CC Outtake: 1971 VW Cabriolet – Can I Take It Hiking?

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There’s a healthy number of air-cooled VW Beetles on the road here, including a few convertibles. But this doubly air-cooled Super Beetle caught my eye, as it’s rather surprisingly rough for a cabrio. They’ve always been much rarer and worth a whole lot more, so they’re almost inevitably in quite nice shape or better. Not this one. And I’ve rather taken a shine to it, as it fits into my plans.

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I’ve always had a soft spot for these soft top VDubs. They’re even more old-fashioned and anachronistic than a regular Beetle. In a way, I’m a bit surprised that Porsche even decided to build one at the beginning. Well, did he?

VW 1938 hitler -01

In all of the descriptions of the VW’s early development, there was always only talk of the sedan. But at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Wolsburg KdF factory, there was a cabriolet prototype on display along with a regular sedan and a sunroof sedan. Not surprisingly, the cabrio is the one that Hitler got into (with Porsche looking on proudly), and was later driven around in (Hitler loved cars but didn’t drive).

No cabrio KdF wagens were ever built. Likely the prototype was to show off the possibilities as well as to please Hitler, as he did like open cars.


VW hebmuller _prototype

After the war, several coach builders were interested in making VW cabrios, including Karmann and Hebmuller. Those two were chosen have them build the official VW cabriolets, and suitable strengthening of the platform frame, as well as many other structural changes, were part of the joint program. production on both began in 1949. Hebmuller’s (above) was a two-seat version, and Karmann the four-seater. After a fire ravaged Hebmuller’s  plant, production become more difficult, and eventually unprofitable, and ended in 1953.

VW 1948 Beetle cabrio Karmann

That left the field to Karmann, which built the last Cabrio in January of 1980. Quite a run.

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The VW Cabrio was always quite a bit more expensive than the sedan, the premium running some 20-30%. The thickly-padded top was unlike the typical convertible tops on American cars, with its 2.5 inches of insulation and full headliner.

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Of course, it had no where to go when folded, except to block the view to the rear, if you were short. It was part of the pre-war charm.

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This is a first year (1971) Super Beetle, identifiable by its big, fat nose. Later Supers also got a rounded windshield. The Super Beetle sedan only lasted through 1975, as the remaining sedans reverted to regular Beetle style. But the convertible coninued to be built on the Super Beetle chassis through 1979, which meant that VW was making it only for the Karmann cabrios in those last few years.

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I’ve long wanted a VW Cabrio ( a non-Super, though), as it would just about be the perfect vintage car for how we use a vehicle on weekends: to get to our favorite trailheads, which involve scenic two-lane highways followed by miles of gravel US Forest service roads. A convertible would be perfect for enjoying the scenery to its fullest, but who wants to subject a Mercedes 280SL to that kind of abuse? A slightly ratty VW Cabrio would be just the ticket. No need to even close the top while hiking either. Or worry about getting stuck.