The pool of original cars continues to shrink, thanks to fires, floods, rust, and kids with a hankering to build a sand rail
The Volkswagen Beetle sedan inspired unusual loyalty and enthusiasm based on its practicality, reliability, adaptability, and affordability. Originally conceived by Dr. Ferdinand Porsche in the earliest days of his consulting engineering company, it was shopped to various German manufacturers in the early 1930s, but it wasn’t until the rise of National Socialism that a People’s Car gathered support from the government as a way of promoting the use of Germany’s new Autobahn highway system.
The Volkswagen’s platform backbone frame was simple to build and it was adaptable; the rear-mounted engine left the entire volume between the wheels free of obstructions and mated directly to the transaxle, which eliminated the driveshaft. Porsche’s favored trailing arm independent front suspension with transverse torsion bar springs imposed little upon the internal volume, and the swing axle rear suspension coped with the typically rough roads of the day. Porsche preferred an air-cooled engine because it eliminated pumps, pipes, hoses and radiators, as well as the risk of freezing in cold northern winters.
The Beetle always stayed true to the basic concept:the wheelbase never budged from 94.5 inches, and the track changed only slightly with wheel and tire choices, as well as the 1969 change from swing axles to fully articulated independent rear suspension.
From the late 1950s through the early 1970s, Volkswagens sold in hundreds of thousands in the United States, peaking at 572,573 in 1970. In 1973, the Beetle surpassed the Model T’s total production and has continued to add to its margin for a further quarter century.
The Paine Collection’s 1959 Volkswagen 1200 two-door sedan exemplifies small but important evolutionary changes. Tubeless tires had been standardized in 1957. In 1958, the rear window grew larger and nearly rectangular in shape, instead of the former oval. Parking lights and turn signals now perched on top of the front fenders. Changes for 1959 were strictly mechanical, reflecting how Volkswagen amortized its design, development, and tooling costs to keep prices in check. In 1959, the 1200 sedan was just $1,555, landed at a U.S. port.
This 1959 Volkswagen 1200 shows just 34,338 miles on the odometer and is completely original. The original paint is a pastel gray-blue, while the interior is gray two-tone vinyl. It has an AM radio, two gray translucent plastic sun visors, bumper overriders, and blackwall tires. It was given the “Rusty Jones” rustproofing treatment when new, which no doubt contributes to the current sound condition of its body. After mechanical recommissioning, it should be usable in its present cosmetic condition, as it is much too well preserved to be ruined by restoration.