Oval Window Project: 1956 Volkswagen Beetle

When I was a young man, if you had told me that Volkswagens from the 1950s and 1960s would one day be fetching 5-figure prices, I would have laughed my head off. Then I would have backed away from you… very… very slowly. That’s one of the things that makes the classic car scene so great: A hero car can emerge from the most unexpected area. Old Volkswagens used to be the refuge of the flower power generation, and of poor and struggling students. Today, they are a desirable car that has managed to achieve cult status. This dusty 1956 Beetle is just such a car. It is located in Rockville Centre, New York, and is listed for sale here on eBay. There has only been a single bid on the Beetle at this point. However, this has been for $11,000, and it appears that this has met the reserve. So it looks like “Herbie” is off to a new home.

What a difference a good wash can make to a car. The Beetle looks really nice now that the dust has gone. What makes this car all the more special is that this is an oval-window Beetle, which is one of the most desirable of the early cars. Having said that, locating a Beetle with a split-oval window is a bit like striking gold, but you don’t see them that often. Apart from a repaint at some time in the distant past, the VW is said to be original. While the owner states that there is little rot, it isn’t clear exactly what state the floors are in. The outside on the car looks to be encouragingly free of any obvious rust issues, but I will throw out one small note of caution. There is some pretty obvious corrosion visible on the bumpers and the wheels, so there might be a bit of work hiding underneath. Even if there is, fixing the rust in a Beetle is generally a pretty straightforward task.

There’s really not much that we know about either the interior or the mechanical health of the Beetle. The engine should be the 1,131cc flat-four engine that produces 34hp. It isn’t a lot, but the engine was designed to cruise all day at 60mph, so that should be fine on most highways. The owner does say that the engine doesn’t run, but he doesn’t indicate whether he knows why, or even if it turns freely. If the car has been stored in a garage for the last 29-years, maybe the interior trim has survived okay. The good thing is that there are plenty of companies out there that offer high-quality reproduction trim items, and like so much to do with Volkswagen parts, these items aren’t particularly expensive.

While it is certainly possible to find a 1956 Beetle for sale today for under $20,000, there aren’t many of them, and the prices aren’t far under that figure. A nicely restored example can easily fetch a price in excess of $30,000. If this one is a solid vehicle, then there might be a lot of room to undertake a full restoration that makes sound financial sense. The end product would also be an enjoyable little car that would attract plenty of admiring glances wherever it went.


  1. newfieldscarnut

    The owner states that the engine does not turn .

    Like 3
  2. TimM

    Hard to find a body like this in good shape!! Even harder to find it in NewYork!!! Look underneath before you buy!!!

    Like 3
  3. Ken Carney

    Looks nice from what I can see here. Since the engine is frozen, I’d probably go
    with a modern powerplant or turn it into
    an EV. Before you come after me with torches and pitchforks, I’ll just say the
    electric option would be one of last resort. Been wanting to do a Volkswagen
    EV after seeing the fun Mike Brewer had
    driving a converted bus on Wheeler Dealers. Great find, but I’ll look for a rusty
    shell on which to build my next creation.
    Which may be quite some time now.

    • Bluetec320 Bluetec320 Member

      Ken, I will try to be nice here, but if we still had the thumbs down button, I would have to click on it for that EV comment…

      Like 14
      • Mountainwoodie

        Yeah……sheesh……..its a oval window. If its worth 11 K to someone today ( and not a shill :) ).what will it be worth in five years?

        Like 1
  4. jw454

    If done properly, a stuck motor can be coaxed into turning over. That’s where I’d put my first effort. If that was unsuccessful, I opt for either a rebuild or maybe even a replacement with more modern 1500/1600 CC dual port.

    Like 8
    • Phil Parmelee

      I haven’t dealt with one that has been sitting as long as this one, but I have unstuck a few engines. Small amounts of oil through the spark plug holes and sitting overnight or so can make a huge difference. I even got a Chevy Sprint started with one of the 3 spark plugs still out. I was only trying to build up oil pressure at that point, but the silly thing started!

      Like 1
  5. Todd Van Winkle

    That color looks like Diamond Green, same as my oval sunroof, beautiful car!!

    Like 2
  6. Jeff

    Had 2 in the past, 55 and 56 but both had semiphores. Most I see online don’t. This one looks great on the outside. If the pan is good.

  7. Louis Q Chen

    The only issue with this car is that it comes from N.Y.? The engine is not a big prob. I’ve “Unstuck” VeeDub in my past experience (20 at the last count). My secret is to “dump” lots of WD40 after removing the carb, pour it into the intake manifold. Soak it for 24 hrs. then unhook the battery and hand crank it to see if it has loosen. If not do it again for another 24 hrs. If you can easily hand crank it after 24 hrs. then por some motor oil and hand crank again and put back the rebuilt carb and squirt starter fluid then crank it, make sure you change the oil out and replace the points & condenser and maybe the plugs as well. Then it should start after a few turns! If you don’t hear mystery noise from the engine then attaboy, you’ve got potential gem! If not, be prepared to replace the engine. Good luck & happy hunting.

    Like 3
    • Stilbo

      Don’t forget to remove the spark plugs.
      Hydro locking a 1200 would probably bend the rods…

      Like 2
    • moosie moosie

      What good is pouring anything down the intake if the intake valve happens to be closed for any cylinder, better off pouring MARVEL MYSTERY OIL into each cylinder and replace the plugs . let it soak for a good long while,,,, days, not hours, I’ve heard that ATF & MMO combo works good also. Then try hand cranking it with the spark plugs out.

      Like 6
  8. BrianT Brian Member

    I bought a 57 in 1969 for $275. No rust, all original, ran great. My sister and her boyfriend “borrowed” it the next year and, yes, had an accident with it that required both front fenders and a trunk lid which I was able to find in a junkyard correct turn signals and all. In ‘71 I traded it in for a ‘66. Oh well. 😔

    Like 4
  9. Stilbo

    Over 35 years I’ve owned eleven air cooled VW’s. Last one was in 1999.
    Wish I’d known that they would be worth their weight in gold some day…
    Can’t afford a rat these days.

  10. Edward

    Looks to be as original as the imported beetles came for the year. Repainted for sure by Earl Sheib at some point in the distant past. Missing front hood emblem, the old blue background one, can cost a note or two. 36hp engine rebuild is straight forward. Engine parts availability and machine work on the case should be trusted to only those that know the beast. Porsche mechanics perhaps. What used to be readily available for these cars now can at times be difficult to find. Good starting point if rust is not an issue!

  11. Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member

    As for the front Wolfsburg castle emblem, I have both the “3 block” and the “2 block” versions from cars I stripped in Germany back in 1975. If the new owner wants to contact me, I can offer the correct version once I know the VIN. And at a very reasonable price.

    And for you early VW collectors looking for the “impossible to find items”, I have a 1946-47 round VW emblem at the top of the front hood. These early ones were solid, with the body color hand painted between the letters, and they have 4 fastening points, not the later 3. They were for export cars only, not for the German versions, hence very hard to find.

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