’t new for this year BUT was standard for 1973-on.

  11. Bob Mck Member

    If this were a 72, I would be all over it. But I don’t care for the 73 dash or curved windshield or tail lights.

    Like 1
  12. Jeff

    Bought a new 73 when I was a senior in high school and financed it through the bank (what were they thinking) Mine was a somewhat limited edition blue-silver Sports Beetle. I still have the showroom brochure. It was a very nimble and fun car for the time. Did not keep it long as I really couldn’t afford the payments. Traded down on a 69 thunderbird which I could afford.

    Like 1
  13. Garry

    It can’t be a Beetle, the number plate says ANT!
    It also looks like an L model, the only Beetle with a firewall that reduced the likelihood of a fire after an accident.
    I owned a 1300 (1967) and an L model. The torsion bar suspension was much better than the Macpherson Strut. Also the 1600 motor seemed to be overworked in the upright configuration. My L model 1600 wasn’t as reliable as the 1300.

  14. Little_Cars Little_Cars Member

    Betcha someone will need to replace any filters (air, oil, carb, fuel pump) on this baby judging by the amount of Tennessee dust accumulated all over the car.

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