A Brief History of the Late Bug
Millions of people around the world are aware of the basic history of the how Volkswagen, and the car later to be known as the Beetle came to be in the years preceding World War II. This alone is an indication of the huge popularity of the car whose shape, it has been said is the once car in the world that everyone can identify and whose shape is as unique as the Coke bottle.1
It serves no useful purpose here to detail the history of the Beetle prior to the 1968 model year as there are many excellent books and internet articles covering this in great detail, and let's face it; if you are reading this then you probably know at least the basic history already!
Whilst the Beetle has retained the same basic shape since as early as the 1930s there have been many changes over the years, some obvious to most and other changes that can only be spotted by the eye of an enthusiast. Changes prior to August 1967 are not of relevance here so we will consider only the changes made then in preparation for the 1968 model year.
The Major Changes
The 1968 model year Beetle is arguably the model with the most significant changes made throughout the history of the Beetle. The visual appearance changed dramatically with the introduction of shorter bonnets and engine hatches, along with the same upright headlights used on Type 3 models, and in Type 2 models subsequent to 1968. Larger bumpers were fitted, along with larger rear lights,which was to satisfy the ever increasing safety requirements, especially in the United States rather than being a change influenced only by aesthetic appearance.
The suspension was the same ball joint front suspension and swing axle rear as used since the 1965 model was launched. However, the suspension which has since been widely described as IRS (independent rear suspension) was introduced in the clutchless Semi-Auto model launched at the same time. The rear suspension system consisted here of a double jointed driveshaft on each side of the gearbox with semi-trailing arms. This is a far superior design with regard to handling as the angle of the wheel with respect to the road surface is far more constant than with the older swing-axle design with single jointed driveshafts. Unfortunately this suspension was only fitted on semi-automatic models when combined with the torsion bar front suspension, however it was utilised in the 1302 and 1303 model Beetles launched in 1970 and 1972 respectively. In the USA, it was possible to order manual Beetles with IRS rear suspension, despite this being unavailable as an option in Europe.
The brakes and hubs were also changed, with the wheels being fastened on with 4 bolts rather than 5 and the hubs were significantley smaller in diameter. Front disc brakes were fitted to 1500 models, being the same as those fitted to the 1967 1500 models outside of the United States. At the same time, a dual circuit braking system was introduced which was a huge improvement in regards to safety. The dual circuit system allows for 2 largely independent braking systems so if there is a break caused by a leak in the lines controlling the front brakes, the rear brakes would still function unlike with the earlier single circuit system. Despite the obvious safety advantages this system was not common to all models of the Beetle until the 1970 model year when they were introduced on the cheaper 1200 model.
The Major Changes
A full year by year guide to the minor changes made in models subsequent to 1968 can be found by clicking on the link to the right of this.
© LateBug.com, February 2009 - Please advise of any inaccuracies!
1. VW Beetle Custom Handbook, Keith Seume, Bay View Books Limited, 1993, p6.
|Last Updated on Sunday, 15 February 2009 21:15|