The Beetle is Crawling Back

 

The humble Volkswagen Beetle — which is actually not its official name, but few people know what a Type 1 is — created the massive compact-car market in the United States.

It took the brilliant mind of Ferdinand Porsche — and high-quality labor from a rebuilding post-war West Germany — to make a compact car a success in the United States of the late 1950s and early 1960s.

By opening up the compact-car market in the U.S., VW blazed the trail for all small cars — domestic and imported. While the Chevrolet Corvair was initially all but an Americanized Beetle, the rest of the domestics weren’t. Still, the success of the Falcon, Valiant, Rambler and Lark was only possible after VW made small cars acceptable in the big-car-crazed U.S.

By the early 1970s, the early Beetle became a victim of its own huge success.

By 1970, the Big Three had run one full generation of compacts off U.S. assembly lines, and a second one was on the way. The Falcon gave way to the Pinto, the Corvair led to the Vega, and the Rambler became AMC and birthed the Gremlin. In addition, the Valiant had a plethora of siblings from Dodge.

While the Japanese competitors were generally viewed as quirky and cheap during the 1960s, by 1970 they were becoming formidable competitors. During all this, the Beetle just puttered along with minimal changes.

While staying the same in a world of change played well in the turbulent 1960s — even among the Counterculture — the Beetle was old hat in the 1970s. The Beetle looked dated compared with everything else in the market.

2000 Porsche 911 GT3 R

Porsche’s 911 series is the definitive sports-car family and a legend in endurance racing. Many consider the GT3 as its crowning achievement. In the tradition of the Carrera RS 2.8, the 996-based GT3, introduced in 2000, was a street-legal homologation model — a raw, track-ready car with a highly modified 3.6-liter, liquid-cooled, flat-6 engine. Whereas the Turbo and the GT2 achieved their incredible performance with turbocharging, the GT3 was a visceral, naturally aspirated monster.

With 400-plus horsepower on tap, Read More

1967 Fiat Dino Spider

The 1965 Dino 206S Speciale coupe was Enzo Ferrari’s tribute to his late son, Dino. More practically, it was a way of making the new all-alloy, Ferrari-built V6 eligible for Formula Two competition by building 500 production cars equipped with it.

Given Ferrari’s limited production, Fiat used the engine in a new, sporty model that also carried the Dino name, and it would be built in larger numbers starting in 1966. The sound of the triple Weber-carbureted V6 engine Read More

1955 Jaguar XK 140 MC Roadster

From 1948 through 1954, the groundbreaking XK 120 established Jaguar at the forefront of sports car manufacturers with its graceful lines and impressive, race-winning performance. Late in 1954, the improved XK 140 arrived, heralding comprehensive improvements that made the original design even better.

Notable upgrades included precise rack-and-pinion steering, improved brakes and engine cooling, plus enhanced cabin comfort and legroom. Subtle body updates preserved the widely acclaimed original styling elements. The most popular model in America remained the OTS Read More

1952 Ferrari 225 Sport Berlinetta “Tuboscocca”

The lifeblood of Ferrari, particularly in the early years, was competition. It is a widely held belief that the creation of road-going versions of the competition sports cars existed almost solely to support Il Commendatore’s racing effort. In many instances, engineering advances developed for battle can be traced directly to the road cars, such as the pioneering weight-balancing use of the transaxle from the 275 series GTs.

Ferrari’s competition teeth were cut along with the continuous progress of the Read More

1936 Talbot-Lago T150C Racer

The heads of the Automobile Club de France, keen to see prestigious national firms return to racing, decided to introduce new rules for the 1936 ACF Grand Prix. The new regulations, adopted on October 13, 1935, opened the event to sports cars. The declared goal was, of course, to encourage the involvement of French firms and, if possible, facilitate their success; but also to openly encourage “reasonable” racing cars whose development could be directly applied to series cars. Models Read More

1971 Citroën SM Coupe

What makes this Citroën SM special is that it is as close to a new car as is possible to be following a no-expense-spared restoration. It was given to the renowned Garage du Lac, run by Vincent Crescia in Switzerland, for a total mechanical and body rebuild.

New or refurbished parts were fitted throughout, and the gearbox, running gear, steering, wiring, hydraulic and cooling systems were all restored to new. The body was completely dismantled and elements that showed Read More

The Porsche 906 and Its Kin

This 1966 Porsche 906 sold in Paris at Bonham’s Grand Palais sale on February 7, 2013, for $732k, including buyer’s premium. At first glance, that price appears awfully favorable for the buyer.

Was no one awake in the room, or is there an issue with the car? There have been enough major adjustments in the Porsche market that an overview of the sports prototype sector with our subject 906 as centerpiece might be helpful.

If we accept Porsche Spyders Read More

1985 Aston Martin Lagonda Saloon

Aston Martin’s periodic revival of the Lagonda name saw it applied to a stretched, 4-door V8 in the mid-1970s, a mere handful of which were constructed. When the concept re-emerged, it was the sensation of the 1976 London Motor Show.

Clothed in striking “razor-edge” bodywork designed by William Towns — the man responsible for the DBS — the new Lagonda saloon used the same long-wheelbase V8 chassis as its immediate predecessor while breaking new ground in terms of electronic instrumentation Read More