Although 95% of humanity equates Volkswagen’s existence pre-1974 with the Beetle (the other 5% are intrepid enough to recall the Type 2, or Bus, undoubtedly through a haze of acid trips and marijuana smoke), the reality is that Volkswagen actually offered more than just their tiny rear-engined runabout for public consumption. Like this: the Type 3. More frequently seen in its squareback, station-wagon-esque format, the Volkswagen Type 3 debuted in 1961 as the predecessor to what would become the first generation Passat. Slightly larger than the Beetle and subsequently offering a substantial increase in both passenger and cargo space, the Type 3 retained the famous Volkswagen rear-engined, rear-wheel drive layout made famous by the Beetle, but possessed a larger 1500cc engine (enlarged to 1600cc in ’65) and could be had in four distinct body styles throughout its run, ranging from a small notchback coupé to a flowing sports coupé (better known as a Karmann Ghia here in North America), to squared-off two-door wagon known in the North American market as a squareback, to a flowing fastback coupé body unveiled in 1965. Although relatively popular in Europe, the Type 3 struggled to get a foothold in North America, with the notchback model specifically having trouble finding buyers over its sportier, and more practical siblings.
Which is precisely what makes this one so alluring. Having been produced in 1969, this Type 3 is of a particularly good vintage, coming out one year before Volkswagen muddled the design with a refresh in 1970, but after the adoption of the larger 1600cc engine and front disc brakes in ’66. Of course, being a Volkswagen engine, there’s absolutely no shortage of parts and aftermarket supplies available for it, and it’s entirely reasonable to expect the little four cylinder to keep chugging away for years to come. Sadly, bodywork is a different story, and the rarity of the Type 3 notchback will undoubtedly make any future repairs or parts replacements a bit… er… challenging. That said, Volkswagen owners aren’t so much fanatical about the brand quite so much as they worship it as a surrogate religion, so there’s undoubtedly quite a strong support network of individuals that would be happy to keep an automotive oddity like this on the road! Being a Volkswagen, the maintenance and running order of the drivetrain should take a very, very distant second place to ascertaining the solidity of the bodywork, so bring along your best Bondo-tapping knuckle and/or magnet collection before inspecting this little VW. But given the price point, and the crazy following classic Volkswagen’s enjoy, don’t be surprised if this one goes quick. As always, click on the blue text up top to go to the ad and contact the seller.
There are few vehicles on earth with the cool factor of the Volkswagen Thing. Based on the old Kubelwagon military vehicle, the Thing was the byproduct of a few different Volkswagen assemblies. Borrowing the engine and transmission from the Type 1, the Thing’s unique sheetmetal started with the floorplan of a Karmann Ghia (due to the Ghia’s greater width) and the rear swing axle from the then-discontinued Type 1 Transporter van. However, being a 1974, this particular example should be riding on a double-jointed axles mounted to semi-trailing arms; a setup similar to that found in US-spec Beetles of the same era. A vehicle I’ve actually had the pleasure of driving, operating a Volkswagen Thing is remarkably fun. Like something located between a go-cart and a classic Land Rover, what they lack in power they make up for in exuberance.
This being the second Volkswagen in a row for the blog, it almost feels as if I’m repeating myself when I warn of rust, but the reality is that there’s no such thing as a classic VW that’s out of the rusty woods. And when it comes to the Thing, too much rot can be a very bad thing thanks to their relatively uncommon body panels. It doesn’t help that the once-cheap Thing has a long history of abuse, as previous owners tested the bizarre vehicles’ limits off road. And even if there isn’t much rot, any potential owner needs to be aware of the car’s caveats. Being based upon a military vehicle, even the best examples can be a little rough around the edges. The ride isn’t the smoothest, and things like keeping out the weather seems to have not been one of VW’s priorities with the flimsy windshield, doors, and roof… but, the flip side of that equation is an almost undying love to surviving. And as far as value goes, it’s one of the best values on the used car market, being one of those cars in which the cool factor is hugely disproportional to its price. And as they get older, one can expect the prices to only go up.
But, there is one glaring problem with VW Transporter ownership: rust. Combine the ridiculously large interior cavity of a van with the dubious steel quality of a late-70’s German automobile and you get one of the most rust-prone vehicles on Earth. Due to these van’s spacious construction, there remains a lot of cavities and holes in the bodywork where dirt and moisture can lay dormant for literally decades, slowly working on the thin paint to turn the lower corners of the body into dust. But there is good news: with the exception of the rust issue, they can be pretty reliable vehicles with absolutely excellent parts support. And as far as classic car communities go, it’s hard to beat the sense of fraternity enjoyed by the Volkswagen Tribe.