Semaphore Bug: 1954 Volkswagen Beetle

This is a desirable early-model Volkswagen Beetle, complete with the oval rear window and semaphore turn signals in the B-pillar. The seller is letting it go for what seems like a fair price of $11,500, noting it comes with a non-matching engine but that the floorpan is original to the car. Find it here on craigslist in Seattle without the rack or novelty license plate included.

I know that last point seems minor, but these old-school roof racks can sometimes make people press the “buy” button because they look so damn good. Lack of accessories aside, the Beetle appears to have a decent body and the seller notes it was repainted not too long ago to a driver-level quality. It has some lingering issues, as the lights don’t work and the engine has a misfire.

The seller claims he’s addressed all of the usual issues for solving a lingering misfire, including “…all the electrical parts and plugs.” His next fixes if he was keeping the car includes replacing the wiring harness and distributor, but that will be for the next owner to sort out. The engine is a later 36 b.h.p. model that was rebuilt, according to the previous owner.

The body and pan are numbers matching, which is impressive considering how many Beetles now reside on replacement pans. The car looks decent, and the interior is a nicely preserved cabin with buckets wearing original upholstery. A matching set of door panels are included. Overall, a driver-quality example of a rare Beetle that will likely be worth more with some elbow grease. Thanks to Barn Finds reader Kevin for the find.


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  1. Bluetec320 Bluetec320 Member

    Nice Beetle, except for the dump trailer tail lights.

    Like 8
  2. canadainmarkseh Member

    If I had this I’d be looking for front signal and rear tail light assemblies from the first year they were available, even if they are aftermarket. Nice clean car though.

    Like 3
    • Albert

      Semaphore cars didn’t have turnsignals mounted to the front fenders.

      Like 6
  3. bobhess bobhess Member

    Unless someone took the time to weld up the original front parking and taillight holes those are replacement fenders. They came that way so you could adapt them to the many light updates VW did. Nice car but needs the original lights. My aluminum open trailer has better lights than the ones on the rear.

    Like 5
    • Albert

      A semaphore car wouldn’t have turn signal lamps on the front fenders. The little bullet lights were the turn signals for the US market cars. The parking lamps were small lights that were housed within the headlamps.

      Like 11
  4. Gaspumpchas

    Nitpicking aside, I’d bet this is sold already. Nothing here that cant be fixed, and that body looks cherry. The 36 hp eng wouldn’t bother me as the orig 25 hp wouldn’t be that strong. If I had the sheckles this beauty would be in my yard! Good luck to the new owner!

    Like 3
    • Albert

      25hp engines were in split windows.

      Like 3


  5. Albert

    You gotta be kidding me with those tail lights. I know a lot of the earlier cars had their lights replaced with later model Beetle lights, but this is ridiculous. Judging from the lack of holes/dimples for the lights, both fenders were replaced. But the seller could easily have replaced the lights with other vw lights.

    Like 2
  6. Del

    Amazingly Hagertys says #3 good condition on these, are worth up to 18 grand.

    They must be popular but not for me.🎃

  7. Oliver

    Hey don’t run that engine before proper sheet metal installed! It’s keeping correct air flow pressure in engine compartment in order to cool engine.. just saying.. ;-)

  8. DRV

    It would only be great for me if it was a driver, but a driver needs to have enough power to be able to get out of the way.

    Like 1
  9. Todd Van Winkle

    Remove the wrong taillights, install the correct ones, when and if they are found, and PLEASE install the rear engine seal and tin as Oliver has said.

    Like 1
  10. Eric B.

    There are no serial numbers on the floor pans. There is, however, a serial number stamped on a pad under the back seat, on top of the tunnel that should match the tag behind the spare wheel. The rivets that held these tags on were usually the first thing on VWs to rust away.

  11. BobinBexley Bob in Bexley Member

    Not really worried about the pan being original especially when VeeDub sold cars with ads stating you could build a whole car from the parts room. Mis-fire might be those junk looking wires or…who remembers how to time one ???

  12. Mark

    Doesn’t the picture of the engine look like it’s been photoshopped?

  13. Howard A. Member

    Oh, oh, misfire, #3 exhaust valve. I think you folks are getting too hung up on the tail lights, an easy fix and not what this is. VW’s were simply non-existent until the later 50’s, so not many came ashore. The semaphores, trafficators or “Nix Sticks” are an unusual item and I don’t think ever were allowed in the US. (?) 5 figures for a ’54 Bug is pure nostalgia, driving it won’t be much fun, especially with 9 of the 36 hp missing. I suppose the new buyer can put it next to the $8,000 dollar chrome monkey bike, and all the other non-usable toys they must have.

  14. Gaspumpchas

    Howard I was thinking the same thing about the taillights, why the big deal when this car has so much to offer? And yes you need to worry about photoshopping. IMHO, the 36 hp engine would be enough for me to drive it around town, unless its real tired. I have seen so much fraud with cars bought on line this week that I’m thinking more than ever- you have to look at it in order decide, or get a reliable inspection. That in itself is a daunting task. Good luck, i’d love to have this beauty.

    Like 1

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