Used Car

En­gine: 1.2-liter OHV H4 Gear­box: 4-speed man­ual Power: 34hp @ 3,600rpm Torque: 84Nm @ 2,000rpm Es­ti­mated econ­omy: 8km/L (city); 12km/L+ (high­way) Price new: P500,000 (in­fla­tion-ad­justed) Price now: P50,000 to P350,000

Top Gear (Philippines) - - Contents -

How can you not be bit­ten by the Bug? Here’s what to look out for if you’re buy­ing one.

His­tory

As au­to­mo­tive play­things go, the Bee­tle is per­haps one of the most iconic. Dis­trib­uted and later as­sem­bled in Manila by Domingo M. Gue­vara Mo­tors as early as 1958-1959, it was the epit­ome of stylish and af­ford­able mo­tor­ing, out­selling Ja­panese and Amer­i­can com­peti­tors over the next two decades. But by 1981, crony pol­i­tics and un­fa­vor­able busi­ness con­di­tions forced DMG to shut­ter op­er­a­tions, right be­fore the lo­cal in­dus­try, as a whole, col­lapsed.

Thanks to their me­chan­i­cal sim­plic­ity and great pop­u­lar­ity, how­ever, many half-cen­tury-old Bee­tles are still in re­mark­ably good con­di­tion. Could there be one out there wait­ing for you?

Value and costs

Though rust­buck­ets with doc­u­men­ta­tion is­sues can be had for un­der P50,000, run­ning and reg­is­tered Bee­tles of­ten list be­tween P120,000 and P200,000. Fully re­stored show-qual­ity cars list at up to twice that.

It is im­por­tant to check for fire haz­ards such as frayed wiring and fuel hoses. Rust is also a crit­i­cal is­sue. Most Bugs have some rust, but you want to avoid units with com­pro­mised bulk­heads and floor­pans. Floor­pan rot, usu­ally start­ing at the bat­tery tray un­der the right rear seat, and rust in the lower door sills from the heater chan­nels, of­ten re­quire a te­dious frame-off restoration to fix.

Ex­te­rior and in­te­rior

Though the Bee­tle’s ba­sic de­sign has changed lit­tle over the years, styling dif­fer­ences can help you iden­tify a Bug’s vintage. Early ‘swing-axle’ Bugs have two-piece five-lug wheels, bug-eye head­lights, and oval tail­lamps, with match­ing li­cense-plate light hous­ing. The 1968 model in­tro­duced in­de­pen­dent rear sus­pen­sion, four-lug wheels, ver­ti­cal head­lamps, flat-bot­tomed ‘tomb­stone’ tail­lights, big­ger front and rear wind­screens, and a shorter en­gine cover.

The 1971 update brought the 1.6-liter Su­per Bee­tle (1302), whose wide trun­k­lid and fend­ers hid a new coil­sprung front sus­pen­sion. Dis­tinc­tive cres­cent-shaped rear-cabin vents and a ven­ti­lated en­gine cover dif­fer­en­ti­ated it from the stan­dard 1.2-liter Econo. In 1973, the Su­per Bee­tle (1303) gained a curved wind­screen, while the whole lineup, in­clud­ing the 1.3-liter Econo and the 1.5-liter 1300S, re­ceived the un­gainly ‘ele­phant foot’ tail­lamps.

Though spar­tan by mod­ern stan­dards, the in­te­rior fea­tures soft, springy seats and ex­cel­lent head- and legroom... ex­cept in the rear. Fac­tory seat­belts weren’t of­fered lo­cally, but they’re an easy—and nec­es­sary—retro­fit.

En­gine

The Bee­tle’s air-cooled, push-rod flat­four is re­fresh­ingly ba­sic. Oil changes in­volve sim­ply dump­ing the old oil, clean­ing the strainer (no oil fil­ter here), and putting new oil in both the sump and the oil-bath air cleaner (no air fil­ter, either).

While Su­per Bee­tles hit 100kph in un­der 20sec, 1.2-liter Stan­dards take a bur­bly-gur­gly half-minute to do the deed. Thank­fully, swap­ping heads, pis­tons or even en­tire en­gines and trans­mis­sions for more per­for­mance is rel­a­tively cheap. One of the more com­mon mods, how­ever, is the San­den-pow­ered air-con­di­tioner seen here—im­por­tant in Manila traf­fic!

Driv­ing im­pres­sions

Let’s be hon­est: Swing-axle Bee­tles, with their vague steer­ing, unas­sisted front drum brakes, and er­ratic rear cam­ber aren’t new­bie-friendly. Later cars, like this one, drive much bet­ter. The unas­sisted worm-gear steer­ing is still rather vague, and the brake pedal re­quires a strong push, but the light front end is de­light­fully re­spon­sive, and the in­de­pen­dent rear sus­pen­sion keeps the rear tires rea­son­ably planted even over rough roads.

Su­per Bee­tles are more sta­ble still, thanks to the MacPher­son-strut front sus­pen­sion. But Su­per Bugs tend to suf­fer from shimmy and un­even tire wear as the bush­ings wear out. It’s some­thing to re­ally look out for on the test drive.

Ver­dict

The Bee­tle of­fers nostal­gia, style, and ease of main­te­nance in an ex­tremely classy pack­age. While this car isn’t the quick­est or most com­fort­able clas­sic, the huge Bug com­mu­nity and near-end­less cus­tomiza­tion op­tions mean build­ing one spe­cific to your tastes and de­sires is eas­ier than with al­most any other car. It pays, how­ever, to do your re­search and to talk to lo­cal en­thu­si­asts be­fore tak­ing the plunge. Buy­ing a Bee­tle is a big com­mit­ment, no mat­ter how much or how lit­tle you plan to spend, and you will need to learn it foibles to keep it run­ning. Props to Joey Ro­cero for shar­ing his beloved car with us. For those like him bit­ten by the Bug fever, it is well worth the trou­ble.

Fuchs-style al­loys are a great way to make it pop

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