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Wunderbar! 1956 Volkswagen Beetle

When I first spotted this 1956 Volkswagen Beetle the initial thought through my mind was Edgar Allan Poe’s short story, The Gold Bug. Yes, it’s a bizarre association but I don’t believe I have ever seen a VW bug finished as such. The seller claims that it is a repaint in the original “Diamond Green Metallic”. Call it what you will, my computer monitor, and my eyes, see gold. Regardless, it looks great and is claimed to be a 62K mile survivor, let’s examine further. Discovered in Vista, California, this VW Type I is available, here on eBay for a BIN price of $30,900. There is a make an offer option too.

One of the most distinctive traits of this vintage Bug is the small oval rear window. I have often wondered what the origins of that design were. Was it specifically conceived for appearance with no regard for functionality or was it just a “here you go, this will work” arrangement? Regardless, I remember, as a teenager, seeing these pre ’58 variations periodically and always thinking that there was something special about them. Go back far enough (pre ’53?) and instead of the small oval backlight, you encountered a two-piece split-pane design that probably made the single oval’s visibility seem good by comparison. Anyway, this Volkswagen has it all going on, it really presents well. The seller classifies it as a survivor but I’m holding back on that description due to its respray. It’s an arguable point, of course, and it’s obvious that this car has been properly maintained, well cared for, and stored correctly.

The seller advises that the 36 HP, 1,200 CC, flat-four cylinder engine has just been the benefactor of, “Major service just completed by my Porsche shop, starts up every time and is a fun reliable local vehicle – that has far less of an environmental impact than any new electric vehicle“. I’m not about to get into a “green” conversation, but the environmental impact claim seems debatable. The engine’s appearance certainly gets high marks for cleanliness and correctness of presentation.

The goodness continues indoors where the green vinyl-clad seats are stated as being original. They, and the door panels, look gently used and even the headliner, other than maybe a minor water stain or two, is in fine nick. One of the interior’s most notable features is the sizeable chrome radio grille – that’s a fifties trait regardless of the marque!

So, what’s not to like? Well, the price is certainly an attention-getter but I’ve seen this kind of action on Type I’s, and especially Type II’s (though I’ll never understand that one) before, so the ask on such a nicely preserved/maintained/improved example doesn’t really surprise me. If you’re an old VW Bug type of guy or gal, you’re going to have a tough time finding a nicer example than this ’56, in all of its engineered simplicity, wouldn’t you agree?

Comments

  1. alphasud Member

    That is a really nice oval. Personally I love that color combination. Based on what vintage VW is selling for I think the price is in line. Another way to look at it is it’s less than a quarter of the price for a nice 356A. Same build quality just a little slower.

    Like 12
  2. Jack Hammer

    The beauty of having a great condition bug is that you can restore it to near new condition for comparatively little cash. They are just a weird shaped, under powered 356, only cheaper.
    I had perfect condition ragtop ’53, into which I placed a ’58 Speedster motor (I know, I know…), and proceeded to break the trans. In a local junkyard, (Don LaJoie’s), I found a wrecked ’53 bent windshield 356, and after noticing that the trans bolted right up (except for some minor adjustment to the parking brake), I went back to the junkyard and came home with the front brakes ( also 11″ finned aluminum drums) that fit perfectly.

    What I ended up with was a funny shaped ’53 ragtop 356 for $600.

    Like 13
    • Beaner

      Thats a fun story. Did you ever race an unsuspecting Porsche?

      Like 5
      • Jack Hammer

        Beaner: Not that I remember, but Paul Newman waved at me going the other way in his Porsche engined ’67 robin’s egg blue convertible. We had the same mechanic in Westport.

        Like 3
    • bobhess bobhess Member

      They carried that same engine/transmission bell housing configuration well into the ’70s. Have put Porsche engines in VWs, VW engines into Porsches, and changed transmissions into both. Made for some interesting vehicles.

      Like 4
      • Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member

        Bob Hess,

        Not only do early Porsche & VW engines interchange, but I’ve seen many pre-WW2 Tatra T-97 cars, where the original T-97 4 cylinder engine was replaced with a VW engine, it’s a bolt-up without requiring any modifications! Even all the linkages, wiring, and fuel lines fit without modifications. And even the postwar Tatra 600 cars have the same interchangeability with VW or Porsche engines. The later T-603 air cooled V8 engines also bolt up, but the linkages, wiring and fuel lines need modification.

        The 4 cylinder T-97 Tatra rear engine cars were made from 1936 to 1939, and the drive train was designed by the famous Tatra engineer Hans Ledwinka.

        Like 3
      • bobhess bobhess Member

        Good stuff Bill. Thanks.

        Like 0
  3. rancher

    My friends Dad had one the same color! We used to take it back packing/fishing in NorCal up the dirt/gravel roads.

    Like 1
  4. Steve Clinton

    I’ve been around longer than this bug and I have NEVER seen that color.

    Like 0
    • Steve Clinton

      I did a search and evidently, this WAS an offered color. I just think it wasn’t ordered too often.

      Like 3
  5. KjToy

    Yes the tranny from a 74 Super fitted onto my 2275 motor installed in a kit, CMC, Widebody Speedster 356.
    The “Super Tranny” was developed for USA freeway applications I believe.
    Works great keeping the rev’s down at hwy. speeds without sacrificing low end 1&2 omph.

    Like 0
    • Jack Hammerk

      KjToy- That’s why Speedsters had (usually) BBAB gearing.

      Like 0
  6. Dan Platt

    My Dad had one of these in black with a red leatherette interior. Kept it for about 35 years! Had the original engine which he and I rebuilt when I was 17. Resprayed it in several coats of black lacquer and put in a new black interior. No rust because we are in California. I could kick myself for not keeping it but, who knew? I think it sold for about $1,800 to a local VW garage.

    Like 2
  7. Bamapoppy

    Who hasn’t owned or at least ridden in a VW bug? Few. Who hasn’t ridden in a $31,000 VW bug. Fewer still. Too high for me. I had 2 of them back in my college days. One cost me $300 and 5he other one a whopping $600.

    Like 2
  8. Jeff

    When I was a child (1954-1961) my family owned one of these oval windowed bugs. Ours had the European feature of hidden pop out signal lamps installed on the window pillars that when the turn signal was activated it would swing up and blink in red. What was most familiar about it was the distinct whistle of the motor in which I think must have originated in the air cooling fan. In later models, the whistle was absent, but upon stumbling upon the same model at a car show in the late ’90’s I asked the owner about it. He started the engine and sure enough the whistle was present.

    Like 3
  9. Melton Mooney

    Yikes…excessively long copper fuel line. That’ll get you a fire.

    Like 2
  10. Bill Larson

    I had a1954 Bug living in WI. Drive very carefully in snow. With very little weight over the front wheels a turn could enter into a slide even at moderate speed.

    Like 1
  11. MTBorst

    Would love to have this beetle ! There was an old split window that sat in a barn down the road from my Uncles. I was 16 and I begged the guy to give me the owners information. He wouldn’t, said he was going thru a divorce. It was only a year or two later the roof collapsed on it crushing it 😢

    Like 0
  12. Steve M

    The reason for the small rear window was weight. Glass is much heavier than body steel. Reason so many new cars have high belt lines. Reduce the glass.

    Like 0
    • Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member

      Steve M,

      While you are correct, the primary reason for the window size was the ability to produce CURVED tempered safety glass at a price low enough for VW to use curved glass. The main reason for the original split window was because the 2 pieces of glass are flat panels, set at different angles in the body, to conform to the overall body curves.

      Once the cost of a larger curved glass panel in Europe came down, VW dropped the oval window and made the rear window even larger. It all boils down to a balance of technology and price.

      This is also the reason why the original Porsche 356 had a 2-piece windshield, as no European glass companies yet had the ability to produce tempered [or AS1 glass for North America] windshields at a price that would justify it’s use.

      Like 1
    • joenywf64

      I thought the belt lines are so high today because of the stewpit optionally biggest avail wheels & tires!
      & also to make you less of a target in today’s gangsta world.
      & also the mickey mouse power window motors(with small plastic! wheels that guide the steel cable) need as little weight as possible moving the glass up & down – & they still break.
      I can just imagine how heavy the rear glass is on a ’69 barracuda or 3rd gen f-body!
      Or the windshield on a late ’90s f-body – or worse – one of those old GM minivans, like the early 90’s “dustbuster” ones. Or even some Hondas whose gigantic windshield is almost twice as long as the hood – that is so wrong!

      Like 0
  13. wcshook

    Back in the day, when bugs were a dime a dozen, I seem to recall some put Corvair engines in them. Some may have put a motor mid engine like they did with the Corvair. I honestly don’t remember.

    Like 0
  14. CaCarDude

    Nice old VW here, I had my fun with these oval window bugs back when they were not really cool, and you could buy them for $100 or less. A couple things I noticed on this car is what happened to the fuel tank reserve lever that should be coming thru the small hole in the lower interior firewall area. Good pic in the posting but no lever seen. Also, I see what appears to be the original Sapphire I am radio in dash, but the knobs are incorrect. They should match the ivory style dash knobs. I happen to have a nice original set if the new owner wants, they are available. Wish the seller and new owner the best with this old Bug.

    Like 0
  15. Solosolo UK Solosolo Member

    My late brother got his 1958 Simca Aronde stuck in some fairly deep mud so I drove my 1957 Beetle around him, stopped to affix the tow rope, and pulled him out! Unbelievable. I then bought a 1962 Beetle in which I drove 1000 miles, nearly non stop in twenty hours, including two sets of Customs posts. Next day I traded it for a 1962 VW micro bus in which I did the same 1000 mile trip several times and had NO trouble from any of them. Fantasic, reliable vehicles.

    Like 0

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