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Project Donation: 1973 VW Beetle

Back to one of my favorite sellers on eBay: this 1973 VW Beetle is another donation victim, and it looks like a fun project that you can drive with minimal fuss. Sporting some choice period Empi wheels with decent paint and a manual transmission, the seller says it has a rough idle but is otherwise as-presented. Find it here on eBay where it’s being sold as “not drivable” condition with bidding under $1,500 and no reserve. 

The old-school California blue plates may indicate a long-period of dormancy, and the body work on the passenger side rear fender looks like a poor attempt at masking rust. The ugly U.S.-spec bumpers are in good nick and the wider wheels look excellent against the later Beetle’s fatter proportions. The window glass is clean and even the seals still appear lustrous. Overall, the cosmetics are very decent for a donation car.

The interior is pleasingly stock, with some minor blemishes to the dashboard and errant switches the biggest detractions. The seats are not likely original (or the carpet kit is incorrect) but the cloth appears fairly clean. If nothing else, this is an interior that doesn’t require some form of vaccination to use while the rest of the car is improved. The thoughtfully-installed cupholders may indicate this Bug saw daily use until it was parked, likely due to California’s draconian emissions testing.

This seller is usually fairly strong-worded about whether the car in question can drive off their lot, and this Beetle is said to run but to not be in drivable condition. A rough idle usually isn’t one of the symptoms that leads to this designation (more often, I see drastic warnings about “no compression” or “fuel pump dead” that leads to being deemed un-roadworthy), so this could be worth a roll of the dice that the idle issue is a simple fix. Anyone feel lucky?


  1. Steve R

    You have posted several cars this donation center has auctioned. There is something wrong with any enthusiast that lives near there but hasn’t bookmarked their eBay account.

    Steve R

    • TC

      Maybe it’s because the vehicles with the best potential are scooped up by the local enthusiast before they get posted on ebay. Just my guess.

      • Steve R

        Not necessarily, I’ve bought cars from a couple of charities. Some will siphon off the best cars to people they know, others won’t. It really depends on how professional they are. The busier they are, the less likely they will do that. One or two trips to their facility will answer that question.

        Steve R

    • Jerry Brentnell

      forget the vw! I ‘d check out the century inboard boat in the back ground! had no use for vws when they were new! cheap ugly crap wagons you froze your ass off in the winter no heater, and gutless to boot!

      • kenzo

        Don’t sugar coat it Jerry. Tell us how you really feel about VW’s.
        Never had a problem with any of mine, including the beetle
        The Century appears quite nice.

  2. Steve O

    Whaaa??? In the Northeast that would be in the 5k range! All you can get for 1.5k is a husk. Wow!

    • 63Comet

      We’re seeing the same thing in the Upper Midwest.

  3. sunbeamdon

    Question – if all you can get is a husk, is the Jolly Green Giant in the wings?

    Happy New Years – may the tax-man make your 2018 life more miserable than 2017’s!

  4. pat gill

    not rust on the rear wing, just a dent that has been bashed out by a shade tree mechanic and painted with a rattle can of primer, seats look correct from the little I can see, these are getting very rare in the UK, especially in std. condition and not lowered to within an inch of it’s life……………..

  5. Rube Goldberg Member

    Very nice Bug. I never had a VW, mostly because my old man instilled in our young heads, all German cars were evil and not allowed in his driveway. A shame, because I missed out on one of the coolest cars of all time. These early 70’s Beetles were the most refined of them all. Still, so simple, I mean, look at the motor. Basically hasn’t changed in all that time. Don’t see many VW’s here in Colorado, Landcruiser’s up the ying-yang ( one guy in my town has 9 in his yard) but no VW’s. Now that the old man is gone, I’d love to have a Bug, and these are the years I’d go for. The wheels really make the car look sharp. Provided you had the parts on hand, you could have this car humming in an afternoon, including engine removal and installation. Try that with ANY car today. Great find, I’d love to have it.

    • Mountainwoodie

      Go for the earlier ones.imho………..’66 to ’72, maybe ’71 (cant remember) before the bigass bumpers took over.

      Bought my son a ’67 sunroof back in the mid eighties after he got out of high school. Had it stolen from his yard by some cholos…when they found it the perfect paint had been spray painted grey in an attempt to avoid the cops.They weren’t the smartest pos’s on earth. Ruined a perfect paint job.

      A couple of days later the low life swine showed up at his door and asked for the stuff they left behind the front seat! Effing amazing.

  6. Oldog4tz Oldog Member

    5 years ago I bought my son a 78 740 GLE from a bay-area charity. Fairly priced @ $1200, it was clean with 410k. It just passed 500k a couple of months ago

  7. Dutch 1960

    This one looks like a “Beetle”, not a “Super Beetle”. The Super Beetles had the bulbous windshields and a more modern front suspension. This one, even though it is a newer car, has features from the old 60’s Beetles. The combo of flat windshield and big tail lights is the give-away.

    • Jim

      I have a 73 and I bought a 71 parts car for the rear fenders just to get rid of those ugly tail lights

      • Miguel

        I have thought for a long time that somebody should make a plate that will bolt in where the big lights should go to give mounting to the smaller lights.

        I could probably sell the crap out out of that here in Mexico.

  8. Dutch 1960

    This one also has the narrower, “pointy” front bonnet, rather than the front bonnet and fenders of the SB, which are fatter and rounder like a worn down bar of soap. The look of the standard Beetle appeals much more to me, you just don’t see the newer versions too often.

    A 1973 does not get caught up in the smog check deal that 1976 and later gets in California, so I don’t know the issue with this car.

  9. Metoo

    Wow! Was the person who applied that bondo drunk at the time?

  10. rancher

    Pacific Italia Riviera wheels sold by VW dealers back when too. Not made by EMPI. There is another similar wheel without the rectangular casting on the spokes. It is known as the early fat lip Riviera.

    • kenzo

      The centre cap has EMPI on it. Are they trimmed to fit? or EMPI copies?
      just curious

  11. stillrunners LAWRENCE Member

    What about that wooden boat in the back ground ?

  12. xrotaryguy

    Ah c’mon, it’s not that tough to pass CA emissions. Unless you’ve got a rotary motor with 200k miles on it, it’s a piece of cake.

    Also, this is a 73. CA doesn’t require a smog check till 75. Again, not so tough. You have to go back to 67 to sidestep smog in AZ.

    • Maurader

      Unfortunately the year in Ca is 1974.

  13. kenzo

    Sold for $1250. in my area somebody got a screaming deal. Had a mid 70’s beetle, 70’s Rabbit 4 door, 2 Rabbit pick-ups, 85 Jetta with 560000k when it died, a 90 Jetta diesel with 350000+ km, a 86 Transporter, and currently have a 91 Jetta and a 92 Eurovan and am looking at a late 80″s 2 door Jetta with no rust and it runs. trying to make a deal as it has been in the driveway for 3 years.

  14. Karl Kretschmar

    “Winning bid:US $2,650.00″…Someone got a great deal on this one.

  15. HeadMaster1

    Unless any of you have dealt with this seller personally, please don’t promote them. I had the displeasure if buying a car from them once. These guys put the “A” in “Hole”. They are more of an impound/tow lot type of guys than anything that has to do with being charitable. Usually “Car Guys” are easy to deal with, these guys are NOT. They are hooked up with some agency that funnels free cars to them, they flip them for max dollars, charge you by day to hold on to it, charge you to hand you the title, charge you to borrow a pen, charge you to help load your trailer…..they are just plain jerks….

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