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.

1966 Shelby Cobra 427 Roadster

Every Shelby 427 Cobra is rare simply by nature, but some reach the level of “exceptional” — a fact Carroll Shelby acknowledged when he signed the glovebox door of CSX3301 with the inscription: “One of the rarest CSX3301 Carroll Shelby.”

This Cobra was completed at AC Cars for delivery directly to Ford Advanced vehicles in Slough, England. As such, it was never invoiced to Shelby American. Factory equipped with Smiths gauges, a hard top, 427 engine and Sunburst wheels, it Read More

1962 Ferrari 250 GT PF Cabriolet Series II

The 250 engine paved the way for a large family of cars that helped Ferrari expand their limited output into series-produced sports cars. The new range was based on the 3-liter V12 engine designed by Gioacchino Colombo. The engine was powerful, smooth and adaptable to both touring and racing. The trend continued with the arrival of the Cabriolet 250 GT PF in 1957 — the last two letters standing for Pinin Farina (then still written as two words), who oversaw 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

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

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 were 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

1960 Ferrari 250 GT SWB Berlinetta “Competizione”

In the tradition of Ferrari’s dual-purpose road and racing berlinettas, the new 250 GT SWB was a tractable and well-mannered daily driver about town — and a veritable beast in a race. Competition-specification cars with additionally up-rated engines and lightweight alloy aluminum bodies were immediately made available for racing customers.

Competizione-specification examples totaled to 72 alloy-bodied examples among the overall output of just 165 SWB cars. It is a credit to the SWB’s strength of design, durability and no-hassle Read More

1955 Lancia Aurelia B24 S Spider America

Lancia Aurelia B24 S Spider America 1131

This car is among the rare survivors, having resided for its entire life in the forgiving western United States. In 1992, it was owned by the president of the U.S. Lancia club, who also was an avid vintage racer. He had the car cosmetically restored by Italian Lancia expert Franco dePiero, and his full-time mechanic restored the car’s numbers-matching drivetrain. During the restoration, the original Weber carburetor was replaced with a period-correct Nardi Read More