First $2,500 Takes It: 1972 VW Fastback

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This dirt-cheap 1972 Volkswagen Fastback strikes me as a case of California’s heavy-handed emissions laws forcing the owner to cut his losses and move on. For $2,500, it comes with a host of upgrades and although the seller mentions rust, I don’t see anything that frightens me too much. This is a sharp project, and it’s listed here on craigslist near Sacramento. Thanks to Barn Finds reader Miguel for the find. 

I spy some rust in the lower rear quarters and along the C-pillar, and it may be hard to evaluate given it looks like it may have been painted over (or never prepped correctly before the first repaint occurred.) I can’t believe it’s all that bad considering this is a California car, but perhaps the missing rear bumper is a commentary on the weakness of mounting points in the rear valence area. It does somewhat dicey based on the photo here, but it’s hard to be sure. The seller mentions the Fastback will come with upgraded Euro-spec taillights.

Pictures of the interior are limited, but it appears to be average at best. The dash is cracked in a few places and I don’t see any carpeting. Still, for the asking price, I wouldn’t hassle the cosmetics too much. Also, several other upgrades are included in the sale, which should help offset some of the potential ugliness. These include: A new Bugpack single muffler, new shifter assembly, 17″  “Raider” rims, and a four-wheel disc brake conversion. Rust or not, someone threw some money at this Fastback.

Obviously, the VW has been lowered or at least had its springs cut. The engine bay looks surprisingly clean, with evidence of recent work done here as well. I would love to know how severe the rust issues are, because if they’re not all that bad, this seems like a solid project for the money. Does anyone else think there’s a chance problems with a state inspection are forcing the sale, or is there more rust lurking here than I’m accounting for?

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  1. Oldog4tz Oldog4tz

    Whatever the issues that this may have, smog is unlikely to be one of them. Pre 1976 vehicles are smog exempt in California, no testing required.

    Like 26
  2. LAB3

    It doesn’t look too bad rust wise especially at that price although I get the impression things could get ugly fast once you start grinding to do the repair work.

    Like 9
  3. larry geschMember

    Got rid of the fuel injection but now the engine lid will not close because of the carb!

    Like 0
  4. jw454

    Having no title the car’s condition is secondary. In Ohio, obtaining a title is like finding a ladder to climb to the moon.

    Like 11
    • Miguel

      jw454, I didn’t see that before I submitted the car.

      It looked like a good car for a cheap price, but without a title in California, who know if you could ever own it.

      It also has no plates which is weird for a California car.

      Like 0
    • Mike

      Take it to Mississippi with a bill of sale and $60.00 Title Bond (last one I bought a few years ago might have gone up some ) and get a clean Title

      Like 3
  5. J Liu

    I see rust in the engine bay. If this is a true California car, it spent many years by the oceans edge, somewhere in California. No California smog is required if the car is 1975 or older and there is no vehicle inspection, just a smog check.
    Maybe good as a parts car or drive it till it falls apart.

    Like 6
  6. That Guy

    I see rust on door bottoms and the base of the c pillar. Placer County is getting into snow country so it’s likely seen weather. I think this is why it’s $2500. At this age it’s not subject to emissions or any other inspections.

    Like 5
  7. notchback

    Having owned more than 50 VW Type 3’s over the years, here’s my take.

    That progressive carb sticking out of the engine bay is the kiss of death for this car. There is limited air flow in there. Stock, it would have had FI. The normal “upgrade” people do when their FI doesn’t work is dual carbs that will fit under the engine cover with air ducted from the vents on the side of the rear fenders. In this case, the car doesn’t have an engine cover. All the outside air and the exhaust will come up into the rear trunk (that can no longer be used for a trunk) and pass right through the flimsy back seat to fill the cabin with wonderful air.

    The rust in the C pillar is another kiss of death. VW, in their infinite wisdom, filled the C pillars on the 71-73 fastback with expanding foam. That foam traps every bit of moisture and it has to exit somewhere, hence, the rust. The only way to fix that is to replace the pillars. That rust there is going to translate to some rust under the top of the fender.

    Rust in the bottom of the door usually means rust in the rocker. Rear fenders are easily replaceable, but you’re going to have to use the old fender beading or buy some new black generic stuff.

    I would inspect how those seats are mounted. Usually in a slapped together pile like this, they are not mounted securely. Probably just some bolts with fender washers through the floor. The indoor/outdoor carpeting doesn’t add any points either.

    Speaking of floors, with the amount of rust there is on the car, I would carefully inspect the floor pan. They are known to rust under the back seat first, then slowly expand until the entire floor is compromised. New pan sections are NOT cheap for a Type 3.

    Missing title? Yeah, right. Try registering it now.

    In this case, you’re buying a $500 set of Radar wheels along with a bunch of parts. $1000-$15000 car tops.

    Like 28
    • Mountainwoodie

      Well, that’s that.

      Like 3
  8. stillrunners

    Gee it’s $2500 all ready…..and on another note – I had the same wheels back when the Ghia was still taking a spot…….

    Like 2
  9. Jeffro

    Easy to get registered in Georgia,if only not on the west coast

    Like 0
    • Miguel

      Jeffro, No it isn’t. You still have to prove you own the car in order to get a Georgia registration.

      Like 0
      • Jeffro

        Bill of sale for anything 85 or older. I lived there my whole life. This I know as fact

        Like 1

    $2,500-$1,500 Rust issues = $1,000
    -$500 title issue = $500
    IMHO that’s top value of that car, if you want to make a smart buy because it will need a lot for restoration.

    Ok smart is not buy it :-)

    Like 4
  11. Doug B

    Same here in VA…getting a replacement title is not easy!
    If anyone is interested in a ’73 Fastback, with 70K original miles and a fully functioning and well-running FI-fitted engine, get in touch – I have one (with title) that’s a great daily driver, where rust has already been addressed (new rockers, replaced rear corners and rear apron, repaired front wheel well sections – all welded-in metal) and with alloys & recent tires (and a decent interior) that I’m looking to sell for the same price as this one.

    Like 1
    • Jesse Jesse MortensenStaff

      @Doug – please consider listing it here on the site:

      Like 0
      • Doug B

        Based on a prior listing on this site it looks like you may have picked up a ’71 Fasty yourself, Jesse…still have it? I will list it here…it’s been bumped into a few times in its life, and because of it will never be a showpiece, but it’s a reliable runner, with title and current inspection (I always run regular, not vintage plates on my old VWs and keep the inspections current). $50 for a listing doesn’t seem too bad, so I’d list it here.

        Like 0
      • Jesse Jesse MortensenStaff

        I did have an orange one for a while. Someone swapped the fuel injection out for carbs and it never ran right. It was a cool car, but not really my thing.

        Like 0

    There are no inspections in California in regards to roadworthiness only smog check for 76 and newer. As a Californian I have noticed that the vast majority of our air pollution comes from the tens of millions of 76 te 1985 cars on the freeways…. And yes that is sarcasm from somebody who battled the DMV over a 79 that gets driven all of a hundred miles a year

    Like 5
    • dweezilaz

      Amen Thomas.

      Old cars get the brunt of hysterical environmentalism. These are not beaters and they don’t spend 15,000 miles a year commuting.

      A rolling cut off year would have been a rational way to address this, but then…. it’s CA [native and recent escapee].

      Like 3
    • xrotaryguy

      I think the majority of smog in SoCal is from trucks. I can’t speak for up north but we handle a massive amount of shipping here. No way do old cars contribute nearly as much around here.

      Like 2
  13. dweezilaz

    ‘The seller mentions the Fastback will come with upgraded Euro-spec taillights.’

    Forget the Euro-spec tails.

    Put the bloody bumpers back on it.

    Like 4
  14. Will Owen

    I don’t think anyone who remembers the days when the San Gabriel mountains were hidden in a brown haze for weeks, and any running for exercise was simply impossible, is going to get snarky about California’s “ridiculous” emissions laws.

    There used to be a lot of Old Beaters (read: cheap transportation) running around, but natural attrition took its blessed toll, and just about any pre-’75 car you’ll see now will be somebody’s cherished classic. Even the smog-controlled ’80s cars have benefited from a wider knowledge of their management systems: I had two Alfa V6 cars maintained by a shop that has the Bosch L-Jetronic system figured out, and both of them regularly passed their tests by wide margins.

    Like 4
  15. GeorgeMember

    My first visit to LA in the early seventies I was staying in Pasadena and could not see the mountains for several days. Southern California’s lethal combination of smog trapped by the mountains and low precipitation poses some very unique issues with dramatic health impacts. Even today, the air in LA is unhealthy. That said, these cars are not used like a communting Prius (or Escalade) and it should be possible to keep them on the road without too many issues.

    Like 1
  16. VAL

    No smog Required he may be just moving on and is tired of VW .Hard to Say what is going on .

    Like 0
  17. Firemandk

    Dune buggy Parts ????!!! Possibly a great donor ? I am almost sorry I ever bought my 1926 “Armadillo” Model T Speedster, as it is not practical at all to try and drive it on the highway.A dune buggy would have been a better idea for me ….

    Like 0

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