1958 Volkswagen: Green Is Good!

Most of you fine folks probably know me for my ever-present, ever-consistent positive posts on various and sundry 1950s to 1980s Cadillacs, Lincolns, Oldsmobile Ninety-Eights, Buick Electras and Mercury Marquis Broughams. It is indeed true that I have a serious soft spot for those land yachts, with their Broughamtastic power options, Sierra grained leather or crushed cranberry red velour, landau tops, opera lamps, opera windows and heraldic crests, but believe it or not, I do like other cars. Really!

Volkswagen 00

I’m not going to delve too deeply into VW’s history in the ’50s, or in the Beetle in particular. You all know the story. In the early 1950s VW sent Ben Pon to the US to get some import sales moving. It was a pretty dismal failure. Even that import dealer genius, Max Hoffman, gave it a shot, sold about 2,000 VWs and was dumped by VW. But then magic happened.

Despite its dated platform and negligable performance, the VW took off after Wolfsburg set up a U.S. headquarters in New Jersey. People started buying them, word got around that they were robust and well assembled, sales snowballed, and the rest is history.

Volkswagen 02

Yep, despite having an approximately 20 year old design as the Sixties approached, with running boards-running boards, for Pete’s sake!-VW was on a roll, in Europe, in the U.S., and in many other countries.

Volkswagen 03

By 1958-59, despite looking remarkably similar to its late-1930s iteration, many changes had been made. Heinz Nordhoff, VW’s chief at the time, had decided that regular improvements were necessary, but there should be no change simply for the sake of change. So the cars themselves did not look drastically different.

Volkswagen 04

But despite its resemblance to the prewar Kdf-Wagen, the 1959 Volkswagen sported many improvements. In the United States, MSRP for a Beetle sedan was $1545. The Karmann convertible, a much flossier model with fully insulated top and plusher interior, set you back $2045.

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All those invisible changes were there though, for those who thought to look or read the dealer brochure. Among the various and sundry upgrades were larger rear window and windshield for better visibility, widened brake drums and shoes for improved stopping power and a revised engine lid.

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Today’s featured cool old car was spotted on Arsenal Island in July of 2014 by yours truly. I believe it is a 1959 model, but a Euro-spec variant, as the fender-top turn signal lamps were absent. This car still had the semaphore style turn signals housed in the B-pillars.

I was visiting the very cool Arsenal Museum at the time, and the VW just happened to be parked in the same lot. I had my mother’s 1995 Jag XJS out for a run, and it was cool to see a fellow non-beige combover-type motor vehicle in the lot! The vintage luggage rack and period correct luggage were a happy bonus. Brougham, VW or otherwise, old cars are cool. And fun! Remember, don’t drive boring!

11 Replies to “1958 Volkswagen: Green Is Good!”

  1. DougD

    Nice find Tom. I am pleased by the color, and limited amount of patina on the interior. Not a fan of the currently fashionable roofrack and vintage luggage, but I am clearly in the minority amongst VW fans in this respect.

    Performance of my 40hp 1963 is adequate in town and truly negligible at highway speeds. Men in pickups give me the thumbs up for driving a cool car, women in large SUV’s give me the finger for being slow.

    Reply
  2. ArBee

    Green is indeed good, especially on Beetles! My ’68 sedan was Delta (dark) Green, and served me faithfully for nine years. Lots of fun, easy to work on, and a delight to drive in the snow.

    Reply
  3. -Nate

    Nice ~ I too like the pastel colors VW used way back when .

    IIRC, the 1958 Beetle also had a one year only ash tray design that made it difficult to save your snuffed ciggies for later .

    Very few survive .

    -Nate

    Reply
  4. Jeff Zekas

    Hi Tom, I owned a ’58 Bug back in high school. No gas gauge, but there was a reserve lever on the floor! Oh, and there was a dipstick in the trunk, which you’d stick down the gas filler opening to measure how full the tank was… lots of fun, but SLOW!

    Reply
  5. stingray65

    Great car and nice pictures, but how can a 1959 car featuring 4 wheel independent suspension, 4 speed all synchromesh gearbox, a light alloy air-cooled OHV engine, some attention to aerodynamics, and terrific build quality be a dated design? Most of the broughams you have featured of late did not match this level of engineering sophistication even 20 years later.

    Reply
  6. Rick T.

    Spent many Indiana winter mornings 69-71 riding shotgun and doing ice scraper duty on the way to high school. Good times.

    Reply
  7. JustPassinThru

    Don’t drive boring! What’s “boring” changes with the time. Gremlins were boring, back in the day. Pacers, more so. Now they’re antistatus attention-getters.

    Over at another site, the owner, whose name rhymes with “wall,” commented on a high-school girl driving a Volare-based Gran Fury to school. The mid-1980s type, whose only new-model customers were police departments, government agencies, and old people.

    And Wall upbraided me for not understanding the “ironic” nature of “hipsters.” He was right. I can’t get past hipsters’ BO and bad taste in grooming.

    But, this. I had a Super Beetle as my first car…and I remember, in those years, the marvel that a car, obsolete when introduced into the US market, continued on for 28 years. But…that’s not uncommon in our time, now. The New Beetle had almost that long a run – longer when you include the new New Beetle. The Jeep SJ Wagoneer had a longer run; and the CJ…different name and trims, but the chassis of the CJ7 was almost interchangeable with the YJ and only slightly modded to the TJ.

    IMHO, what launched the Type I VW was the exercrable quality of Detroit products from about 1954, on to the mid-1970s. Auto-purchase pioneers bought the funny KdF-wagen and found the quality high. Those opinion-leaders made it fashionable and a statement of discernment in purchase. Aside from its wild obsolescence, it represented a good value, and people lived with it, well into the Interstate age.

    Reply
    • Tom KlockauTom Klockau Post author

      I think about 500 Government Agency Beige Volares were blown up on The A-Team.

      I remember when hip meant trendy. Now it’s camouflage for poor hygiene and a useless degree.

      Reply

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