I’ve been running into a number of very interesting air-cooled VWs of late. Must be the summer temperatures that draw them out of their garages. This one was caught out in the “wilderness” of the Meiji Jingu park, which is one of my new Sunday haunts and is already paying dividends: my first curbside split window Beetle!
There is something utterly irresistible, to a Tatra aficionado such as yours truly, about these early Beetles. From this angle, the dorsal fin is virtually outlined in sharpie.
The unadulterated ‘30s shape and primordial detailing (those tiny taillights, the semaphores on the B-pillar, etc.) was a delight to behold in the light of day. The person who drove it, seeing my interest in his steed, greeted me. Unusually, this person was not only glad I was there (that’s why folks go on this street on Sundays, after all), but spoke very good English.
This was not his car, but a friend’s – he owned another ancient bug that was out of commission at the time, so he borrowed this one for a Sunday stroll. The body is 1949, but the chassis is from 1961, which explained the funny feeling I had that something didn’t quite add up.
I had seen a 1955 Beetle on the street the day before that looked 100% stock and noticed how spindly these old bugs looked, perched on their narrow 16-inch tyres. This one was markedly lower, so the 1200 chassis thing was not too big a surprise. Makes sense from a user-friendly point of view, as well – hydraulic brakes, synchronized gears, bigger engine and all that. Driving a truly stock ’49 Type 1 must be somewhat taxing.
Not enough of a Beetle connoisseur to evaluate the interior, e.g. dials, seat fabrics and so on, for their originality. But that steering wheel certainly looks the part.
The conundrum is the license plate. I forgot to ask the driver about it, stupidly, but this is an old “single number” plate (pre-1970). I’m just not sure whether it belonged to the 1949 bit of the equation or the 1961 side of things. Probably the latter, if I had to guess. This beetle’s chassis would have been sold here new in 1961, then.
But that rear end just screams 1939. Yes, this particular one was made in 1949, but nothing really changed from the very first ones and nothing gets this streamline maniac’s juices flowing like the simplicity and purity of an early Beetle body. Even one being transported by way of a ’61 chassis.