WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Avoid a dud dub
Resistance to rust isn’t a strong point, so careful checks are needed. Bolt-on wings ensure those are easy to replace, but pay particular attention to the boot and bonnet lids, the doors, the rear quarter panels and inner wings, and the rain gutters. Corrosion also hits the screen surrounds and the bottom of the A-pillars, both of which can be tricky to repair if things have gone too far, and it’s worth ensuring that the bumpers are securely attached as the mounting points rot away. Scrutinise the sills, floorpan and bulkhead too.
Oil leaks tend to come from the rocker cover gaskets and crankshaft oil seal, the latter signified by drips between the engine and gearbox which will require gearbox removal to remedy, while noticeable movement at the crank pulley (try pulling it back and forth) means excessive crankshaft end float and an imminent rebuild. Oil changes every 3000 miles will do it the power of good, so look for signs of neglected maintenance, while lumpy running can be caused by perished hoses, an ignition or fuel system past its past, or valve gear in need of an overhaul.
Overheating will quickly ruin an otherwise sound engine, so look for cooling flaps that are seized or corroded and make sure that the thermostat hasn’t failed or been removed. The tin ware surrounding the unit is important in controlling air flow so make it’s not damaged or missing altogether, while corroded heat exchangers can allow fumes into the cabin with dangerous consequences, so check them carefully.
Transmission wise, the four-speeder can suffer from worn synchromesh and bearings, so check for any nasty noises or jumping out of gear on the overrun, while difficulty selecting gears can just be a worn linkage which is easy to sort. Removing and overhauling the air-cooled motor is a simple task for the DIY-er, so don’t be put off by an engine needing work especially if the bodywork is sound.
Hold your suspense
The suspension is a simple arrangement of telescopic dampers and torsion bar springs, and needs checking for rot around the mounting points and general wear and sagging. Overhauling the drum brakes is cheap and easy, but check the steering for excessive play between the steering wheel and idler arm; the steering box might not have any adjustment left either.
Perished window rubbers will contribute to a dissolving floor, and ensure all the electrics are functioning as they should be. Old wiring and amateur modifications are potential issues, while the Beetle switched to 12-volt electrics in 1967 and earlier cars may have been converted.