The Volkswagen Beetle needs little introduction; the car was designed in late 1930s Germany by Dr Ferdinand Porsche as a cheap and reliable car for the masses. Introduced in 1938, initial production was restricted to military use due to the outbreak of World War 2 but towards the end of the 1940s, the car went on general sale.
Throughout its life until the ‘rebirth’ of the new Beetle in 1997 the ‘Bug’ as it became known used a rear-engine, rear-wheel drive layout with an air-cooled flat-four engine and a transaxle mounted ahead of the engine. This began as a 985cc unit(1938), eventually growing to 1131cc(1943), then 1200cc, 1300cc, 1500cc and ultimately, 1600cc with power outputs growing from an initial 23.5bhp to 60bhp on the last twin-port 1600cc engines.While it went through various revisions and additions, the car remained fundamentally the same as when launched; four seats, torsion-bar suspension and drum brakes all around, though these were replaced with discs in 1967 and in 1972 the electrical system was upgraded from 6 Volts to match the now industry-standard 12V. It was inevitable that a convertible version would be created and in the late 1940s, coach-builder Wilhelm Karmann removed the steel roof and added a folding-steel frame with a fabric cover. He got approval from Volkswagen to produce it and set about supplying convertibles under the Karmann banner in 1949. The History This is a very rare and desirable example of an early convertible from Karmann, dubbed the Cabriolet. Originally sold in Greece in July of 1953, it has been thoroughly and comprehensively restored by the current owner and is presented with its Certificate of Authenticity from the Stiftung AutoMuseum Volkswagen. It uses the original chassis and bodywork and the original split-case transmission and although the engine is not the vehicle’s original, it is a period-correct ‘industrial’ engine; identical to the car’s original but produced by Volkswagen for industrial use. It was completely restored by a Volkswagen specialist in Greece and this involved removing the body from the chassis and all elements of both were repaired and restored as necessary. What sets this Karmann Kabriolett apart from others is the colour; it is finished in L55 Maroon, which was only used for two years by Volkswagen, according to the seller – 1953 and 1954 – and of the 1300 total production of Karmann Kabrioletts, only 16 cars were finished in this colour.
The current owner has owned the car since the middle of 2017 and is responsible for its stunning restoration and now presents it for sale as he no longer uses the car to its full potential and intends to finance a new project. The car is located in Athens, Greece and the seller will help with any necessary shipping, though this remains the responsibility of the purchaser. The Paperwork There is a large quantity of paperwork from the restoration, including bills for the interior and numerous parts. The car is also presented with a certificate of authenticity from the Stiftung AutoMuseum Volkswagen and the original destination certificate. The Interior The Beetle’s interior is stunning, as befits a car of this stature and the work that has gone into it. The roof is new, as is the headlining, and the owner states that the roof mechanism operates perfectly and seals against wind and water. The upper sun visors appear brand new and the surrounding chrome-work is in excellent condition. A cover for the roof when folded down is also included and was made to match the roof when the vehicle was restored. The seats are the original frames but these have been completely rebuilt and recovered with new leatherette upholstery in the original colour with contrasting piping. The exposed metal frames have been repainted and the owner confirms that all mechanisms operate as intended. The carpet is also brand new and shows no signs of wear while the door trims have also been replaced and re-trimmed to match the seats. The door furniture is in good condition and retains the traditional Bakelite-style knobs while the steering wheel is the original item revitalised to match the rest of the car. The metal dashboard panel has been painted the match the rest of the car, in L55 Maroon and the speedometer is the original item, with the chrome surround in reasonable condition though the owner cannot confirm that the displayed mileage, of 6117 kilometres, is genuine. The car is supplied with what appears to be the original radio, connected to the dashboard-mounted speaker. The front luggage compartment houses the spare wheel and the fuel tank, which has been painted in gloss black and features a vinyl cover. The Exterior The outside of the Beetle appears to be in excellent condition. Benefitting from a complete body-off restoration, any elements of damage or corrosion were removed and replaced with new components. The seller states that the list of new parts if extensive and too long to be included here but will be provided to the new owner. The bodywork is finished in L55 Maroon with an exceptionally deep shine while the front chrome-work is in excellent condition, around the headlights, the centre strip and the twin air intakes at the bottom of the front wings. The front luggage-compartment handle shows some signs of wear and general pitting, commensurate with age. The panel shut lines and fit are perfect and at the rear, the car retains its original-style rear light lenses and louvred engine lid. The engine-lid handle chrome is in excellent condition while the rear bumper shows some signs of wear, with slight corrosion and impact damage visible. The ‘Wide 5’ wheels have all been painted to match the interior and fitted with brand-new tyres, including the front-mounted spare. The road wheels are all fitted with deep chrome hubcaps in excellent condition. The side-mounted running boards are in superb condition while underneath, the car is as would be expected for one that has received a complete restoration. There is some evidence of slight corrosion but nothing that would adversely affect either the appearance or the integrity. The exhaust system has surface rust, but this is inevitable with the mild-steel components. The car’s original chassis plate is mounted behind the spare wheel in the front luggage compartment. The Mechanics The car’s original 1131cc flat-four engine has been replaced by an ‘industrial’ 1131cc engine; identical in specification, this uses a single carburettor and has been completely rebuilt. The transmission is the first-generation ‘split-case’ four-speed manual using a transaxle mounted in front of the engine and between the rear wheels. The owner states that the engine starts and runs evenly with no smoke apparent and performs as it should, as does the transmission. The suspension and brakes have also all been rebuilt with new bushes and hoses and friction materials. The car retains its 6 Volt electrical system and all the electrical components work as intended, according to the seller. He also confirms that the car drives as it should, stopping and steering in a straight line. The Appeal The Beetle is one of the most iconic and well-loved motoring icons of the twentieth century. There can be almost no-one who doesn’t know what the Beetle is and appreciates its basic yet characterful nature. It has been the subject of numerous books and the hero in multiple films, including the Herbie series, the more-recent Bumblebee Transformers spin-off and countless cartoons. Within the Beetle world, the early split oval window is probably the most desirable and behind that, the laden with technology yet it is undeniably attractive and like all Beetles, has a character of oval window that followed in the early 1950s. However, a convertible version is a thing to behold and indeed is the ultimate in cruising cool. It’s not fast and it isn’t it’s own. The fact that this car is one of just 16 to be finished in this colour from the factory, has been comprehensively restored and lives in a warm and dry environment add to its attractiveness. A virtually unique vehicle, it would appear to be ready for many more years of uber-cool, top-down motoring.
Here are some detailed pictures
See the Car during restoration
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