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Volkswagen: 1978 Super Beetle Convertible, full time job, modern cars


Question

Engine
Dear Ron,

I am meeting with a man to look at his 1978 Super Beetle convertible that is
for sale. It has a little over 8k miles on it and he said the engine was replaced
about 4-5 years ago. He stated the car ran great with no problem to his
knowledge but I want to make an educated decision. I need a car that is
reliable and not one that will constantly need costly repairs being that Im a
student with a full-time job. What are some things I should look for and ask
about? The car was  appraised at 9,800, what does that say about the
integrity of the car? The engine is air cooled, it has factory air conditioning.

Thanks in advance for any advice you've got.

Answer
Lindsey,
  The first thing you should know, although the engine looks very clean, it was not only replaced, but it is not the original type.  All US 1975-79 Super Beetles were fuel injected, not carbureted as in the picture.  In fact this carb setup is not even VW (Weber I believe).  So if originality is important to you, you'll have to knock this one down a notch.
 On the other hand, a vintage classic such as the VW Beetle, with the almost infinite styles and mods that have been created over 50 odd years, this may only be of concern to a serious collector.  

 Another consideration is maintenance.  Sorry, but air cooled VWs do take somewhat more TLC, it comes with the privilege of owning a 30+ year old car.  The good news, you can do it all yourself, and with a little experience, do it pretty easily.  Besides there is a certain satisfaction about being in control, instead of the local dealership.  In addition, parts are a dime a dozen in comparison to modern cars, and there is tons of resources and experience you can tap into to help you keep it alive and well.  

 Now, a suggested check list to determine the relative value:
- How complete is it?
- How well does it start, idle and run?  No hesitation when stepping on it?
- Does it smoke a lot when starting or continuously?
- Does it leak excessively(almost all air cooled engines do somewhat)?
- Does it shift well?  
- Does the clutch feel tight, no slipping?
- Is there excessive play in the steering?
- Any loud/strange rattles?
- How is the body work?
- How good are the brakes?
- How is the interior, seats, carpet, dash, knobs, levers, etc..?
- Do all the bells and whistles work (lights, wipers, etc...)
- How is the convertible top?  Try taking it down and back up again.

Now the biggest issue - RUST.  Too much rust really kills the value quickly because the costs of fixing this properly can quickly surpass any return on your money that can be expected.  Look very closely in front of the lower door pillars, just behind the front fenders; along the running boards and just in front of the rear fenders.  It is common for the heater channels to rust from the inside out, and the first indication is bubbling paint in these areas.  Also look at the floor pans(under the carpet) and especially under the rear seat where the battery sits.  One other problem is rust around the windshield rubber seal.

Finally, I suggest you check out the classifieds on www.thesamba.com.  If you filter by 68-up, type 1 and convertibles, you'll find over 100 to compare with.  This should give you a good feel for prices.
- Rick


PS.  I forgot to mention, the A/C is a very nice addition and ups the value, as long as it's modern.  The original VW compressors put too much load on the engine.  The newer after-market units with R134 are more efficient and less drain on your pedal power.  See: http://www.iceac.com/Articles/install_ac/index1.html
- Rick