The People’s Car. Then and Now.

James Kraus

JK - 1 (49)

Wolfsburg Crest, 1962 Volkswagen

On Sunday, the Auto Universum Board of Governors attended the Greystone Mansion Concours d’Elegance in Beverly Hills. This grand affair entailed a $120 admittance fee and boasted a splendid field including a Ferrari 250 SWB, a pair of 300 SLs, a Porsche 356 America Roadster, Alfa 6C 2500, Bugatti Type 57, 1930 V16 Cadillac and many other pedigreed swells.  

With apologies to Frank Costanza, this annual Beverly Hills extravaganza is not just a Concours, it’s a d’Elegance. In addition to unlimited nourishment, soft drinks, Stella Artois pilsner and AsomBroso El Platino margaritas, tickets entitled holders to vote for their favourite entry.

Given the upscale clientele and impressive field, what do you suppose took home the 2016 People’s Choice trophy? A 1962 Volkswagen Beetle mein freund.

That’s right, the humble Beetle won out over The Usual Suspects. A simple, honest, brilliantly designed automobile conceived in Germany eighty years ago to be a car of der volks, i.e., Volkswagen. And the volks loved it. People of all ages and economic strata drove Beetles. Paul Newman drove them.

JK - 1 (50)

1962 Volkswagen Deluxe Sedan

The VW in this case was an original, unrestored, unmolested example beautifully presented in its original Beryl Green enamel with correct Olive Green running boards and wheel centres. The interior was upholstered in Soft Beige vinyl with Olive and Nepal Green accents and Brown square-weave carpet.

This wonderful colour palette was indicative of the detail quality that VW built into the Beetle in the 1960s. The rims of the two-tone wheels were painted to complement the exterior colour, while the centres were finished to coordinate with the interior. The Beetle was an inexpensive car, but not a cheap car.

It was a well-deserved win and compelling demonstration that a car possessing character and personality can prevail over lavish expense and gratuitous horsepower. Rarity of course helps and unfortunately, original unmolested Beetles are about as rare today as a Ferrari 250 GTO.

A great victory for The People’s Car, bestowed by the people, and a good opportunity to recall that the Beetle also garnered a distinguished 4th Place in the Car of the Century competition in 1999.


9 thoughts on “The People’s Car. Then and Now.

  1. It is great to see a Beetle like this, just as the day it left the factory. Too many are running around now defaced with unsightly roof racks and bizarre, non-original two-tone paint schemes.

    • The unfortunate two-tone paint fad causes me to recall a VW advertisement circa 1961:

      The opening sentence reads: We would no sooner make an over-chromed two-tone Volkswagen than we’d change the classic Beetle shape.

      True to their word, they never did produce a two-tone Beetle.

      • Instead of being snobbish about it one could embrace the fact that a lot of these two toned, roof rack wearing “abominations” were rescued from scrap heaps and brought back to life. Not everyone can find a survivor, just clean it up and enjoy it for what it is.

        • I don’t believe Herr Flat was being snobby as you put it, purist maybe.

          I have to agree with him that two-toning is especially incongruous with what the Beetle stood for. The VW was all about simplicity. About emphasizing craftsmanship and quality over ostentation. In the U.S. particularly, many VWs were sold in the 1950s just for that reason. A sizable segment of the public was not enamored by two and three-toned chrome-bedecked chariots, and chose to instead embrace the alternative minimalist aesthetic of the VW Beetle.

          It was VW themselves (well, VWoA) that stated Never to two-tone paintwork. Never! Nein!

          As to rescuing a scrapyard dweller, certainly a commendable endeavor; it takes more work, more expense and more effort to add luggage racks and two tone paint than not.

      • Wrong! Many Hebmullers and pre-1955 Karmann convertibles sported two-tone paint from the factory.

        • The two models you mention were exclusive coachbuilt editions, assembled and painted at Hebmüller and Karmann respectively. They were two-toned at a factory, not The Factory. Costing significantly more than the Beetle, they were certainly not basic “Cars of the People,” and one could say they were entitled to a bit of “bling.”

          The VW factory never two-toned a Beetle, not even on the metallic gold 1 Millionth Special produced in 1955. Two-toning a Beetle Sedan was verboten!

          And yes; I am aware that the British and Australian importers sometimes added two-tone paint, just like some importers, concessionaires and dealerships often add pinstripes, aero kits, matte-wraps and other geegaws to cars today, beyond the purview of the original manufacturer.

  2. I was wondering if you were planning to go this event. I know you have a thing for Beetles, so naturally you were well pleased with the surprise winner. It is always refreshing to read the latest from Auto Universum.

  3. I am the proud owner of a 1967 original Beetle. I intend to do a “sympathetic restoration”, leaving the bumps and bruises in place and focusing on restoration of the mechanics. It really just needs new brakes and tires at this point. But every time I look out my window and see it it takes me back. Sometimes I just sit in it and have a beer and smell those smells.

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