I’ve always been a fan of the Volkswagen Beetle, even before I was really even a car enthusiast — whatever that is.
The point is, it seems just about everyone is a fan of older VWs; car people, old people, young people, environmentalists, anarchists, techies… Whoever you are, however you identify, whatever you’re into, you probably wouldn’t say no to an old school Volkswagen. Eighty years on, the legacy of the Type 1 is alive and well.
So what makes these simple, ever-present, and quirky cars so timeless?
If you think I have an answer to that question, I don’t. Just like people, old Volkswagens are complex and dynamic creatures. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to owning one, either, and that’s where my mind has been wandering as I look back on these photos from Old School Imports Hawaii’s impromptu meet from last winter.
I won’t pretend to have a deep involvement or a true understanding of the VW community, but from the outside looking in, it seems that a group present in all other automotive circles is missing here: the purist. Sure, there are those one-off examples — like the 800-mile Bahama Blue ’77 that Seinfeld recently purchased — that have been, and will continue to be preserved.
But whenever I’ve seen an group of Beetle owners together in one place with their cars, I can’t say I’ve ever seen a completely stock Type 1. Yet, looking at nearly any other make or model, it seems there is always a group that’s hell-bent on preserving them.
Let’s look at the extremes for a moment: Classic Ferraris, rare Porsches, Jaguars, and the like; there’s sort of a singular ‘accepted’ way to modify these cars, if you do at all. Moving down the spectrum, the American muscle car is an interesting group to consider. Some folks like ‘em stock, others go all-out on the modifications, and everyone gets along. You go to a car show, and you see a smattering of examples of Mustangs, Corvettes, and more in every imaginable guise.
But when it comes to the Beetle, anything and everything is fair game to just about everyone. It is as if it’s actually a requirement that you put a personal spin on yours, and I love that.
This goes back decades and decades, helped by the fact that the Beetle never was an expensive car — that was the whole point, in fact. The widespread availability of the chassis just fueled the fire when the ‘California Look’ caught on as early as the ’60s and the cool outlaw-esque West Coast vibes became synonymous with the little cars.
Most aesthetics die a hard death, but not the ‘Cal Look’ one. And the Beetle certainly hasn’t, either. A car that will forever be seen in parking lots across the world, scrapping the ground, souped up, safari-style, wearing primer, rusted out, restored, rolling on Porsche wheels, with funky seats, a flower vase on the dashboard, or whatever suits your fancy.
A bit wonderful, isn’t it?
Trevor Yale Ryan
Additional Photos by Sara Ryan