Only Two Thousand Miles: 1961 VW Beetle

Sometimes, it’s all about the story of why a car was never driven much. You can read the interesting tale of why this VW that was driven so little in the craigslist ad for this Beetle for sale in Minneapolis, Minnesota. My favorite line is “I can’t see a 78-year-old retired cheese maker in rural WI making up this story.” It began with a new Beetle in 1961 and a wife who couldn’t drive a stick and never learned. This is why the body repairs were necessary. It was driven less than a thousand miles and towed a few more and then sat unused from the mid-eighties until 1992 when the nephew picked it up. It had about 1,400 miles on it by then. He towed it home and it sat in his garage until 1998. He got it running but no one wanted to drive it so it sat from 2002 until recently.

The interior looks nice. The rear door cards disappeared somewhere along the way. It would be nice to know what’s under those seat covers. There’s staining on the headliner and under the window, so this must have sat outside for awhile. There could be rust under there somewhere.

It looks pretty nice underneath.

The engine is all there and looks original. It’s said to be running, but it will likely need a tuneup to be a good driver.

Here’s the bad news. On the left is the wiring and rusty back of the speedometer. On the right is rust on the underside of the dash. It’s completely rusted through.

This Bug even has the original tires, plus 2 new ones still in the wrapper. It’s had an oil change and a tune-up so it runs. The fuel system will need attention and the brake pedal is stuck so it will need a master cylinder and brake work. Mice got into the wiring under the hood so the electrical will need some help including a new fuse box. The asking price is $6,800. What do you think it might be worth? It would interesting to have a close look at this and see what it’s really like and if the mileage claim is at all possible. For the right price, it could be a nice driver. It will be interesting to see what you folks who really know VWs think.

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Comments

  1. terry

    wow!

  2. Albert

    This car has been for sale on The Samba.com for over a month now. The original asking price was somewhere around I think $12k. Given that it’s been for sale for so long without any takers, and given the amount of restoration work that will be needed to make it right really makes you think if it’s truly worth it. While the mileage is believable, it also doesn’t seem right given the amount of rust on the pan and in the wheel wells.

    https://www.thesamba.com/vw/classifieds/detail.php?id=2034936

  3. Dave

    Nice, but if you look close at the spark plug wires, you see evidence of critter damage. I’d be cautious.

  4. Al Thompson

    Looks like 102,000 miles.

    • Anthony R in RI

      I agree. Seems like everyone younger than 55 sees an odometer with 5 digits and says Wow a low mileage car. Pity. They will never experience the fun of seeing all 5 of those digits roll from 99999 to 00000

  5. Fred W.

    If it can be proved that those are truly the original tires than you could conclude it is 2000 miles. The Lambrecht auction proved that low mileage cars can look like crap if you leave them outside any length of time. This car wouldn’t be that hard to restore, all parts are available and these things are ultra easy for anyone to work on.

  6. Howard A

    You know, I just don’t know anymore, it clearly does NOT have 102K miles. There is none of the tell tale wear of a high mileage car. I’m sure it’s the real deal. American Pickers came across a Metropolitan in Indiana, same MO, guy bought it for his wife, died, and she never drove it. It had under 100 miles on it. Should be easy to restore, so simple. That stuck brake pedal was common with the single clutch/brake pedal hinge. Easy fix. You won’t find a better original ’61 bug.

  7. Paul

    I think given the overall well worn condition negates any value added by alleged low miles?

  8. BillyT

    It probably sat in a barn or garage on a dirt floor. A farm garage or barn often times provided little in the way of weather protection.

  9. LAB3

    It’ll get top dollar in a northern climate, a bug up this way dissolves very quickly.

  10. Luki

    Only way to know for sure is see it in person.
    Period end of story Howard.

  11. Bill

    Seller says a repaint at some point. Why would someone repaint a car if it is going to just sit?

  12. Michael

    Judging by the corrosion on the fuses and staining on the interior and rotted through dash, I’d say this was a flood car. Hurricane Sandy did a number on mine and that one looks like it just sat until the salt water evaporated. The engine and underside does not look clean enough for 2000 miles. More like 102,000 .

    1
    • Steven

      Mold from moisture and your right likely in a flood, engine running my foot as it looks like it hasn’t run in year’s as belt likely break if you touch your finger on it.. Make a good desert racer or rock climbing Bug!

      • Steve

        The corrosion around the speedo and on the fusebox, also the staining on the headliner is totally consistent with 20 years of use as a rodent hotel.
        the door cards probably disappeared when they cleaned out the mouse nests.
        Still an easier repair than Road salt rot.

    • Bill McCoskey

      Michael – Not a flood car, I’ve restored a couple of them, and this does not have the extensive damage found in a flood car.

      What caused this damage around the wiring and speedometer, and the resulting rust thru in the dash metal is VERY simple to explain: Mice built a nest in the dash area, behind the [removed for photos] black cardboard panel. Mice produce a very corrosive urine, and it can cause sheet metal to rust all the way thru as seen here.

      If you check underneath the seat bolsters, I’ll bet you will find quite a bit of the original cotton padding will be missing, the mice having used it to build a nice warm nest behind the dash!

      As to the mileage: Not 2,000 miles, not 102,000 either. I’ll bet the speedo cable stopped working a long time ago, probably broke after freezing up due to the mouse urine. Looks like a well kept car with about 40,000 miles. The amount of caked-on oil on both the heater boxes suggests that kind of mileage.

      That fan belt is not original, VW didn’t use notched belts. An engine with 2,000 miles would likely still have the original belt. And about the tires; If the owner took it to the VW dealer for tires, he would likely get a new set of the original Continental white wall tires.

      2
      • Bill McCoskey

        Just re-read the original Craigslist post. It says Firestone tires. VW vehicles were equipped with Continental brand tires. They NEVER came from Germany with Firestone tires! Says the original tires are “Commander” brand. Those are vintage tires manufactured by Coker Tire Co, here in the USA. This indicates it has gone thru 3 sets of tires!

        Also of note; Just because it has 1961 license plates, does not mean they were on the car when new. I have several antique cars with vintage license plates that are legally licensed to those cars.

      • Albert

        Bill,

        VW’s did come from the factory with tires other than Continentals. Conti was the majority supplier, but certainly not the only one.

  13. Steven

    I guess Herbie got put up with dirt from his racing days before Dean Jones made his debut in the Movie 🎥, but those floor pans can be bought NEW ask the Classic VW man on their page..

    • Albert

      Not new from VW.

  14. GlenK

    It appears to me it was stored in a damp area and the mold smell would be rampant. This adds to the cost of getting this baby back on the road. The frozen petal confirms the dampness.

    • Steven

      You might break it you touch a finger on it, shoot a bunch of rust inhabitor on it and stick it up on a Man Cave pole to have the conversation piece when people over to watch the ball game or NASCAR race on Sunday while drinking down some cold ones..

  15. the one

    ok so the guy who is selling wants to buy a boat. Sound like a fish story to me!!

  16. Marshall

    I owned four early 1960’s VW bugs, including a ’61.
    1… Lotsa luck finding a 1961 VW bug gas tank (one year only)
    2… Why would the wife buy a manual in the first place if she did not know how to drive a stick?
    3… The original Samba ad said “no rust, solid through and through” (forgot to mention the rust-through under the dash)
    4… The current owner (the “nephew”) says he does not have the documents to prove the mileage story
    5… The original owner (the “uncle”) “didn’t remember” if the wife damaged the car while learning to drive the stick

    So all these things, plus things brought up by other commenters, give me probable cause to doubt this “only 2000 original miles” story.

    But if the story were credible, and this bug had a sunroof, and if I had a garage to put it in, and if I could drive it home, oh yeah baby, I would be all over that righteous insect! I have loved 1958 to 1963 VW bugs and sunroof bugs ever since “The Love Bug” movie came out. One of my four aforementioned early 60’s bugs was a white 1962 sunroof bug, which I decked out like Herbie during the early 80s.

    • Marshall

      Can anybody here tell me how to upload a photo from my iPhone? I have tried repeatedly to upload a picture of me and my Herbie, but it’s “no go”. When I tap on the “photo library” or the “take photo” link, it simply takes me back to that “today’s finds” page, and nothing more. Or does uploading a photo require use of a computer or laptop?

      • Woodie Man

        From my iPhone library….

    • Marshall

      I forgot to mention that the rear deck lid is not correct. The grooves should flare out to either side of the license plate light. This rear deck lid probably came off from a 1964-1966 bug. The grooves come to a halt and do not flare out. This is to allow room for installation of the larger “flat abomination” license plate light, starting in 1964. Me, I like the “round headed nose” license plate lights that are found only on 1958-1963 bugs.

      • Albert

        Actually Marshall, you’re incorrect on that one. The decklid on this 61, is the correct one for the car. The 64-66 style’s big difference was at the base for the latch release.

  17. Woodie Man

    Oops flipped it 90 degrees… but it can be done

    • Marshall

      OK, I know it can be done now. But can you tell me the details of exactly how you did it? (Via iCloud, or airplay, email, etc.) Thanks.

  18. Steven

    Sometimes if the page is busy then it wont let you upload a photo..

  19. John B

    Anyone who can not learn to drive a stick-shift Beetle is a hopeless case. The easiest car ever!

  20. Big Mike

    One of the guys that worked for my Dad for years drove a 64, the thing I remember most about it was that the fenders and truck and engine lid where different colors from his kids wrecking it and him going out the other side of town to a VW junk yard, supply yard as the owner called it. Anyway this thing seemed to go on for ever. As a retirement gift for him, my Dad and the rest of us pinched in and restored it for him. We did everything to engine overhaul, redid all the wiring, replaced the heater ducts, and replaced the floor pans. He loved it, and drove it for many years until him passed away. After that I never knew what happened to it. I can still see his face when Dad pulled it out of the shop for him, I also remember the keys were is this little leather snap case that also had his house key in it. Jess was a simple hard working man, and he was a good teacher, taught me a lot about auto body while I worked with him at Dad’s shop, it was sometimes easier to learn from the employee than from Dad because Dad would get mad at us for not picking up the trade as fast and easy from him.

  21. Marshall

    To Albert:

    Being that the auction was over, I could not look at the pictures. And none of the pictures in the article show the rear deck lid. So I may have confused it with some other bug that I’ve been looking at on Barn-Finders.
    So if this ’61 shows the grooves flaring out to both sides of the license plate light, then you’re right.I was playing off my memory being that I could not double check the pictures.

  22. Sid Cannon Sid Member

    It is absolutely amazing how much value car fanatics place on the number of revolutions the drive train has logged.
    A car that was unprotected, mis-used, neglected, corroded, rusted and generally worn out is getting all this attention solely because it wasn’t driven.

  23. J

    The entire roof of that car was cut off and replaced, there’s a lot that just doesn’t seem right about the car.

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