There are flat-4 devotees everywhere and Japan is just as crazy about classic Volkswagens as any place. Plenty of Beetles about, running the gamut from older cars to relatively more recent Mexican-made ones. Transporters are so iconic, there is an entire local industry dedicated to turning kei vans into VW-branded T2-lookalikes. Karmann-Ghias are also seen prancing about on occasion. One of the least common rear-engined Volkswagens in these parts is the Type 3.
Well, everything should be put into perspective. I haven’t seen a Thing, a Type 4, a Beetle cabriolet or a Brasilia in Tokyo yet, so there are some Beetle derivatives that are even rarer than the Type 3. But they made 2.5 million Type 3s from 1961 to 1973, so it was quite a popular car in its day. And there are so many Beetle derivatives that it would be difficult to catch ‘em all, Pokémon-style.
No idea if the Type 3 was popular in Japan, but I would guess not. The ‘60s were tough times for small foreign-made family cars in this market. Domestic marques dominated the field, which was far from level-playing. They still do today, but one does encounter smaller foreign cars (e.g. VW, Peugeot, Mini, Fiat) regularly, whereas judging from period photos, this was far from the case half a century ago.
So I’m guessing most of the classic Volkswagens I’m seeing around here were imported at a later stage. It’s probably the case with this 1500 S of the Notchback variety. This one probably came over from Europe, as these weren’t really sold in the US, though Canada did get them, apparently.
The twin-carb 1500 “S” version arrived in late 1963 and lasted only a couple of years, until the 1600 supplanted it. Question is: what does this Tokyo car have in its pointy tail? The stock 54hp flat-4, or some bigger / more recent variation thereof? I have no idea, but the rest of the car looked about as stock as these get. Pity my phone camera was not cooperating that day, but the interior looked just as neat as the rest.
Type 3s are routinely subject to various mods – just like any old VW. The only thing that jumped out at me were these fog lamps, which I was not familiar with. According to a quick bout of web surfing, these appear to be Bosch lamps made specifically for the Type 3, but rarely seen in situ because of the way they are mounted.
According to Paul N., who knows much more about these than I will ever do, something like 95% of Type 3s have been modified with souped up engines, lowered suspensions and the like. Is this one of the 5% that made it to the 21st Century more or less intact?
Curbside Classic: 1964 Volkswagen 1500 (Type 3) “Notchback” – Three Is A Magic Number, by T87
CC Capsule: VW 1500 Type 3 Notchback – A Few Notches Short, by PN
Vintage C&D Road Research Report: 1964 VW 1500 S (Type 3) – The Beetle Grows Up, For Better or For Worse, by PN
Vintage 1964 C&D Feature: The Volkswagen 1500 (Type3) Story – Forbidden Fruit in the US for VW Lovers, by PN
This is the first time I’ve seen Type 3 with body-mounted fog lamps. Really beautiful!
In the 1960s and 1970s, the fog lamps that weren’t integrated into the headlamps (i.e. Mercedes-Benz W 114/W 115, NSU Ro80, BMW New Class Coupé, etc.) are usually anchored to the bumpers.
Never seen those full wheel covers before. Pretty. Factory or JC Whitney?
Aftermarket. But they didn’t have JC Whitney in Germany in 1965.
According to Paul N., who knows much more about these than I will ever do, something like 95% of Type 3s have been modified with souped up engines, lowered suspensions and the like.
Wow; I really said that? I had to go back and look, and I guess I did make a throw-away comment that applied to the engines. Unless they’ve had engine upgrades, which realistically 95% of them have.
Yes, that’s what I call a “throw-away” comment. I have no way to realistically assess what percentage of Type 3s have had engine upgrades or not. I certainly wouldn’t have expected another poster to take that as god’s gospel truth, and title their post questioning if it this one was one of that 5%.
I’m really not very comfortable being held to a very subjective opinion like that. How could I possibly know what percent have had their engines upgraded?
The reality is that something like that is very hard to pin down. Undoubtedly some percent of these were spared the very common upgrades and customization. Exactly what percent, I have no idea. So this car could well be a 6 percenter, or 9 percenter, or 17 percenter, or 23 percenter…
I’ve never seen one with the Bosch fog lamps and those wheel trim rings are period after-market period pieces too.
On the other hand, my guess on the odds of it being an original import in 1965 is below 1%.
No worries, Paul. I just took your throwaway remark and turned it into a throwaway title for my post. Curbside recycling at its finest… 🙂
I don’t recall seeing a single one of these in the US during the ’70s, although the ones we called square-backs and the fastbacks were regular sights in places where imports were popular.
The US did get type 3 notchbacks but they are very rare and sought after here. Very nice find!
The Type 3 notchback sedan was never officially sold in the US by VWoA. A fair number were sold here unoffically, by importing them from Canada.
The Type 3 wasn’t sold at all officially in the US for its first few years, because VW knew it could never meet the demand until they finished building the new factory (Emden, IIRC) for it to greatly expand production. So in those first few years, VW lovers arranged to buy them from Canada, some directly, some through independent brokers and some through VW dealers, who weren’t actually supposed to do that. Many of those were notchbacks.
When the type 3 finally came to the US in 1966, it was only the squareback and fastback.
Some folks also imported notches from Germany, back then and in more recent years.
Really? Ok, good to know! Been many moons since I left the crowd at the Samba and stopped learning.
I had a brief ride in an almost identical down to the color notch in Albuquerque in 2009. Very nice car.
A very rare find, indeed! My memories to VW 1500 are not the best ones.
My granddad had one from new – just for a year. The car was more in the workshop than on the road. My dad had one – just half a year, with lots of trouble, too. Most VW dealers were unable to properly synchronize the two carbs. All I heard: It takes the double amount of fuel than the beetle but it is almost as slow!
My neighbor had a square back. Switching to the Dasher/Passat station wagon was more than just an improvement, he said.
Alternative universe, automotive division. These were quite common in Australia back in the mid-sixties. Then the Japanese brands came along, offering VW-style reliability but without the VW’s mechanical quirks and foibles. They were cheaper too. Exit just about everyone else, including VW.
Which makes it ironic that this car is in Tokyo.
My cousin had a Type 3 fastback, which seemed a lot more modern than the Beetle Mom drove. A little quieter and rode a little better.
I’ve never seen a Notch in real life. Even the Fastback and Squareback have long vanished here.
I had one, a ’64, that I found outside of a barn (can I still call it a ‘barn find?’) in Hartsel, CO (of all places) in 1989. It didn’t have those bitchen’ foglamps but did have a factory sunroof, pop-out rear side glass and a push button dash and was 99% rust free, but had some minor body damage and a cheap paint job – almost a match to the original color- same as the one pictured here). I moved twice, ended up in WNY and got it road worthy but left it mostly original- and not ‘restored’- and tagged and insured it in 1995, Loads of fun to drive despite the sketchy characteristics of a swing axle but I hit a rough patch financially and sold it in 1996 to a guy from the Carolinas for ten times what I originally paid for it, thus more or less breaking even on the deal.
I sincerely hope they’re easier to restore these days regardless of what it may cost but back then some critical parts like window seals and sunroof parts were unobtanium, and restoring the brake system was a challenge, as I recall. Converting it to 12 volts was an essential upgrade. It wasn’t pretty when I sold it, but it was very reliable and ran real nice with those twin carbs and single port heads! That was the last time i had to periodically set the valves, points and timing on a vehicle-other than the ’71 T2 I was also driving at the time- until I bought a ’73 Honda CB 450 in 2008.
Living in Toronto, there were many Type 3s around. My aunt was in Germany with the Canadian Forces and had a 64 squareback with the twin carb engine (1500S). I think this one might have that engine, based on the “S” on the rear trunk handle (last photo). I always liked her squareback and in 1968 It was back in Canada and I was going to buy it from her as my first car. Unfortunately the engine seized on her and after repairing it she could not afford to buy a new car, so I had to look elsewhere. I don’t know if this was common, but my aunt was very much not a car person, so I always suspected a lack of maintenance.
A couple of years later at university my roommate had a notchback that was in sad shape. It was very cold in the winter until we discovered that the heating ducts ran through the rocker panels which had large holes in them. We stuffed some rags in them. There was still no heat, but at least there was no cold wind blowing on your feet. On the plus side it always started and never let us down, but it was probably structurally unsafe.
There was one running around Boulder back in the early-80s. It must have been a Canadian import. I had a 1500 wagon with a single sidedraft Solex. It wasn’t fast but it was usually reliable except under very specific weather conditions: when is was ~32°F and humid, the manifold would freeze up because the manifold heat pipes had rusted off where they connected to the exhaust.
That might have been my grandmother’s car. Dad sold it to someone who stopped and asked about it, after she passed. My parents lived in Golden.
This post made me jump a little – I had a ’66 Notchback in this color (minus the fancy driving lights) in L.A. between 1981 and 1983. It was the normal 1500, single carb model. I drove that car briskly all over L.A. and came to a have a real appreciation of its virtues. It never left me stranded, was easy to maneuver, park, insure and maintain, and because there was really not enough power to provoke it, I was never betrayed by the dreaded swing axle, as has been my experience in ’60s Mercedes and ’70s Porsches (there’s a reason the term ‘swing axle’ is always preceded by the adjective ‘dreaded’, and you can curse the ghost of Edmund Rumpler for that). It did, however, bite my wife one late night on Mulholland Drive when she rolled it – fortunately into the mountain side and not the canyon side. I went to see it at the junkyard, and it didn’t look all that bad – the windshield had blown out, and there were scrapes along the driver’s side – until I looked at it head-on and realized the whole greenhouse was tilted over to the right like an old row house in Amsterdam. Now, a nice one is $30,000 on one of the Dutch or German classics websites.
Check out Youtube for a least one video of several Notchbacks (among other vehicles) rolling over on one particular turn in the Nurburgring.(sp?) and at least one being flipped back on it’s wheels by race fans which they,for some reason, preferred spectating by that particular corner lol. I’m guessing the solid body structure bolted securely to the pan saved a lot of lives. Mine had only a lap belt which was better than nothing I guess…
I do recall reading about a mod for the VW swing axles that prevented them from jacking up too far- it apparently made for a very stable ride, relatively speaking. I can’t remember if it was a sway bar type thing or an actual strap that limited travel through the arc.
I can’t picture in my mid if I ever saw a Notchback when in Los Angeles, San Diego, or the Bay Area between 1966-1977. Squarebacks for sure, as I had one for a year, and the Fastback. I guess I am a contrarian in that both the Squareback and Fastback are the two Volkswagens that I like the most as opposed to the Beetle. Would still love to either one of them right now in a stick.
I saw one of these yesterday, one block from home in the neighborhood where Paul N. and I both live. When I was a kid my parents had a square back, in baby blue, and I did not know the notchback existed. Because tastes for sedans vs. hatchbacks fluctuate in different markets over time (such as the Jetta’s greater popularity than the Golf in the US), I suspect the notchback was hot in some places in the 60s and 70s. But where?
I haven’t seen it.
The notchback was never sold officially in the US. When VW started importing the Type 3 to the US in 1966, it was only the squareback and fastback. But they were sold starting in 1962 in Canada, and a fair number were brought in as gray imports, also from Germany too. But they were always fairly rare here.
The notchback and wagon were popular in Germany, the fastback not at all so.
I lived in Germany in the early 1970s, and my dad flew over on US Army official business, then took some vacation time so we could tour Bavaria together. We were visiting one of the castles when we were befriended by an American couple who invited us to join them for lunch. They followed us to a local Gasthaus and I noticed they had a new VW notchback with oval export license plates
I discovered they had taken European Delivery of their VW Type 3 1600 notchback after hearing it was being discontinued. They were touring around Germany so they could bring it back as a used car. They said the VW dealer explained it could not be sold new in America, but thru a loophole it could be ordered thru the dealer as a European delivery car.
They proudly said it was cheaper than buying a new one in Canada, because of the import taxes and shipping costs to Florida. Buying it in Germany almost paid for their travel costs.
I wonder now if there were other VW dealers savvy enough to figure this out. After all, that selling dealer got credit for the sale and collected the dealer’s $ payment.
Six or seven years ago I met a guy in Utah with a Passat with German WOB “Wolfsburg” plates on. I asked him whereabouts and he told me exactly the same story: Car bought in Germany, toured the Autobahn for four weeks and then he had it transported to LA, all organized by the VW dealer and really cheap.
One family on my suburban NY paper route in late ’60’s had one in this color.
A red Type 3 notch lived in the parking garage at the building where I worked in Vietnam in 2008ish.
It had a thick coating of dust and never moved. A colleague talked me out of trying to find the owner and make an offer. Fortunately.
It was the only classic I saw in Vietnam, other than Tractions Avant. Not counting Volgas, which were beaters, or museum pieces like Uncle Ho’s Peugeot 404 and Thich Quang Duc’s Austin Westminster.