1972 Super Beetle Convertible

Over the years, Tom and I spent a lot of time cruising in, wrenching on, camping in, or just admiring VWs. I can no longer pin a number on the hours he spent helping me rebuild engines; change parts; celebrate victories, however minor; and troubleshoot glitches. With all of our VW adventures it comes as no surprise that, at one point, we began a joint project of restoring a beetle.  Ultimately, this project kept finding its way to the back-burner as more pressing issues consumed time and money, but I am happy to say that we held on to our car that, once again, plies the roads in search of fun – or, perhaps a few errands too.

Back in 1991 (and my memory may be a little fuzzy on the exact details), Tom told me that his wife knew of a 1972 Super Beetle convertible whose owner might be willing to sell.  I know Tom appreciated convertibles (at one point he owned an MG), and they always appealed to me as well, so we decided to investigate.

At the time, the beetle spent its time quietly sitting in a garage because, like most of these old cars, she needed a few repairs.  Overall, she was in pretty much original condition and still sported the original engine, convertible top, and interior.  At some point in her history, she recieved a new coat of paint in a color close to original, but that seemed to be about the only major change.  Her problems consisted of old, rotted rubber seals, a missing rear window, rusty floor pans, and a few other odds and ends, but, all in all, this beetle was solid.

The owner was on older gentleman, who at one time had plans to do all the restoration work.  I cannot remember if he was the original owner, but if not, he was probably close to it, and had spent many hours enjoying this car. As it turns out, he was indeed willing to sell, but not to just anyone – he wanted a good home for the bug.  I am no longer sure how we convinced him that we were decent VW loving folk, nor do I recall from where the idea of dual ownership arose, but I do know that he agreed to let us adopt her.

I remember us driving our new purchase home with grand visions of cruising around in a beautifully restored beetle one day.  My memory gives me the sense that we thought she had a tired engine, so we parked our bug in anticipation for an engine rebuild.  That was our mistake, because like what happens to a lot of “parked” projects, we ended up getting distracted by life and the poor bug sat around waiting for the attention we so eagerly thought we could provide.  As the years passed we would occasionally think about starting the restoration work or selling, but in the end, we managed to keep procrastinating – too hopeful to drive her again and not motivated enough to sell.

Skip forward to my family’s acquisition of Moby (an endeavor in which Tom was armpit deep) in 2010, an event that rekindled interest on both our parts in the ’72 .  However, the revival was not in the interest of restoration anymore, but rather a more serious discussion of if we should sell or not; this prospect becoming more serious in the interest of finding Tom a new bus.  The sacrifice of one to gain another.

It turns out that Tom and I are still great procrastinators and not much happened beyond pushing the beetle in and out of the garage and unlocking frozen brakes.  However, slowly but surely, over the last couple of years or so, Tom, with the help of his kids, began the process of the getting the motor up and running.  The engine was not as tired as we (I?) assumed, and with the addition of a new distributor and carburetor, churned to life once more, not in perfect harmony mind you, but a good beginning.

In the middle of the effort to smooth out the purr of the engine, we discovered another major issue – the title had disappeared!  To make matters worse, as far as we could remember, we never transferred ownership from the previous owner to ourselves.  That meant a simple trip to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) would do no good. Thus began a lengthy and frustrating experience with the DMV, one that ultimately had Tom running around in circles trying to file paperwork from the previous owner (yep, Tom was able to find him) only to be told he needed different documents. In a somewhat humorous ending, the DMV ultimately told Tom the previous owner was no longer the owner of the beetle, and we would need the real owner to request a new title.  However (and this is where it gets frustratingly funny), the DMV would not tell us the real owner’s name, which of course, must be US.  After a few more weeks and a little more paperwork, we were able to confirm OUR ownership and received a new title.  Bureaucracy is sometimes a painful experience, and I give Tom all the credit for these efforts.

With the paperwork cleared, Tom’s effort to put the beetle back on the road began in earnest and all that hard work culminated with a maiden cruise to the Dubs in the Shrubs All Air-Cooled Show back in April.  Yet this is not the end of this story.  Like many VW resurrection stories I come across, the time spent under the engine lid and now behind the wheel, convinced Tom (and indirectly me) that our little beetle needs to stay. We have no current plan to restore here completely, at least not in one fell swoop, but just to make her a trustworthy road companion and enjoy our time with her (I say ‘our’, but I live over 250 miles away so it will be Tom’s time mostly).  Tom has not given up finding a bus either; poor guy just might have to suffer with TWO VWs in the garage!

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In her berth awaiting the legal paperwork. VW introduced the Super Beetle in 1970 as a way to reinvigorate flagging sales. Known officially as the 1302 Super Beetle in the U.S., it boasted a larger cargo capacity (a larger trunk plus area behind the backseats), the 1600 CC dual port engine, and a redesigned front suspension among other improvements.

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Surprisingly, the interior is still in pretty good shape.

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The inaugural drive to Dubs in the Shrubs.

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One of the new design features of the Super Beetle included a wider engine lid with a greater number of vents for the larger 1600cc dual port engine. Also, VW introduced the  vanity mirror in the passenger sun-visor.

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MacPherson struts replaced the standard beetle front suspension. This modification allowed the extra trunk space that VW determined essential in the American market. With this design, the spare tire is stored horizontally in the cargo area.

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To accommodate the new struts,  VW modified the shape of the front fenders and front valence.

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I’m not entirely sure if the rock guards on the bottom, front of the rear fenders is new to the Super Beetle design or not, but I always liked the look.

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’72 saw the introduction in all beetles of the 4-point steering wheel. The dash still retained its simplicity found in earlier models.

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The original convertible top is still in decent shape. It has a cut in the vinyl top that requires some attention as well as new seals and rear window.

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Original 1600cc dual port engine. Tom added a new distributor, carburetor (they don’t stand out do they?), vacuum lines and some fuel lines.  From what I understand, she purrs like a kitten and both Tom’s kids are learning to drive stick.

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Tom and I have a tradition – to celebrate when one of us gets a new VW or puts an old VW back on the road, a trip to the ice cream shop is required. In this shot, Tom’s children help him celebrate the beetle’s resurrection. (Photo credit: Tom)

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