Our Latest Project: 1971 Volkswagen Fastback

1971 Volkswagen Fastback

In high school, I used to get rides from a kid who lived up the road. He drove a bright orange Beetle and I thought it was an okay little car. Well, that was until we start picking up two more of my classmates. I still have memories of being crammed up against that dash while he pulled a few pre-school donuts in an icy parking lot. I never planned on owning one of these air-cooled cars myself and somehow managed to avoid all VWs until now.

Flat Four

This Type 3 may be a little better than my buddies Beetle, but they have a lot in common. This car benefits from front disk brakes, more room, and a bit more power. That pancake engine would have originally been fitted with electronic fuel injection, but the previous owner swapped it out for a dual carb setup. That may sound like a good thing, but on the cold mornings we have been having recently I’ve been wishing for FI or at least a choke.

Tweed Seats

Josh and I had looked at this car in person almost a year ago. At the time the owner was asking $7,500 so we quickly passed on it. Just the other day it popped up again on craigslist though and this time the asking price was only $3k. I quickly contacted the owner and asked him if he would take $2,500 if I brought over the cash right then. He said sure, so we headed to the bank and out to his place to pick up the car.

At Headquarters

The car came with a folder full of receipts and the paint is mostly original. It still needs some work though so I feel like the price paid was very fair. Besides replacing those low-pro tires, it needs brake work, a new shifter, and lots of sorting. It’s not the sort of car I pictured myself buying, but it’s really starting to grow on me actually. I even picked up a copy of How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive the other day to start learning about how these cars tick. This should be a fun one!


  1. grant

    How to keep your Volkswagen alive is the best veedub book ever. Nice find. What ever happened with the miata?

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      The Miata sold and the new owner is just getting shipping figured out.

      • grant

        Awesome :-)

      • Dave Wright

        In Idaho…….you will need a dealers licence soon.

  2. Fred

    Remember that book well (and the funky 60’s illustrations). Also remember my brother in law’s fastback, which is the only car I’ve ever seen where the injection malfunctioned and poured raw gas out the tailpipe. Carbs are a real plus.

  3. Mark S

    Good deal for you Jesse, I had a 67 beetle when I was in high school it was to this day one of the most fun cars I’ve ever had. I have very found memories of that car. I’m sure you’ll enjoy this too.

  4. hhaleblian

    I bought a late 60’s orange squareback with a slush bucket for my daughter when she turned 17 because I traumatized her for life one day teaching her how to row a stick. I digress. After throwing a bucketful of money at it for a year the seller contacted me with sellers remorse. Gone in 60 seconds. Now my kid at 26 hardly drives. City girl. Now her old man has a warehouse full of cars all but one has three pedals. Must have taken after her mom my ex. She/ex had a warehouse full of much younger men 20 years ago.

  5. Bobsmyuncle

    I’ve owned a few VWs over the years. My Type III was a Squareback. It was a great car. Had the injection which was very reliable for me.

    It was extremely spacious having not only the back but also a trunk, it drove great, could cruise all day at 80 and never got stuck in snow.

    I’ve always thought I’d end with another. My second choice was the Notchback which you Americans didn’t get. Not that time has marched on the Fastback is finally catching my eye.

    The ‘Bible’ is informative beyond belief but more than that it’s an enjoyable read!

    Have fun!

  6. jim s

    on the right side of motor photo i see a hose is missing between the blower housing and the heater box. or are heater boxes not there, since i see an aftermarket exhaust? i also notice that the mgb has not been repaired.

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      Good eye Jim! The hose has since been replaced and I’ve started to address the most irritating problems as I daily drive the car. Unfortunately, the MGB has sold. I loved that car, but had my hands full so it went to an enthusiast who plans to repair the damage properly.

  7. Dbauer

    In the 1970’s My dad had a square back that we road the tires off. I remember the day we drove it to its final resting place in the scrap yard. IncrediBle dependable car. I’ve great memories riding with dad on the weekend errands. Would love to pickup a notch or square back of my own one of these days. I best Check this “bible” book to prepare me!

  8. jim s

    about time BF got a aircooled VW as a project car. might bring even more people to the site. it seems like all but the buses/pickups can still be found in low cost price range. i love the photos with the mgb and vw together, is that the rx8 in the back of first photo? will the next t-shirt be about VW’s? great fun.

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      That is the RX8 Jim. No VW shirts planned yet, but that’s not a bad idea. Lots of people still love their old Beetles!

  9. jimbosidecar

    I’ve owned maybe a dozen beetles/Karman Ghias over the years but never a Type III. I did drive my sister’s fastback from VA to SC for my brother’s graduation in the ’70s and was surprised at how much more power and refinement it had over my really old beetles. Next I drive a 412 and was really surprised at what an air cooled VW could do

  10. David C

    Looks like you made a good deal. These are becoming harder to find and increasing in value. If and when you decide to sell it, put it on “thesamba.com” . Good ones sell quickly.

  11. Jeff DeWitt

    I used to have 74 Squareback, it was actually a pretty good, very practical little car. The FI gave a couple of problems but is actually a pretty simple system and the Dummys book has some great troubleshooting tips.

    One problem I “fixed” was a temperature sensor went bad and the engine though it was cold all the time. At the time the VW dealer wanted $80 for the part (about $200 in today’s money) and it would have taken a few weeks to get it. So I replaced the sensor with an 18 cent resistor from Radio Shack. The car then ran fine with the engine hot but a bit lean when cold.

    Those FI engines also get GREAT gas mileage, personally I’d much rather have the FI than a carb setup.

  12. Mike Fisher

    I have been driving squarebacks for the last 8 years. My ’69 is still fuel injected w/automatic transmission. They are a reasonably priced “hot rod” for anybody looking for something in that vein. Join us on TheSamba.com for all types of VW’s. http://i169.photobucket.com/albums/u236/mr_bojangles500/100_0137.jpg

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      What a great looking car Mike! Thanks for sharing.

  13. Capt Doug

    After ,not seeing one for quite awhile I inspected one last week at the supermarket parking lot that was customized some but looked very nice – it was his grocery getter ride!
    We have a VW club here on ST Thomas USVI with a very active and strong membership, they have cruise days at the beach a few times a year – some outrageous cars and some very original ones too. The get togethers are a thing of beauty and have been featured in some magazines.
    In the 60’s,70’s and early 80’s VW’s were the most popular and common car here – I have owned more than I remember, [I tried], and 2 type III’s – the fastback was the nicest of all my VW’s and was lost after I hit a burned car in the road one night, the squareback blew the motor after I overworked it moving residences.

    Good luck with the new ride – it looks very nice.

  14. charlie Member

    Friend brought a notch back home from Germany where he was stationed in the USAF. The fast back was a Variant in Europe, and the notchback, I have a memory, was a Deviant, which meant “derivative” not what it means in English. I am told I am all wet about this, but maybe someone who was in Europe in the early ’70’s can verify this. It was a great car compared to the Beetle which was fine for what it was – valve jobs every 40,000 miles.

    • RayT Member

      Although I like your name for it better, I believe the official VW term for your model was “Variant.” Pretty sure that applied to notchbacks as well.

      • Boo

        ‘Variant’ was VW & Audi’s name for all their estate cars / station wagons in most of the world (not USA for some reason – maybe confusion with Valiant and subsequent mispronunciation?).
        It never applied to the Fastback or Notchback Type 3s, only the various estate cars.. 1500/1600 Variant (what USA called a squareback), 411/412 Variant, Passat Variant, Audi 80 Variant etc.

  15. shiro1303 Member

    As someone already pointed out you’ll need to get the hose from the fan shroud to the heat exchanger put in and I would suggest getting the fuel filter out of the engine bay put it up under the tank or right by the transmission where the fuel line leaves the tunnel. Looks to be an aftermarket shifter so you probably just need to replace the shift rod bushings and guide sleeve should take care of the shifting issues. The twin tip exhaust is probably one of the worst for the type three I’d get a an OTT or the vintage speed stainless they are much better performance wise and your shins will thank you check out the type three forum on the samba a quick search will explain a lot of things I mentioned

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      Thanks for the suggestions! Some of the “improvements” do need to be reversed badly.

  16. Matt Tritt

    My fav VW repair book is “The Compleat Idiot’s Guide to VW Repair”. Great book!

  17. Wildfire

    This was my first car !! mine was a 72 FI and in Salt Lake City even in the garage during the winter it was the best car because of the motor being over the drive wheels I could go anywhere and did across, the sand and away from certain cars with red lights on the roof. not that I ran from them ……Much
    would love to have another I had to sell mine in 1980 when we moved to Dallas Tx.
    did not have enough drivers to get it there

  18. Woodie Man

    I spent a fair amount of my yute in a squareback… it was all my friends folks’ drove…..even as I had aPackard. I can still feel us scrunched in the back seat…4 kids on a tear! Speaking of veedubs…last night a guy took a curve near my house a mite too fast,,,,,drove and flipped his ’70 bus right into a stone wall,,,,major stupid…FireRescue had to cut him out….his “Keeping your Volkswagen Alive” sprawled out in the road… the bus with new transaxles and what looked to be a fresh rebuild on the engine totaled. heres a cautionary pix

  19. Woodie Man

    una mas……cervesca probably!

  20. Doug

    When I was 16, my cousin gave me his 69 fastback, as it had developed a knock in the engine, but was in great shape otherwise. A friend and I drove it until it blew up, which took longer than we expected! I gave it to another buddy who used parts for his dune buggy. If I knew then how easy it was to fix, I am sure I would have driven that car for years. It was a fun ride! That was about 1978.

  21. mike

    In 1968, I spent the summer in the back of one of these with my brother as my parents drove us all over what was then called West Germany.

  22. Aaron

    There are a few strong advocates for the fuel injection systems on those things. They’re supposed to be pretty good once you get them set up correctly. The Type 3 section of the Samba has a couple FI experts who will always recommend fixing the FI over doing a carb swap.

    My next car will hopefully be a late 60’s Type 3 of some sort.

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      Yeah the FI system would be nice, but now that it’s all gone we will probably stick with the carbs. We just need a set with a choke!

  23. John

    Those are excellent little cars. I tried to talk my brother-in-law out of his for a couple of years (he eventually traded it for a Mazda). His was durable and trouble free. But he still froze in the winter – VW heaters will raise the interior temp about 3 degrees. Excellent acquisition.

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      The heater actually work pretty good on this one and I think I can improve the situation by making sure everything is sealed up. We will see though as it gets colder here…

  24. Anthony

    When younger I had two , type 3 , fastback Volkswagans. These cars were reliable. The last type 3 I owned was Burgandy in color. Had that one for a number of years. It was on standby when I wife was pregnant with my first son. Of course , the VW , came was there when I needed it. Great car.

    • Jeff DeWitt

      The air coming through the dash is generally due to the seal around the trunk lid going bad. Of course those can be replaced.

      • Boo

        On a Beetle maybe.. On the type 3 there is no way for air to get from luggage compartment to inside the car.

  25. Patrick McC.

    I daily drive my 1970 bug every day and it’s an absolute dream! It has just the standard single port 1600 engine but that’s plenty for country roads and a short section of by-pass.
    Note on the heater: Everyone says that the whole car is cold but lets be specific; from your knees up is being freeze-blasted by the air coming through the dash while your left ankle gets absolutely baked from the hot air coming through the floor vent. Your hands get the worst of blast since they’re closest to the dash.

    Lets not forget that AWESOME “defrost”!

  26. Bobsmyuncle

    When in good OEM condition the heaters work really well. In fact I’d argue they are too hot. You can lower the flow but not the temperature so it’s tough to keep the cabin moderate.

    The gas heaters are also fantastic. Again with appropriate maintenance (remember they ARE 40 or more years old).

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      Yeah a gas heater would be nice, but I’d be afraid of it catching on fire!

      • Bobsmyuncle

        Again when in good working order there should be no need for concern. They were the closest thing to remote car starters, you’d run out pull the lever and run back inside till the car was hot and the window thawed!

  27. Tundra/BMW Guy

    Been there done that with the type3! I too used it for “off roading” “snowmobiling” and just about anything else I could get it and myself into!!! To Doug: mine dropped a valve, was down to 3 cylinders operating, and still drove for quite some time until she finally gave it up all together. While a great “first” “teenager” car, certainly not something I would care to own another one of. I’ll take my trusty Toyota’s any day of the week! They start, every time, great, even, heating and A/C, and host of other nice amenities!
    P.S. I too am experienced with the VW FI systems. Be very very glad you have carbs! Fix the choke issue and drive on!

  28. Rich

    Glad to see you’ve finally submitted to VW ownership, it’s a slippery slope! Type 3’s have long been regarded as being much nicer to drive than the Beetle, although the type 1’s always been my preference. I think you’ve got a good car for a good price, hope you enjoy improving it while you drive. One other thing with those carbs, those skinny pancake filters are not ideal, but the limited space in the engine bay limits your choices – many people have converted to upright cooling and lost the boot area in the quest for more power.

Leave A Comment

RULES: No profanity, politics, or personal attacks.

Become a member to add images to your comments.


Keep me in the conversation via email. Or subscribe without commenting.