Home » A Beetle-Based Car I Never Heard Of Is Named For Pneumonia: Cold Start

A Beetle-Based Car I Never Heard Of Is Named For Pneumonia: Cold Start

Cs Pulmonia Top
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As you may be aware, our own David Tracy is on, of all things a cruise, where the man who normally revels in pain and discomfort is being pampered and encouraged to graze like an emperor at lavish buffets. It’s hard to picture, I know, but it’s happening. One nice perk of it all is that, of course, David is still David, so he’s keeping an eye out for interesting cars, and boy did he spot some while in Mazatlán, Mexico. These are fascinating cars, a kind of air-cooled Volkswagen Beetle variant I wasn’t aware of, and one that only exists in Mazatlán. They’re called Pulmonias.

And, yes, that name is the Spanish word for pneumonia, because when these first appeared in the 1960s, there was a belief that riding around in an open car could give you pneumonia, which I’m pretty sure medical science has disproven, otherwise there’d be a lot of very sick Miata owners.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

It seems that the whole thing started with a man named Miguel Ramirez Urioui, who made the first open taxis from three-wheeled Cushmans in the 1960s, but these proved a bit too small and unstable, so by the 1980s the baseline Pulmonia had changed to a VW Beetle-based machine. This, of course, makes a ton of sense, as Mexico was producing huge numbers of Beetles (Vochos) at the time and Beetles were already in use as cabs in Mexico City, among other places.

Cs Pulmonia 3

Also, the Beetle works well because the whole body can be removed from the chassis very easily, allowing the Pulomina custom fiberglass bodies to pretty much just be plopped onto the pan and bolted down. These bodies appear to be pretty much one-piece, with fenders and seat benches just molded right in.

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I wonder how well those air scoops work? Also, I wonder how many people can fit in these? They’re four-door, and that back bench looks fairly wide; I bet cramming six or so in these is not uncommon, because, you know, vacation rules and all.

There looks to be a few different styles of Pulmonia bodies, some with more Beetle-like front ends, some with a more boxy design, some having what looks like engine lids from a VW Type 181 (the Thing), some with maybe VW Type 2 bus engine lids, and, as David shows in this video, no two seem to have the same kind of taillights:

 

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Just from that little clip I saw Chevy S-10 taillights, 1972-1978 or so VW Bus lights, Escalade lights, round aftermarket “flat” ’73-and up Beetle taillights, the ubiquitous “box” taillight seen on Jeeps, maybe some Daewoo lights, and more. See what you can spot!

Cs Pulmonia 2

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I’m so delighted by these things, for a number of reasons; first, they’re what a bigshot executive at Nissan once described as a “Galapagos” car – something that, like a Galapagos Tortoise, can only really exist in one part of the world. The Nissan exec was talking about Japanese Kei cars, but these Pulmonias definitely qualify, too.

I’m also thrilled because they’re yet another example of how the old air-cooled Beetle refuses to die off or at least just retire into a comfortable, undemanding status of collector car. Long after they were phased out as Mexico City cabs, there’s hundreds of old Beetles, now in disguise, doing real taxi work in this one city, and, it seems, thriving. These drivetrains and chassis are all likely decades old, but, since Mexico made old-school Beetles until 2003, there’s still likely some fresh, barely 21-year-old VW pans out there, if needed. The resiliency and unstoppable character of the old Beetle never fails to thrill me.

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Of course, these are getting old and rough, and I’m sure at some point they’ll get phased out for something else for safety reasons, but I doubt they’ll have the ramshackle charm of these.

The city of Mazatlán does at least seem to appreciate the little Beetles-in-work-clothes that have become their unofficial mascots, and have even erected a bronze statue on the oceanfront to commemorate these hard-working machines:

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Cs Pulmonia Statue

So, no matter what the future brings, the Pulmonias will be remembered, as they deserve.

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Rod Millington
Rod Millington
18 days ago

Is that a set of Opel Vectra C taillights I spotted on one of those?

Horizontally Opposed
Horizontally Opposed
18 days ago

How entirely amazing, practical and democratic would be if we could still buy beetles pan kits, then go nuts. Entire micro-coach industries would sprout, filling unmet demand across the world

Strangek
Strangek
20 days ago

I once got pneumonia just from driving with my windows down!

Highland Green Miata
Highland Green Miata
20 days ago

I saw these in Mazatlan and wondered what they were. Now I know!

Freelivin2713
Freelivin2713
20 days ago

Nice! These are awesome…it’s so hilarious and great that they all have different taillights. I wonder if there are any taillight bars there? Cerveza time! I wonder what kind of taillights the statue has?!

Amberturnsignalsarebetter
Amberturnsignalsarebetter
20 days ago
Reply to  Freelivin2713

They serve a mean Margarita at la luz frenado del centro alto (known to locals as luz fre).

Last edited 20 days ago by Amberturnsignalsarebetter
DysLexus
DysLexus
20 days ago

Just skimmed article at work. here’s gist I got out of this:

David was kidnapped and shipped to an island called Pulmonia where he met a guy named Darwin. He soon found some diverse looking white carriages that only exist here because they transmorphed out of millions of old beetles. They use them only for hauling humans as money-spilling cargo.

Hmm…none of this makes sense and I need to reread this when I get home.

Lizardman in a human suit
Lizardman in a human suit
20 days ago
Reply to  DysLexus

No, you got it pretty much right.

Beasy Mist
Beasy Mist
20 days ago

I’ve ridden in one! It’s a fun time. Mazatlan is a beautiful city and a nice place to visit.

Alan Christensen
Alan Christensen
20 days ago

Taillight porn for Torch.

Joke #119!
Joke #119!
20 days ago

Geez, what is that Thing??

Cars? I've owned a few
Cars? I've owned a few
20 days ago

I’ll be shocked if David doesn’t get a tour of the ship’s mechanicals. Or at least ask for one. It’s pretty fascinating stuff on a stunningly large scale.

Freelivin2713
Freelivin2713
20 days ago

Yeah, I REALLY wanted to see the engine room, etc on the couple cruises to Mexico my wife & I have been on (especially after watching Deadliest Catch and how they fix things) You have to pay extra for a “behind the scenes” tour which doesn’t even include it & they say because it’s “noisy & dangerous”…such bullshit. They could at least offer it when in port when engines are off or at least slower so all the people who would be fascinated by it could see it (they would make a lot of $) I would be REALLY surprised if he was even willing to pay for the tour; especially since it doesn’t even include that- it’s mainly worker areas, the bridge etc
We at least have been to U.S.S. Lexington, U.S.S. Alabama and U.S.S. Stewart/Cavalla (ship/sub) which were both completely amazing & of course you can see the engine room & SO much more including torpedoes! (It’s all self guided)

James Carson
James Carson
20 days ago
Reply to  Freelivin2713

Back in the 90’s on a Costa cruise we got tours of the engine/mechanical spaces as well as the kitchens. Free of charge, just asked at the desk. I was in tech geek heaven.

Freelivin2713
Freelivin2713
20 days ago
Reply to  James Carson

Awesome!

James Carson
James Carson
20 days ago
Reply to  Freelivin2713

Also got a tour of the bridge. It might have been my geeky charm and enthusiasm that won them over.

Rollin Hand
Rollin Hand
20 days ago

I tried to read the whole article but my brain locked when I read David is on a cruise.

Sklooner
Sklooner
20 days ago

Neat I see Carnival Cruise lines offers shower spaghetti now

Parsko
Parsko
20 days ago
Reply to  Sklooner

The Cruise ship has been so confused the whole time with David there, constantly asking for the shower spaghetti to be repaired.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
20 days ago
Reply to  Sklooner

Now? Hasn’t that been part of their menu since 1972?

Jake Harsha
Jake Harsha
20 days ago

In the mid-90s, I was a foreign exchange student in Mazatlan. The pulmonia cabs were everywhere along with Nissan Tsuru cabs (basically a Sentra). The neatest thing was that they were still producing regular VW Beetles down there and you’d see all of these brand new Volkswagens running around all shiny! The family I lived with owned an old VW Combi van. I also remember seeing a lot of Dodge Ramchargers that looked new despite that model not having been sold in the US for over a decade.

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
20 days ago

This makes me think of the Jeep Surrey Gala… which I think Jeep should bring back:
https://blog.kaiserwillys.com/willys-surrey-gala-jeep-1959-1964

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
20 days ago

Also, speaking of Jeep, something Wrangler-based might be the logical next step when the Beetle platforms become no longer economically viable – body on frame construction, so theoretically still able to handle a straightforward body swap to a fiberglass shell, and the wheelbase of a Jeep Wrangler isn’t too far off from a Beetle (96.8 inches vs 94.5).

The Conch Trains that run around Key West all seem to be based on a mixture of YJ Wranglers and older CJ-Series Jeeps

Last edited 20 days ago by Ranwhenparked
M0L0TOV
M0L0TOV
20 days ago

Are those MK IV Golf headlights on the other car?

Hotdoughnutsnow
Hotdoughnutsnow
20 days ago

Literal “Cold Start” today.

10001010
10001010
20 days ago

I like how the spare tires on some of these serves as the arm rest and possible side-impact “protection” for front seat passengers.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
21 days ago

Reminds me of what Filipinos did with surplus jeeps after WW II. Open air jeepneys based upon converted jeeps dominated public transport, eventually evolving into purpose built transports evoking the original jeepneys. Alas, progress is sending them the way of the dodo.

The Pulmonia also reminds of the Mini Moke tourist destination cars popular in sunnier parts of the world.

Nice find by David. I actually have no problem picturing him grazing at a buffet; I’m not speaking metaphorically.

Icouldntfindaclevername
Icouldntfindaclevername
21 days ago

Glad to see David is having fun.

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
21 days ago

He doesn’t seem to be in Acapulco, but the Acapulco version of the Thing would be perfect there!

Rad Barchetta
Rad Barchetta
21 days ago

That statue needs Fred Flintstone in the drivers seat.

Elhigh
Elhigh
21 days ago

$5 says Tracy comes back with some rusty heap.

NOTE: In Spanish, “Jeep” is pronounced “heap.”

Trenton Abernathy
Trenton Abernathy
21 days ago

They’re the Lego of cars, apparently.

I kind of dig it. Just grab whatever matching (or not matching) tail lights, head lights, etc, that you can find laying around and slap them on a fiberglass body riding on the b ones of a Bug.

Maybe it’s called the Pulmonia because when the first person saw this hodgepodge of a car, they choked on their Horchata and ended up with fluid in their lungs.

Spikedlemon
Spikedlemon
21 days ago

Genuinely curious why this didn’t catch on in Florida rather than golf carts for vacation homes.

Flyingstitch
Flyingstitch
21 days ago
Reply to  Spikedlemon

I don’t know, but a year ago I moved from NJ to Delaware, and I think I crossed the Golf Cart Line, possibly around the 39th parallel. Where I came from, golf carts were for golf courses, stadiums, maybe some office parks. Down here, they’re all over every subdivision.

Pupmeow
Pupmeow
20 days ago
Reply to  Flyingstitch

I live in a beach town in western Michigan and people loooove golf carts here. On the one hand, it’s not THAT different from driving your car to the beach– it’s still an automobile and you still need a parking space. On the other hand, it’s just more freaking festive and fun to head to the beach in a golf cart. Also better for the environment, I guess.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
20 days ago
Reply to  Flyingstitch

Yeah, I live in Delaware, not even in a subdivision, or even an incorporated municipality, and it’s weird how may people on my street have golf carts – they seem to use them to drag trash cans back and forth to the end of the driveway and for running around their own properties, but I’ve also seen people drive down the road to neighboring houses, even though the posted speed limit is way beyond what an NEV would be legal for. Presumably they tow them behind RVs, too, every campground is jam packed with golf carts these days to the point where walking is almost hazardous in most of them

Jason Lee
Jason Lee
19 days ago
Reply to  Spikedlemon

Presumably because the Pulmonia is how one of the poors with limited means but unlimited ingenuity (aka every developing-country mechanic) would create a golf cart.

Whereas a Florida vacation home owner wouldn’t be caught dead being lumped in with the poors.

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