I Have Learned Of Yet Another Obscure VW Beetle Taillight And I’m Losing My Shit

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The bouncer at Randy’s Red Rears, Daytona Beach’s seediest Taillight-Community Strip Club, was sitting on me with all his weight, as his big, meaty hands worked to free the twin air horns I had clenched in my own, far smaller, hands. A huge poster was laying on the floor next to me, where it had been torn off the wall, but you could still make out the image of a mid ’60s Volkswagen taillight on it, with the alphanumerics M018 in big, bold letters above. The bouncer may have stopped my attempt to let the horny, drunk, taillight-loving patrons of Randy’s Red Rears know about this incredible bit of VW taillight history, but he can’t stop me from telling all of you, even if he came pretty close by twisting my fingers around so much.

While I now realize that the patrons of even a taillight-themed strip club don’t like to hear the ear-splitting sound of two air horns as a crazed little man screams at them, excitedly, about a kind of VW taillight he wasn’t aware of, I think the issue had more to do with my ill-conceived presentation than it did with the subject.

I say this because as a hardcore VW Beetle taillight fetishist, there is almost nothing better than the personal discovery of a previously-unknown Beetle taillight varietal. And, thanks to my friend and legendary VW aficionado Tory who sent me this eBay link, I have once again experienced the sublime joys of a brush with the Beetle Taillight Unknown.

Behold, my friends, the taillight known as Option M018:

The M018 VW beetle taillight

At first, you may think this looks just like any oval, three-sectioned Beetle taillight — the sort that was used (in all-red form, on US-spec cars) from 1962 to 1967, and longer on European, Brazilian, South African and other-market Beetles, albeit with the amber turn indicator section.

But something is different; while the three primary sections are the same (from top to bottom, indicator, brake/tail, and reflector area) the proportions of those last two sections are very, very different.

Here, look:

The M018 VW beetle taillight next to a standard one

What the hell is going on here? The reflector section on option M018 is at least twice the size of the stock taillamp’s, reducing the brake/tail section to about half its normal size.

Now, VW, unlike many carmakers, has a long history of using the reflector section as a lens as well, putting light bulbs behind reflectors and letting those sections of the taillight emit light as well as reflecting it, so I do not believe that there would be any amount of light blockage from this lamp design. A look at the rear of the lamp, again from that eBay listing, confirms this:

The back of this unusual VW beetle taillight

Still, that doesn’t answer why this option would exist at all? Why have a whole other taillight option that just has a doubled-in-size reflector area?

A bit of digging online gives a few hints; the always informative online VW forum The Samba offers some answers:

“I can confirm M018 rear lenses are plastic with a large diamond reflector (rather than the snow flake or chevron)usually found on cars in Sweden, possibly in Norway and Denmark.very rare to find!!”

So, according to a poster named cj1971, who wrote about these in a 2011 reply, these rare taillights were usually found in Scandinavian countries. Another thread dedicated to the M018 option shows that this option, the larger-area reflector option, was available on several generations of VW taillights, and reinforces that it was normally sold in Swedish/Nordic markets.

So perhaps M018 is best thought of as a sub-group of VW taillights, a larger-reflector’d variant that lives in Scandinavia, perhaps existing because those cold, northerly countries have very long nights for much of the year, and perhaps a larger reflective surface on those lights would help parked cars be spotted more easily on dark and snowy or foggy nights?

Some links for M018 lights specifically refer to them as “Swedish” taillights, and there appears to be at least one example of a very early Karmann Ghia optioned with M018 taillights, though the picture in this ad does not appear to show taillights of a different design than a normal 1955 ‘low light’ Ghia.

There is likely still a lot more research to be done here; for the moment, I propose a new addendum to the standard Beetle taillight taxonomy.Every VW Beetle taillight made from 1938 to 2003

If we are sticking with the usual grouping of The Seventeen — the baseline 17 most common Beetle taillights throughout the years,  the standard set that you’ll find taught in any collegiate VW Beetle taillight 101 class, and also with the generally-accepted addenda of the “Mad Belgian” taillights (Belgium-market round-reflector lights) and the late-Brazilian smoked-lens “elephant’s foot lights,” also known as The Smoky Brazilian — then I think we can petition to add a separate sub-category of M018-option lights.

They’re not exactly entirely new lights, more like varieties of stock lights from around 1955 to 1967.

I realize this may be controversial, and I expect a lot of debate in the Greater Taillight Community to ultimately determine how these should be classified. But I promise I won’t try to bring it up at any taillight community strip clubs anymore. I learned my lesson.

 

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28 Responses

  1. On a serious note, the M018 probably came about because of a rule about reflector area. I know post 1968-74 US spec Land Rovers had larger tail lights and turn signals than the rest if the world and 1993-94 US Defenders have what look like Isuzu NPR tail lights and generic oval from turn signals to meet US regs. Since it’s another area for Torch to obsess, I’ll note that the Landrover 90s and 110s grey imported by Rovers North in the 80s appear to have the larger diameter military lights to meet US regs.

    1. David wouldn’t know. He would depend on an old Army surplus right angle flashlight taped to the bumper and actuated by a toggle switch if he had a choice to use that as a tail light.

  2. I expect the Beetle/Ghia mystery is that VW reused M-codes to describe the same variation on different things. GM did the same thing; for instance the term “V22 grille” on Squarebody trucks is most commonly used to describe the one-year-only 1980 deluxe-trim setup with square headlights but RPO V22 was coded for the high-series grille on all trucks (and possibly some cars) for several years before and since.

  3. When you left the site that will not be named, I was seriously bummed out because articles like this speak to the insanity of my brain noticing little shit that 99.995% of the world doesn’t care about/know exists.

    Thank you for enabling my mania.

    Signed,
    Someone who notices everything.

  4. Jason,
    This has me thinking about my mother’s Bug. She and my dad lived in Barbados in the very early 60s because my dad was stationed their in with the Navy. Rough luck eh?

    In 1692 they bought a Bug there and brought it back to the states with them when they returned. It was our primary car up until I reached 5th or 6th grade and it is the car in which I learned to drive, which was interesting because it is right-hand drive.

    My mom loved that car in a benign neglect sort of way. A few years before my mom died, my stepfather, who was very methodical, did a complete restoration of it. Because he was so detail oriented I’d bet he tracked down the correct parts for it, to include lighting. Unfortunately, after my mom died he gave it to my older ex-sister, don’t ask, who lives in the UK. I think he figured it would make more sense there because it’s right-hand drive. That was 2008 and to this day it has never left her garage, it is just slowly decaying.

    I would love to have that car, and this article makes me wonder what the lights on it look like. I do remember the front indicators always had orange lenses and that the headlights had that little bulb in front of the sealed beam.

    Be careful in those taillight bars you frequent. You seem to have a lot of close calls in them

  5. To whom it may concern:

    Can y’all just put a donate button on the website so dear readers can ensure we get more of this kind of crazy? Reading without ads has lowered my blood pressure, except for the fact that TIL there is another variant of the VW taillight and now my BP has just jumped by 40!!! WTH – how can this be? If you found a new one, maybe there is another one out there specific to Surinam, or maybe Uruguay. Damn..let’s go find it.

  6. Now that you’ve got that nailed down, we need a fully researched story on British Leyland/Lucas taillights and side markers. Those parts bin lamps were used on everything made on the British Isles and beyond. Sometimes the housings and lenses were used only as reflectors and had no bulbs, although they left the sockets for them… Surely there’s a Torch-worthy Autopian article in there somewhere.

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