Farewell, old-school Beetle…

Volkswagen got busy, and the result was the water-cooled, front-wheel-drive Rabbit (Golf in the rest of the world). Until the Rabbit bounded onto the scene, VW busily put out trim and decal special editions, starting in 1973 with the Sports Bug (which at least had wider radials and wheels). The Love Bug and Sun Bug editions followed in 1974.

VW knew that the 1975 Rabbit would get a cool reception from die-hard Beetle lovers. So, the Beetle sedan stayed in production until 1977. The convertible Super Beetle was built through 1979.

Today, the 1970s Bugs are quaint and updated enough to be realistically drivable; but back then they were just late-model used cars for college students and their professors.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Beetles were $3,500 used cars on their best day.

The introduction of the New Beetle in 1998 heated up older, air-cooled Bug values, but this didn’t last. Just as the New Beetle started to fizzle in the new-car market, so did the original in the vintage-car market. The most recent incarnation of the New Beetle didn’t give the old Bugs a boost in the vintage market. 1968–77 Bug values have been flat since the 2008 economic implosion.

Hello, you cool little Bug!

There is a chance that 1968–77 Beetles will move up in the collector-car market — but not in day-trader fashion. Collectors want minty originals or well-restored examples. There is actually a respectable number of high-quality Beetles out in the market, as production was winding down at the same time as the dawning of the “instant-collectible” car craze.

Indeed, pickling an as-delivered Beetle instead of a 1978 Corvette Indy Pace Car would have brought speculators a better return on money — at least in today’s market.

The special-edition Beetles don’t carry much more value compared with other 1973 or 1974 Bugs, with the possible exception of a slight upwards blip for the Sport Bug.

The days of traditional Bug enthusiasts turning their noses up at the cars from the 1970s — especially in the Real-Beetle-versus-Super-Beetle argument — are long gone.

All air-cooled Beetles have a charm about them, and they are welcome just about anywhere you take them. Remarkably, this is particularly true for the young collectors who weren’t even born when the last German Beetle was built.

Beetles are one of the best entry-level collector cars. They are inexpensive and cheap to restore and maintain. Parts availability is superb.

Most of the horrid auto stick cars have been converted to manual transmissions — or became parts for other Beetles.

For those who can chew gum and shift gears at the same time, Beetles require just enough mechanical knowledge to bond owners with the car — without getting overwhelmed. Of course, this is one reason why they were successful in the first place, and continue to be a car that makes us all smile — even those who were born in 1990 and later. ♦

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