Breeze Beetle CLASSIC ORIGINAL VWS – #1976
It’s been a long time – nearly 40 years, in fact – since we saw a 1200 Beetle in a busy VW showroom, until we headed down to Breeze Volkswagen in Poole, on ‘Back to the Future day’… Neil Birkitt reports / #Volkswagen-Beetle-1200
It was purely coincidence, of course, but there was something of an element of time travel in the air as I headed south to Poole in Dorset on Tuesday October 21 – Chris Evans on Radio 2 was promoting ‘Back to the Future’ day, and pride of place in Breeze Volkswagen’s Tower Park showroom had been allocated to a 1976 1200 Beetle that almost looked as if it had been in a time warp for nearly 40 years…
We don’t often cover the classic air-cooled VWs in the pages of #Volkswagen
Driver; not because we aren’t interested – far from it – but because there are already several magazines specialising in the classic cars, and we usually have our hands full featuring all the new models.
But, like me, there must be many regular readers old enough to have fond memories of the original air-cooled models as a significant part of their motoring careers. Our late publisher, Paul Harris, also began his motoring life with Beetles, and his original title from the Sixties, which eventually spawned Volkswagen Audi Car and Volkswagen Driver, started off as the #VWOC
Club Newsletter called Beetling. Personally, I learned to drive in my dad’s 1967 1300 Beetle, way back in 1977, and then tinkered about with it for the next eight years, as well as restoring and racing many other examples before finally getting involved with more modern machinery like Audi 80 Sports and Mk 3 GTI 16Vs. But only a few years ago did I sell my last Beetle, a 1967 1500. So, it was with a certain degree of intrigue and delight, not to mention a great deal of nostalgia, that I accepted an invitation from Breeze Volkswagen to view this very special 1976 VW 1200.
Now, there are plenty of old Beetles out and about still; some are original and very shabby, a very few are very well preserved because they’ve never really been used, some are expensively and fully restored to almost exceptional standard – in some cases to a far higher quality than they ever were made in the factory – and many are modified and customised to some degree.
But what is really special is to find an original car, still in standard specification, that has never had any significant restoration, but is still in very good condition despite having seen a useful service life, and even better if there is an extensive documented history from day 1. And that is what we have here…
This 1200 Beetle has covered over 60,000 miles and has had just two owners from new, who were neighbours. It is in extremely good condition, not quite concours or fully showworthy but for a car which has never been substantially restored or specially prepared, apart from some mechanical re-commissioning and a thorough clean and valeting, it is in exceptional original condition.
Andy Garrett, used vehicle buyer at Breeze Volkswagen, told me: ‘We were all very excited when we saw the car. It’s in remarkable condition with a fabulous heritage and was obviously cherished by its owners. It has been locked away in a garage for the last 14 years and structurally is in fabulous condition. Its last owner sadly passed away and his son-in-law brought it to Breeze Volkswagen on a trailer, as it hadn’t been started for many years. The brakes were seized on, all the old fuel lines were perished and the tank was rusty inside, but our workshop team soon took care of all that’.
I was able to have a chat with Richard Ireson, the Master Technician who’d taken on the task of re-commissioning the Beetle and he explained what had been done. Both the front and rear drum bakes were overhauled and new cylinders and hoses fitted, all the fuel lines were changed, the carburettor was cleaned out and the rusty fuel tank was replaced and fitted with a new filler cap. Along with many other serviceable items including a new set of plugs, points and distributor cap, it then started with the first turn of the key!’
Fortunately for the Beetle, Richard is one of the more senior technicians who actually knew how to deal with traditional technology like contact breaker points and rocker clearances, because the vast majority of the work in modern VW dealerships is very high-tech and involves computer diagnosis and guided faultfinding much more often than feeler gauges.
And, of course, the road test must have been a very unusual experience because even a late Seventies Beetle sounds and feels very much like a classic car, compared with the sophisticated handling and performance of a new model. The documents which came with the Beetle are very extensive indeed, and include the original service record and handbook stamped by Volkswagen, old tax discs, MoT certificates and a whole host of various bills and receipts. It even has the original receipt for the deposit of £50 made out by F.C. Purser Ltd of Old Kent Road in south-east London, as well as the finance agreement to cover the original purchase price of £2060.26.
The first owner, from June 17 1976, was Mr. William Martin King, aged 62 when he bought it, then living at Shortlands in Kent, although clearly he subsequently moved down to Lime Road, Dorchester in Dorset, with later references showing that most of the servicing throughout the years was carried out by Loders Garage of Dorchester.
Looking through the various invoices, it’s mostly routine stuff like oil changes and wiper blades, although it did need a new steering damper and some brake cylinders along the way. The service book is stamped up all the way up to the late Eighties, at which point the mileage is recorded as 47,735 although clearly there was a hiatus here, with the speedo changed at some point because it now shows 2048.5.
But, if it wasn’t for the service record, no-one would doubt that as the genuine mileage because the general condition is exceptional for an original unrestored car. I had plenty of time for a good look around the car and was astounded at its condition, considering that it is nearly 40 years old and has covered over 60,000 miles. Apart from a few small stone chips on the front of the bonnet and some tarnish on the chromework around the rear side windows there is very little wrong with it at all.
Showroom lights aren’t the best way to view paintwork, but there is evidence of some non-original paint on the front of the nearside front wing and a small touch-up on the passenger door, but apart from that the orange paintwork all seems to be original and in very good condition. Even the rubber sealing strips around the bonnet and engine lid apertures are all in very good condition with no sign of rust.
Possibly the only undesirable aspect is the set of 165-15 tyres that is fitted, clearly a budget brand that I’d never heard of, called Woosung, but searching through the invoices it seem that they were fitted on May 22, 2000 by Express Fit in London Road Dorchester, for the princely sum of £117 all inclusive of valves, fitting and balancing. Even now, they look almost brand-new, with all the tiny bobbles still intact, but we wouldn’t want to drive too far on any budget tyres, let alone 15-year-old ones, and anyone buying this Beetle would want to get it rolling on a new set of appropriate tyres.
Inside, the door shuts are all good, the headlining all sound and although the clothfronted seat covers are fine the inner stuffing has clearly gone brittle and crunchy. Oh, and the glovebox lid was rather reluctant to stay shut, but that probably just needs some adjustment to the rotary catch.
Much of the paperwork is now mounted inside a glass display and so I couldn’t examine it all closely, but the last MoT that was visible is dated May 26, 2000 and the tax disc in the windscreen expired at the end of November 2001, with the second owner a Mr. Anthony Barzilay, who lived in the same road in Dorchester recorded as registered keeper from May 18, 2001 – all consistent with it having been stood garaged for the last 14 years.
Marion Barzilay, wife of Anthony Barzilay, the late owner, said: ‘My earliest memories of the car were hearing from the first owners about their wonderful European trips in it and showing us their detailed journal enjoying the Volkswagen lifestyle. The bright orange Beetle featured in many of their photos alongside popular tourist attractions. The car has been a big part of our lives – if only it could talk!’
Indeed, this is one of those lovely old cars that is not only a real classic, but also in good original condition and with a huge amount of history, if not perhaps perfectly complete. You wouldn’t even want to change its tiny imperfections – the small stone chips and slightly tarnished window chrome etc – because they are representative of its history and originality.
What happens from here on is anyone’s guess; it would be nice to see the Beetle remain on display in the showroom as a talking point, among all the New Beetles that surround it, but showrooms are not museums – their purpose is to sell cars. Andy Garrett tells me that they’d had a classic Porsche enthusiast showing interest in it, and talking about a figure around £10,000. That’s actually the very number I’d hazarded a guess at earlier in the day when discussing the Beetle with Breeze Volkswagen Marketing Executive Laura Cook and Louise Williams, the Account Manager for Liz Lean PR, the company that looks after Breeze Volkswagen and who first brought the Beetle to our attention.
Suffice it to say that you’d have to travel a very long way and / or wait a very long while to find another Beetle quite like this, and you’d have to spend a lot more than that on a full restoration of a typical late Seventies Beetle. Certainly, this long-time Beetle enthusiast left the Breeze Volkswagen showroom sorely wishing I had £10,000 to spare.
Contact Breeze Volkswagen Yarrow Road, Tower Park Poole, Dorset, BH12 4QY Tel: 01202 713 000 www.breeze-volkswagen.co.uk
‘A talking point, among all the New Beetles that surround it...’
‘For a car which has never been substantially restored or specially prepared, it is in exceptional original condition...’