David is still out there in Germany, living like a Kaiser, leaving me to run the show here. And Matt’s gone, too, leaving everyone to speculate about all the bonkers shenanigans I’ll get up to with dad and dad gone. Well, the truth is I have to run the damn site now! It’s hard to squeeze in all the shenanigans I want to! Besides, I’m a co-founder! I can post crazy shit all the time, as long as I, you know, maybe have an argument on Slack with David. He did stop me from posting something about a clamp and a Marx Brother not too long ago – I guess I could go back to that? But in the meantime, he’s still sending me pictures of interesting cars he sees, and I wanted to use this one for a Cold Start, because I was especially excited to see it: a 50 Jahr Käfer edition Volkswagen Beetle!
This is a really lovely example of this pretty rare special edition Beetle: they only made 3,150 of these special editions in 1985-1986, and were called Jubilee Beetles. They all came in that deep metallic gray color, though originally those wheels were silver and the bumpers and trim were chrome. I really like how this one has blacked all of those parts out, because it looks really sleek.
These were actually Mexican-built Beetles (you can tell by the distinctive bumper brackets, for one thing), and had the Golf four-button steering wheel, seats with movable headrests, and these “50 Jahr Käfer” badges.
There’s some interesting choices at play in this special edition Beetle, too. For one, it’s based on the lowest-spec Beetle you could get at the time, the 1200 model that still used the old 1192cc/36 hp motor, which always shocks me that this engine was still in production in 1985. VW was selling Beetles with the 1600cc dual-port engine that nearly doubled the power of the smaller engine, and I guess I’m just surprised there were still takers for a sub-40 hp motor. You know, I’m an American, so maybe my perspective is skewed. I suppose there were still places where 36 hp was just fine? Maybe it just feels weird to use the bargain-basement engine on your special edition?
Then there’s the matter of the 50 year anniversary. Things must have been different in the 1980s, because now VW’s own Autostadt museum starts at 1950 because of, you know, reasons. Big reasons with funny little moustaches.
So, if this 1985 special edition Beetle is commemorating 50 years, that puts it back to 1935, which is even before the VW Beetle design was finalized, which happened in 1938. In 1935, the Beetle was still in its larval stages, as the V3 series of Beetle (well then KdF Wagen) prototypes, which looked like this:
See! It wasn’t finished yet! And Volkswagen as a company, as we know it today, didn’t even exist. So, what exactly is the 50 year point they’re commemorating here? There were prototypes that led to the Beetle before the V3, even, arguably starting from 1934, so I’m not sure it’s the start of prototypes, either. And Ferdinand Porsche’s “Memorandum on the construction of a German People’s Car”, that was submitted to the Reich Ministry of Transport was 1934 also, so it’s not that, either.
It’s a mystery! I should dig into this, even though VW is especially dodgy about talking about anything before 1950.