Home » Suitcase Satisfaction: Cold Start

Suitcase Satisfaction: Cold Start

Cs Beetletrunk

During the many decades when my Beetle was my primary daily driver, one of the things I liked best was packing things into the smallish but strangely usable trunk. It was like a little challenge; I could fit four or five grocery bags in there if packed right, and with soft luggage you could cram a surprising amount of stuff in there. When Volkswagen issued this press photo and blurb in 1961, after they re-designed the gas tank to increase the volume of the trunk, they chose to show it with a lone, perfectly-sized suitcase. I find that perfect-fit suitcase very satisfying, but I’m not sure it shows the larger trunk to best effect, because it’s, you know, just one suitcase.

Also, you can see a perfect view of the strange design decision I’ve talked about before in that pic, too.

Cs Vwcutaway

VW usually showed multiple suitcases when showing off trunk volume; I think this is a slightly earlier Beetle before the fuel tank re-design, and they have three suitcases packed in there, along with two more back in the luggage well behind the rear seat. This feels like a more effective way to show cargo room?

Cs Vw Trunk Blurb

I do just like that they issued a whole press picture and blurb about this, though. If I worked for Motorboy’s Life or Wheeled Things Illustrated I’d have written this up as a whole article. I also like that in the blurb VW made clear they’re not going to jack the price up because now the trunk is more than nine cubic feet, so thanks, VW.

I wonder if that suitcase was custom-made to fit the VW’s trunk? There was a time when fitted luggage for Beetle trunks was available! Look at the shape of this suitcase:

Cs Vwfittedluggage

Oh man, I love that.


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29 Responses

  1. That curved suitcase is awesome!
    I can only imagine what they go for now as vintage air-cooled stuff started getting stupid expensive in the 90s. I seem to recall that the New Beetle concept, then production really jump-started the nostalgia inflation

  2. That press release made me curious about the other 26 improvements, so I poked around and I found this:

    “The factory promised 27 improvements for the new model and some were significant, like boosting the engine to 40 bhp at 3900 rpm, an all-synchromesh 4-speed gearbox and an ignition switch that couldn’t engage the starter motor when the engine was running.

    Many others were small tweaks to make the car a bit more user friendly, like changing the gas tank shape to fit more luggage and venting it outside the car to eliminate smells. The fusebox moved under the dash for more protection, the brake fluid reservoir was transparent, windshield washers were standard and the passenger got a better grab handle.”


  3. Porsche did this too for the 356 and 911, offering matched (b/c Porsche…I seem to recall it was plaid?) luggage contoured to fit the oddly-shaped trunks.

    As a fan of OEM accessories b/c few people buy them new but then nearly always way later think wish I had, I love this.

  4. I’ve never really used the VW frunk, as we were usually 2 or max 3 people in the car, so luggage just went on the seats.

    I did once transport a whole spare VW Beetle engine with exhaust system in it though: I just slid the passenger seat of its rails and placed that upside down on the rear seat behind me and had the extra engine sitting next to me on the 100 mile trip home.

    1. I think you only have to tip at full-service stations in pump-your-own states. Oregon and Jersey are more like Europe where you don’t tip because of cultural differences or tax reasons or something.

  5. Way back in 1987 when gas were still full service everywhere, my roomate and I drove my 73 Superbeetle to Florida from New Jersery for spring break.

    We stopped in Georgia and the young man that pumped our gas asked if we wanted him to check the oil. I said sure and he walked to the front and told me to pop the hood. My roomate in the passenger seat smirked did and the kid just about fainted when he saw our duffle bags cramed in where he thought the engine was supposed to be.

    Ironically he didn’t say anything when he pumped the gas into the filler on the side near the front.

      1. During our 1984 honeymoon in a ’76 VW camper bus we stopped in Detroit. A random person jumped out of their VW Bug ran over to give us a hug just because we we in a VW and there were none around.
        When we took it in to a oil change place the young’n in the pit was highly impressed seeing the underside of the VW for the first time. Independent suspension! Rear wheel drive! Rear engine! Of course I had to not only provide the proper metric tools as they had none, I also had to walk them through the procedure.

      2. Also, in the 80s even people with resolutely no interest in or knowledge of cars would always get this joke from the 1950s I would tell that I’d read in the book Small Wonder: The Amazing Story of Volkswagen:
        Someone is driving a Beetle down the road when he sees another Beetle on the side of the road with its driver looking under the hood.
        First driver: “What’s wrong? Want any help?”
        Second driver: “I don’t know! The engine must have fallen out!”
        First driver: “Oh, you’re in luck! I have a spare engine in the back!”

      3. Yeah… when my brother attended college several states away in the 80s he had a decade-old Super Beetle that he drove everywhere up and down the entire eastern side of the US and whenever he stopped at a full-service station, being quite the wiseass that he is, he’d always tell the attendant to check the anti-freeze but nobody ever fell for that.

        1. Happens even now. A few years back, a grocery store parking lot, a nice person, and me at the wheel of an old 911.

          “Hey, is everything okay? Do you need help?” “No, I’m just putting my bags in the trunk.” “Uh, okay…”

    1. 1987? Full service in 1987? I can’t remember having anyone pump my gas or check oil since about the first oil shock in 1974, when gas skyrocketed to the unheard of price of .55/gallon.

      1. As late as the mid-90s, I can remember my parents going to a station in rural North Carolina that not only offered full service, but also had a well-staffed shop on site.

      2. In Urban areas not so much but there still were in a lot of places in the South and this was an out of the way station not a rest stop or truck stop.

        1. Its called “mini-serve” as they do not check oil, tire pressure etc… Only fill your tank with gas so you don’t blow yourself up. Starting in 2015, counties with populations under 40,000 people (all of Eastern Oregon except Deschutes County, and a few counties west of the Cascades) can allow self serve gas….unless said gas station has a mini-mart attached, at which point you can only pump your own gas between 6 P.M. and 6 A.M

            1. My Q: do the remaining full-serve stations in the U.S. check the oil still?

              Back in the ’80s, when there was often at least a full serve pump or two at your everyday self-serve station, they rarely did that, even then.

              And now, the looks I get when I do it myself when filling up…

        2. Only Jersey is still mandated full serve, and if you pay cash at the lower tiers its a discount of ususally 10cents. I payed 3.11 cash for regular at a Dela yesterday.

          In the 90’s there were still stations in LA that you could pay extra for someone to pump your gas. I haven’t been there in years and when I was I wasn’t buying any gas so don’t know if they still do it.

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