Reader Submissions: This VW Type 3 is a Car You Didn't Know You Wanted

This VW Type 3 is a Car You Didn’t Know You Wanted

By Petrolicious Productions
March 5, 2014

Owner: Alex Hemmer

Year, Make, and Model: 1971 VW Type 3

Location: Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Photographer: Gerard “Mikee” Laugesen

I learned to drive on my dad’s VW Superbug which we still have, but I was never that interested in aircooled Volkswagens. Beetles weren’t the type of car a seventeen year old wanted to be seen in, around my area. My first car was a VW Golf GTi Mk2 that I still regret selling. It was fast and fun, but had a litany of electrical glitches and I sold it in favor of buying a bigger car to suit my six-foot-seven-inch (about two meter) frame, a Holden VL Commodore (a rare 5speed manual with a Nissan 3L 6 cylinder) but that wasn’t my scene.

The bug really bit when I saw my first VW Type 3. I didn’t even know they existed; I had to ask my dad what it was. From that moment I had to have one. When I saw this one for sale I hadn’t even looked at any other cars, I just took a deep breath and dove in.

I have had this Type 3 for six years since I bid and won it, sight unseen, on eBay for the very reasonable sum of $1300. It was in fairly original condition at the time with next to no rust. The price was practically theft and I think the seller resented the sale a bit. It included receipts dating back to the early ‘80s. It was running, registered in Victoria, and we drove the car 1000km (~600mi) back to Sydney the day I bought it.

The car is painted the original Shantung Yellow, which is a single-year only color for VW. Notchbacks are relatively rare amongst Type 3’s with many Australian notchbacks ending up in the US where they were never offered for sale.

After bringing the car back to Sydney I immediately set about getting some port-a-wall inserts fitted and lowering the car a few inches all round. Aside from polishing and cleaning it up, I did basically nothing to it for 2 years other than drive it every day. It’s been a genuine daily driver its entire life. There were a few small areas of rust showing when I bought the car that worsened during my ownership so I decided to show some respect to the car by dealing with the rust.

With my local mechanic’s help, we cut out the rot around the tops of the fenders and near the rear window. Once the windows were out, one thing led to another and we ended up replacing every rubber and chrome window strip, installing new headlining and a new TMI interior. I had planned on just painting the areas that were repaired, but instead we went for a full respray. After painting the car I babied it around a bit, trying not to leave it out in the rain or take it to shopping centers where it might get scratched but it only took a few months to get over this phase and the car went back to daily driver status. The car is not a show car and the paint is showing signs of wear, but I like it that way; every stone chip and minor scratch is kind of a badge of honor.

Driving it every day meant that the engine would inevitably require an overhaul. I knew that eventually the piston rings would go and I would have to spend a few dollars so I bought a set of 40mm Weber carburetors (again on eBay) and fitted them to the original 1600 motor. The carbs were just too big but I didn’t care, the sound was addictive. I knew that the way I drove the car with those Webers meant that the engine overhaul would need to come sooner rather than later.

After a particularly spirited drive through Kangaroo Valley just south of Sydney, it became evident that it was time for a rebuild. I stripped the engine and sent the case away to be acid dipped, crack tested, tunnel bored, and enlarged out to accept larger 1776cc pistons and barrels (I needed more CC’s under those carbs).

The stock crank was tested and we found that it had so little wear that it was still within factory tolerances (Type 3 engines are notoriously long-lived) so the stock crank was retained. The stock con-rods were only very slightly worn so they were bored and straightened, ready for service again. We re-assembled the bottom end with an Engle 110 cam, new bearings, cam followers, hi performance oil pump, etc. The top end consists of Bugpack StreetPro heads with larger ports, valves etc. The idea was to build a reliable daily driver engine with a focus on bottom end torque and drivability. It would have been easy to go wild, but then the drivability would suffer and as we all know, the car becomes a bottomless money-sucking pit. I did a lot of the work myself in my parent’s garage. The combination of the extractor exhaust and those 40mm Webers needs to be heard, it’s unreal. The Notch sounds even better than it looks.

Old cars need to be driven but somehow people are amazed that I use this car as a day-to-day commuter. I always think, someone used this car everyday in the 70’s and the roads are better now than then, so why can’t I drive it every day? Life is too short to drive boring cars. It’s only uncomfortable when the temperature gets over 35 degrees C and the vinyl seats mean you arrive drenched in sweat, but that is only a few weeks of the year so I can put up with it. The rest of the year the car is comfortable and bulletproof reliable.

There is much more to talk about but I’ll leave it at that for now.

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3 years ago

I absolutely LOVE your car.. Especially that Shantung YELLOW !!! I WANT ONE !!!..
Never realized the Type 3’s rarity in the USA until recently.. Growing up in the 70s in Portland, OR, a family down the street had a Black 50’s Beetle, a Green type 3 squareback, and a Red Fastback… The father rebuilt the beetles engine several times in their garage/shop I recall.. I can’t even think of the last Type 3 I’ve actually seen in person….. I’m going to start a hunt for a Notchback now….

Paul McCool
Paul McCool
4 years ago

I’ve owned three Type 3s, all Squarebacks, and enjoyed them all, but a Notchback was the one VW I always wanted but never was able to get.

James Clark
James Clark
7 years ago

Great read! I owned a ’72 Type 3 hatchback, which I bought new, and a pre-owned, low-mileage fastback in the 1980s. I used both as daily drivers, including long-distance trips of several hundred miles with four passengers and luggage. I’ve always thought the front-end design of this evolution was very attractive and your car proves that it has survived the test of time. Except for the need for A/C in Texas heat, I’d love to have another one, today. Hmmmmmm.

7 years ago


LE Scott
LE Scott
7 years ago

Great car and great pics. You can’t beat the looks of a type 3, they still have perfect proportions even after 50 years. I had a pair of square backs 40 years ago in Texas, loved those cars except when driving in the heat. But I always wanted a notchback they were so rare even then.
Thanks for the great pics Alex

Peter N
Peter N(@peten)
7 years ago

Fantastic car. And hey I love the location shots!
Galston Gorge is a much loved stretch of road amongst the locals. It’s getting a bit busy now-a-days, however every so often you can achieve an uninterrupted run which puts a massive grin on your face.:)

Ryan Hoyle
Ryan Hoyle(@drweelan)
7 years ago

Wow, you’re right! I didn’t know but I totally do want one of those! What a great looking car!

Emanuel Costa
Emanuel Costa(@genovevo)
7 years ago

Is that a bottle opener next to the glove box? If so, Nice!

Alex Hemmer
Alex Hemmer(@alexh)
7 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel Costa

Damn straight. Its the bottle opener from a VW mk5 Golf GTi centre console.

Stafford Wilson
Stafford Wilson(@fastback)
7 years ago

Great read and great car. For some more Aussie type 3 goodness have a browse at or

7 years ago

Wow. Nicely done!
Love all the pictures…especially the one of the disassembled engine. That was a nice touch!
I’ve been a huge VW fan my whole driving career. This was a nice informative article on the Type 3. I learned a lot about this not so readily seen model.
From the pics, the car looks almost mint. That’s amazing considering it’s a daily driver.
I agree about the cars are meant to be driven and enjoyed.
Well done Petrolicious.

Johnny Breinholt
Johnny Breinholt(@officina590gt)
7 years ago

Only one thing to say; RESPECT VW TYPE 3 DRIVERS !!

john tolle
john tolle(@runner)
7 years ago

Nicely done mods for driving and looks. Are all the accessories VW? E.g. Wicker tray under dash, headlight stone guards, etc. Plus, does it have exhaust cut outs?

Alex Hemmer
Alex Hemmer(@alexh)
7 years ago
Reply to  john tolle

Yeah the stone guards are original VW and the wicker tray is a reproduction of an original accessory part. The exhaust existed on the left and has a larger cutout to suit the stock muffler. VW stamped the rear apron with what look like the should have been cutouts if you fitted a beetle exhaust but I’m not 100\% sure why they are there.

Dustin Rittle
Dustin Rittle(@mosler)
7 years ago

WOW tons of great pics and i really dig the color of it too. The type 3 always seemed to me like the next gen of beetle in way because it retained the air cooled engine and rear engine rear wheel drive layout as the car plus it wasn’t much bigger in size either. The type 3 also reminded me alot of the Chevy Corvair both cars had air cooled engines in the rear and both cars came with a few different body styles you could choose from. After reading and seeing this article i really kinda want one now ..thanks petrolicious!