1966 VOLKSWAGEN Beetle

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1966 VOLKSWAGEN Beetle


Have you heard the one about the Nazi dictator, the Jewish engineer and the surfer dude? Well, the common denominator is the Volkswagen Beetle. You see, it was ‘inspired’ – and I’m being generous with that word, by the Tatra 97, a car designed by the Czech company’s chief engineer, Hans Ledwinka, who happened to meet a chap called Ferdinand Porsche when the pair of them both found themselves working for Austrian manufacturer Steyr.

Adolf Hitler instructed Porsche to build his Peoples’ Car, and Ferdinad drew heavily on Ledwinka’s design. Unfortunately, he also felt that the new Tatra T97 was too similar to the KdF-Wagen project (the basis of the Beetle). As a result, Hitler ordered Tatras to be removed from the 1939 Berlin Autosalon.

But the KdF-Wagen used a number of technologies that Tatra and Ledwinka had under patent, and, just before the start of the second world war, Tatra filed a suit against Porsche for patent infringement.

The Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia soon put a stop to that (along with love and peace) but after the war VW settled with Tatra out of court for a million US dollars. All of which begs the question; how did the VW Beetle become a hippy favourite?

War in Europe ended in 1945, after six years of terror and destruction, and while the world let out a collective sigh of relief as Germany fell to Allied forces, the factory where Volkswagens were to be built lay in ruins. Located in a buggy swampland along the river Aller in what would later become Wolfsburg, it had yet to build a single civilian model, having been converted to build war munitions and VW-based vehicles shortly after its construction in 1938. Immediately after the war, the only British experience with VWs came when occupation forces stationed in Germany were provided with cars built by the restarted factory.

Production of the Volkswagen – the name Beetle had yet to stick – was plagued by ongoing repairs to the Wolfsburg factory, coal and materials shortages, and by the company not having a true owner. The Allied Military Government placed a Brit, Major Ivan Hirst, in charge of the factory, which was put back into service to fulfil an order for 20,000 VWs for the occupation forces.

An ex-Opel executive, Heinz Nordhoff, was hired to run the place when the British began attempting to transition ownership of the Wolfsburg Motor Works, as it had come to be named, to almost anyone who would take it. Henry Ford II refused to take the operation as a gift; the British auto industry also had no interest in the car or the factory.

Undeterred, Nordhoff set up exports to Denmark, Sweden, Belgium, and Switzerland. Nordhoff’s zeal for exports was less about expanding the VW’s sales and more about bringing in hard currency from outside Germany. Sales were strong at home, but German currency wasn’t worth much. The factory needed machinery from abroad, particularly from America, and holding foreign currency would be a boon.

In 1950 VW finally managed to export a car to the USA, as an east coast car dealer, Max Hoffman, was appointed exclusive VW importer. Hoffman sold 330 VWs, mostly to other dealers throughout the U.S. The cars were cheap, and dealers found they weren’t that difficult to sell.

By 1951, the original Type I’s cable brakes were replaced by hydraulically operated drums at all four corners, and the engine gained a Solex carburetor. Power swelled from 24bhp to 30. In 1952, Volkswagen fitted the transmission's second, third, and fourth gears with synchromesh.

The split-rear-window design so coveted by VW collectors today was replaced for 1953 by a slightly larger, single oval rear window, and for the first time, Volkswagen increased the Beetle engine's displacement from 1131cc to 1192cc. Power rose again to 36bhp.

In 1955, with production humming along, Volkswagen built its one-millionth Beetle in Wolfsburg. Only about 9000 had made their way to the US, while the majority buzzed around Europe.

In 1967 the Beetle – as it was now universally know – gained a 1500cc engine and 12 volt electrical system, and in the same year a Californian called Bruce Meyers perfected his idea of the Beetle-based dune buggy. California beach culture spawned a few kit cars that used the Beetle's floorpan, engine, and transmission, making it straightforward to pick up a scrapped Bug and transform it into a wild beachcomber. A few years of development resulted in Meyers' kit, the Manx, leading the pack, and the Beetle became part of surf culture.

A year later and the Disney film The Love Bug featured a Beetle called Herbie, cementing the car’s iconic status with yet another generation of drivers. In 1970 the biggest standard engine ever fitted was introduced, a 1600cc flat four, still with a lightweight magnesium alloy crankcase. By 1972 the 15,007,034th Beetle rolled off the Wolfsburg line, matching the production numbers of the Ford Model T, but two years later the last car built there was made.

In 1975 Beetles gained fuel injection and a year later the last car was sold officially in the USA, while production continued apace in Brazil and Mexico, where the final model was built in Puebla, in 2019, 80 years after Ferdinand Porsche's team was first commissioned to build the prototypes. Over its incredible life span more than 21,000,000 Type 1 Beetles were sold.

The Vehicle

So the biggest standard engine you could get in a Beetle was 1600cc, and this one started life with a 1300cc unit, whereas it now has a 2276cc engine built by Brothers VW in California. This car was imported from the home of surf culture two years ago and has always been stored in a heated garage since that time.

The owner assures us it has never seen rain, and that it is registered in the UK with the numberplate VAM 607D – the V5 comes with the car.

On the Outside

This is a US spec car so it has a sliding steel sunroof, something VW didn’t feel the British climate warranted (we can’t really argue with them).

This is an unfinished project, so there is still work to do on the car, although the vast majority of the heavy lifting has been done. The custom paint job is a fresh application of Sunrise Orange, perfect for brightening up those cooler than California summer mornings, and it looks lovely with only a few minor imperfections & small micro-blisters.

The plastic seal between the rear wings and the body tub doesn’t look as though it’s been fully fitted in place, but the wings simply bolt on so this won’t be a problem for a DiY mechanic or professional workshop. The important thing is that the paint finish itself is excellent.

As you’ll have noticed, the car sits a tad lower than a standard Beetle, and in fact has a full air-ride kit suspension kit fitted front and rear. Ride height is all controlled from the cabin.

The front wheels are stock solid steel items, while at the rear there are banded solid steel versions – considerably wider than standard and sporting a fair amount of negative camber.

On the Inside

There’s work to do in here as the seats are clearly in the same state they were before the car was restored, and need recovering. However, parts availability for these air-cooled VWs is second to none, so the only problem you’ll have when fitting out the cabin is choosing the trim style from the hundreds of variants on the market, the full seats come with the car & just need a retrim.

There are some trim panels with the car – we spotted a door card and two inner rear panels. The dash is, of course, sorted as it’s simply painted in body colour. We love a steel dash.


This is where things get really interesting. Along with the air suspension system, it’s the engine and transmission that make this a very special Beetle. The impressive spec is as follows.

2276cc Type 1 motor – Built by Brothers VW in California.

AS41 case, stroker crank cleared and full flowed.

82mmm stroke forged crank.

Forged H beam conrods.

MST serpentine pulley.

Italian 48 IDA carbs on ported and polished intakes.

Brothers heads with 42x37.5mm valves.

CB Magnaspark 2 ignition.

Electric fuel pump.

External oil cooler and fan.

Pro-Street transmission with chromoly sway-away axles.

Kennedy Stage 1 clutch plate and new disc.

History Highlights

Little is known of the Beetle’s pre restomod life, but to be honest with a car like this it’s of little importance anyway, as this is a radically different proposition to a standard 1300cc 1966 VW.

What We Think

If you fancy a bit of a project (and the vendors tells us that everything you need to complete the project is with the car) and the idea of a Beetle that can leave hot hatches standing appeals, you’ve come to the right place. The engine spec alone will have cost someone many thousands, and with the modified transmission and air suspension, this car has the makings of something very special.

On top of that, it’s been built using a shell that hasn’t suffered the ravages of a British winter – a major bonus. Surf’s up, dude – a with a bit of work, you’ll be the first in the water if you travel in this.

Our estimate for this car Is £11,000 - £15,000.

Viewing is always encouraged, and this particular car is located with us at The Market HQ near Abingdon; we are open weekdays 9am-5pm, to arrange an appointment please use the Contact Seller button at the top of the listing. Feel free to ask any questions or make observations in the comments section below, or try our ‘Frequently Asked Questions’.

If needed, Footman James classic car insurance and Classic Concierge offer storage options plus we have a list of contacts who can help with transport and shipping.  

BORING, but IMPORTANT: Please note that whilst we at The Market always aim to offer the most descriptive and transparent auction listings available, we cannot claim they are perfect analyses of any of the vehicles for sale. We offer far greater opportunity for bidders to view, or arrange inspections for each vehicle thoroughly prior to bidding than traditional auctions, and we never stop encouraging bidders to take advantage of this. We do take a good look at those vehicles which are delivered to our premises for sale, but this only results in our unbiased personal observations, not those of a qualified inspector or other professional, or the result of a long test drive.

Also, localised paint repairs are common with collectable and classic cars and if they have been professionally carried out then they may be impossible to detect, even if we see the car in person. So, unless we state otherwise, please assume that any vehicle could have had remedial bodywork at some point in its life.

Additionally, please note that most of the videos on our site have been recorded using simple cameras which often result in 'average' sound quality; in particular, engines and exhausts notes can sound a little different to how they are in reality.

Please note that this is sold as seen and that, as is normal for used goods bought at auction, return policy does not apply. See our FAQs for more info, and feel free to inspect any vehicle as much as you wish.

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  • Location: The Market HQ, Abingdon, United Kingdom
  • Seller Type: Private
  • Chassis Number: 116207936
  • Engine: 2276
  • Gearbox: manual
  • Steering position: LHD
  • Colour: Yellow
  • Interior: Blue
  • Estimated Price: £11,000 - £15,000

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