JDM Oval Window: 1956 Volkswagen Beetle

When we think of “JDM” vehicles – shorthand for Japanese Domestic Market – we tend to envision Skylines, Integras, and other vehicles that are often illegally imported. This 1956 Volkswagen Beetle – believe it or not, your children probably won’t – is a JDM vehicle itself. Brought to the U.S. when the original owner’s offspring left Japan to attend college in California, it remains in time-warp condition and be can be found here on eBay with no reserve and bidding over $9K.

Not only is this a highly unusual JDM Beetle, but it’s also an early model with the desirable oval window. It’s had one repaint in its life and the original gray paint is starting to wear through. The small tailights, chrome bumpers with overriders, and fender-mounted indicators are all signs this is an early Beetle. This was already a desirable car before its incredible story came out, and the seller notes that it’s been locked away with a private collector since the mid-1960s.

As the seller tells it, the Beetle was built specifically for export to Japan in 1957, where it lived until 1962. The family that owned it saw its two children heading to California to study as USC and UCLA, and decided the Beetle would be a worthwhile travel companion so the two could get around in a new place. Following this journey across the ocean, the Beetle has been stateside ever since. The fact that it belonged to two college students navigating the streets of California for the first time and it emerged unscathed is the stuff of miracles.

One picture of the Beetle prior to its removal from the Northern California collection is seen here; what other cars and trucks do you see in the background? While the Beetle’s story is fascinating, the seller notes that the individual who owns it has amassed an incredible collection over the years. That alone is worth a story, so if you’re reading, send us more details on your collection and what else might be up for sale in the coming months.


  1. Spud

    Cool car, and it will probably fetch a good price just for its age and condition. Nevertheless, the attached story in eBay is kind of bizarre.

    For all of the florid text (which despite the fact that it goes on somewhat nonsensically about California, seems like it was actually run through Google translate from some non-English original language), there’s really nothing that describes what makes this supposed JDM car unique.

    I find it most strange that a JDM car isn’t right-hand drive. Unless that’s not something that Japan required in the 50’s? It’s also missing the fender-mounted mirrors that JDM cars usually have. Maybe someone here who really knows JDM cars can give some info? Other than that body plate, I’d call the whole JDM story a bit fishy.

    Like 8
    • Brakeservo

      LHD imported cars are common in Japan where the LHD is prized for it’s novelty value. This is especially true with high end imports such as Bentley and Rolls-Royce.

      Like 3
    • Audifan

      European cars with Japan specs never had fender mounted mirrors. One out of my 3 JDM Toyotas also has door mounted mirrors.
      As mentioned before, it shows status and class to drive a LHD car in Japan.
      Yanase is a very prestigious and respected importer of European cars.
      According to the stickers they imported the car and I am almost certain they still have documentation about this car. I don’t see ANYTHING at all bogus on the seller’s statement.

      Like 5
      • onree Member

        I don’t think that’s a good explanation. In the mid-fifties a VW Beetle was considered neither high status or classy. And VW did make RHD vehicles for Australia and Britain.

  2. Angrymike

    I shutter to think how many of these small window Bugs I help to destroy, they were rusty, but they were in decent shape. The floor pan had to be pretty good for the dune buggys they were turned into.
    Nice Lil car, brings back memories !

    • Howard A Member

      $50 bucks got you a running Bug in the ’70’s. My friend just out of HS bought a ’58, 3 different color fenders, but we had a blast with it. Puked the motor a couple of times ( #3 exhaust valve, very common wit 36 hp motors) and junkyards had PILES of VW motors. We’d rebuild it in the afternoon, be cruising that very night. It’s why these fetch such crazy money today, very few remain. The only ones you see today are the ones us young punks never got a hold of.

      Like 4
    • Mountainwoodie

      Hey Jeff…….isnt this from that Oakland Ca collection that is being dissolved..remember we’ve already had quite a few cars from it?

      Had shiny floors that some BF’r thought had been wetted down for the pix? There are a number of fantastic cars in great condition there. The sellers’ ebay moniker rings a bell.

      Love the oval window bugs but not 10 k of love.

  3. grant

    Unless it was built in Japan, it wouldn’t be a “JDM” as it was an import from Germany. “Domestic” normally refers to a home market. This was built in Germany for the Japanese EXPORT market. Yeah yeah, I know but words mean things, and details matter.

    Like 9
    • Spud

      grant, that definitely clarifies matters. Makes perfect sense.

      Yes, words do matter…particularly when they describe something that folks might spend thousands of dollars on.

      Like 2
  4. RexFox Member

    Yes, I suspect the plate was affixed to the car when it was imported to Japan after it had gone through whatever import certification steps were required; it was not originally built for the Japanese market. So the story doesn’t increase the value for me, but I would love to have this car.

    Like 2
  5. Edward

    Should this car sport the original engine, transmission, and have minimal rust issues, it will sell in the 15K range. Good ovals are a sought after ride and this level of originality adds to it’s desireability. It’s not a split, but….

  6. Daniel Cass

    This is not really “JDM”… VW has a program called TKD (Total Knock Down) in which they send a floor pan and body parts, as well as all other required components to an overseas assembly plant (some in South Africa, others to Japan, etc) where they were assembled and sold as non-import cars.

    I owned a 56 Oval Window TKD years ago… This is a legit story of a cool car.

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