The modern Beetles are great little runners, but nothing can top the prestige, nostalgia and reliability that you get from what’s come to be known as a “vintage” Beetle. Millions of these classic cars were sold before the Beetle got its first modern makeover in 1998, and though it’s definitely harder, you can still pick up a gorgeous vintage Beetle today. If you’re in the market for one of these iconic cars, here are some tips for buying your Beetle the right way…
Consider the Type You Want
Vintage Beetles come in a wide range of variations. You can find ones that have stayed more or less identical from the day they rolled out of the factory, or modified so much that they’re almost unrecognisable. Ponder whether you want an original ride for the sheer nostalgia, a lowered car you can take to shows on the weekend, a versatile Baja bug or even a dune buggy. Once you’ve honed in on the kind of car you want, consider searching for a dealer who’s built one in that style. It’s typically much cheaper to buy a modified Beetle with all the features you want on it than the alternatives. However, there’s likely to be one or two mods you’re not so crazy about, so do your due diligence.
Examine the Bug for Rust
Like any classic car, vintage Beetles are going to be prone to some rust. The rust-proofing on the older models wasn’t overly great, and a lot of the factory drain holes can become clogged over time, leading to cavities in the inner body. When you go to look at your vintage Beetle, check the floor pans for any signs of rust, and check under the battery tray on the passenger rear side. Remember that even a little surface rust can often mean much more that you can’t see. If you’re buying from someone overseas or on the other side of the country, ultimately planning to get your car sent to you through a service like Shiply, obviously it’s going to be harder to check for these issues. You’ll have to insist that the owner sends you high-quality pictures of all the parts in question, and verify their details so that you can chase them up should you fall victim to a scam.
Check the Engine
Vintage Beetle engines are relatively simple, but rebuilding or repairing one certainly isn’t going to be cheap. Oil leaks in older Beetles are a pretty common problem reported by collectors. If this is in the valve cover or the sump plate, it’s easy enough to fix. A leak in an engine oil cooler, case halves or push rods on the other hand, can be much more complex and expensive, requiring the removal of the whole engine. If the engine’s seen a lot of use, oil pressure can also be a big problem. If you see the oil light come on while it’s idling, the engine in that particular bug doesn’t have long to go!