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The Original Mobile Phone: 1964 Volkswagen Beetle

Custom car props is an art form that has gone the way of giant inflatable gorillas and free sets of steak knives used to draw consumers into the corner used car lot. This custom Volkswagen Beetle phone car is an epic reminder of how business used to be done, and is offered up for sale by the dealer that built it and featured it prominently in local advertisements. It has clearly lost a step since being parked, but absolutely deserves a rebirth. Find it here on craigslist listed for $2,500 in Crestview, Florida.

Here’s a screen grab from the seller’s old commercials where the Beetle is shown with its full phone costume on display, freshly painted with touchtone buttons and a patriotic receiver. The ad shows the used car lot owner zipping off in his eye-catching mobile phone, and while it seems unusual now, he was definitely not the first guy to do this in the world of used car sales. There’s a part of me that’s actually quite nostalgic for those days, at the moment – things seemed simpler then.

The seller notes the Beetle was also used as the pace car at a local racetrack, so there’s a good chance locals will recognize this unusual promotional tool. The interior actually looks far more complete than I was expecting, and the golf course turf is a logical choice for a local used car lot scion. When you look inside, you begin to realize how extensive this conversion was – there’s not a trace of the original Beetle interior left.

The seller notes that while the body is overall in good shape, the gelcoat is starting to crack in places. Likewise, the conversion to a phone prop involved the use of a wood frame, which is beginning to rot in places. No mention is made of the running gear, but I’d count on that needing some attention as well, as this Beetle chassis likely just got dumped at the back of the car lot without much thought given to prepping it for storage. A cool find, and an artifact of used car salesmanship. Thanks to Barn Finds reader HelenaNOLA for the find.

Comments

  1. Avatar photo Cadmanls Member

    Please, this is just sad. No title and the smell of rotten wood.

    Like 2
    • Avatar photo Bill McCoskey Member

      A used car dealer selling a vehicle with a VIN*, but without a title. I didn’t think it was legal for a licensed dealer to sell a vehicle without a title.

      *It’s likely the stamped VIN is there, on the rear of the center hump, next to the seat, under the carpet.

      Like 1
      • Avatar photo StalePhish

        Depends on the state. In New Hampshire, older cars don’t even get titles. I owned a 1984 and a 1987 Pontiac Fiero, neither ever had a title. I sold the 1987 just two years ago to someone in New York and I just had to give them a bill of sale and my expired registration.

        Like 1
      • Avatar photo Bill McCoskey Member

        StalePhish,

        It’s my understanding that a licensed use car dealer, under current Federal Motor Vehicle Laws, cannot sell a vehicle with a VIN, without valid title.

        Like 1
      • Avatar photo JMB#7

        Better “dial up” the BMV in your area on your “land line”, just to make sure.

        Like 2
      • Avatar photo StalePhish

        Hm that is definitely strange. New Hampshire’s Division of Motor Vehicles website explicitly says “New Hampshire does not issue titles for vehicles that have a model year of 1999 or older” (you can see the page if you Google search for “new hampshire exempt vehicles”)

        Like 0
      • Avatar photo Bill McCoskey Member

        StalePhish,

        Not surprising, I know of many state laws that go against Federal regs! I do know that here in Maryland the MVA says if there is no title, then the car does not exist! [For the purpose of selling the vehicle.] Most people simply ignore it!

        Like 0
  2. Avatar photo Bluetec320 Member

    You’d definitely be a smooth operator cruising around in this, I just hope it’s cordless!

    Like 10
    • Avatar photo Bill McCoskey Member

      Ahhh Yessss . . . Cordless phones.

      In the early 80s a subcontractor to Western Electric in Baltimore used to make the coiled phone cord connecting the phone base to the handset. With the deregulation of the phone company monopoly, and the subsequent flood of foreign made phones, The Baltimore company moved their factory overseas.

      I was offered several round cardboard 50 gallon barrels filled with those coiled handsets if I would take them away, as the Baltimore factory building was for sale, and they wanted it cleaned out.

      So I had thousands of coiled handset cords, each packaged in a clear plastic bag. What to do with them?

      I had labels printed at a local print shop that read: PHONELESS CORD!
      As I was working various flea markets at the time, I offered these as a gag item for only $1 each, 7 for $5, or 20 for $10.

      “Everyone’s got a cordless phone, be the first on your block to have a phoneless cord!”

      I sold the hell outta them!

      Like 5
  3. Avatar photo angliagt Member

    I’m holding out for the rotary dial version.

    Like 11
    • Avatar photo JMB#7

      powered by a 13B rotary???

      Like 2
  4. Avatar photo Mitchell Gildea Member

    When long distance calling actually means something else

    Like 6
  5. Avatar photo Blueprint

    Do millenias even recognize this as a phone prop?

    Like 7
    • Avatar photo Alec

      No, but a 626 might.

      Like 4
  6. Avatar photo Albert

    This same car phone was just on eBay last week with a starting bid of $1,000 and had no bids. It’s cool, but what do you do with it? I guess with today’s tech, you could update it to have video mirrors and what not. Most kids today don’t even know what this style of phone was so they might not get it.

    Like 1
  7. Avatar photo Mark

    Obviously, this was used by the dispatcher….

    “Calling all cars, calling all cars”

    I need a nap.

    Like 3
  8. Avatar photo JMB#7

    Don’t call us….
    We’ll call you….
    But interesting indeed.
    Would still make a good promo for a business, assuming the younger generation even knew what it is supposed to be.

    Like 1

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