Five Reasons to Drive a “Super” Beetle
Photography by: Andrew Holliday, Brendan McAleer, Andrew Snucins, and Dave Hord
Rare? Hardly—the Volkswagen Type 1 is nearly as numerous as the Coleptera order from which they take their nickname, Beetle. A ubiquitous feature of the motoring landscape of the ’60s and ’70s, these curvy-carapaced creatures survived well into the modern age, and are still a common sight around the world.
To invest time and energy into preserving or restoring a car intended as cheap mass-transportation seems faintly ridiculous. With all the gently rusting metal awaiting rescue in the barns of the world, why chase after a machine that’s already cluttering up museums and car-shows around the world?
Unique it may not be, but the Beetle nevertheless has a singular appeal. Here, Canadian Dave Hord’s rally-spec 1971 VW Super Beetle 1302S tribute—previously featured on this site—shows us just how special the humble people’s car can be.
#1: The Beetle comes with its own mythology
Hardly anybody isn’t already familiar with the Type-1’s dark, Nazi origin story, its shift from shell-game propaganda ploy, to wartime survivor, to unlikely hero of the counter-culture movement.
But delve a little deeper and there’s a near-endless well of stories to be told, from the first knock-down-kits assembled in Ballsbridge, Dublin, to the lunatic, twin-engined 400hp endurance racer driven by Emerson Fittipaldi in South America. Hord’s car is a tribute to one such side-branch of the Volkswagen mythos, the Salzburg Rally Beetles campaigned by Porsche Austria in the early 1970s.
#2: The Beetle is a canvas
Like the ’32 Ford Coupe, the Beetle attracts creative minds who turn them into everything: from art cars to hotrods. Hord’s machine leans toward the latter, and is a mix of period-correct pieces and modern air-cooled know-how. It’s the result of years of planning—and a notebook filled with the scribbled ingredients of a recipe for something amazing.
#3: The Beetle has character
Dave’s car is not quite perfect; if you ask him, he’s already drawn up a mental picture of what he’d do differently next time. However, there are no plans to strip a single thing off this tribute car. Its collection of imperfections gives it a quirky temperament that requires mastery. There are many Beetles out there, but none like this one.
#4: It can be really fast
With a professionally-built 2.1L flat-four cranking out 150hp, swappable suspension for rally or tarmac, and the dogleg five-speed out of a contemporary Porsche 911, Hord’s rally-Bug goes like a ball-bearing out of a slingshot. It’s a raucous cacophony of rear-engined raw combustion, and with a judicious dab of left-foot braking, it wriggles through the corners with glee.
#5: You don’t need to explain it
Over multiple decades of production, the Beetle touched many lives; even before Herbie showed up, people loved the Love Bug. Everyone has at least one Beetle story: a college friend who had one, riding around in the back of a car belonging to an eccentric aunt, or a chassis that’s been mouldering away in Dad’s garage for ages.
People who don’t get cars can’t help but smile when they see a Beetle, even if they couldn’t tell an oval window from a split. It’s a cultural touchstone, and that joyous air-cooled raspberry needs no translation.