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Super Beetle Buyer's Guide
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EverettB Premium Member
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 23, 2004 4:39 pm    Post subject: Super Beetle Buyer's Guide Reply with quote

Thanks to Joe Garcia (79SuperVert) for contributing this article to TheSamba.com!

Super Beetle Buyer's Guide

What is a Super Beetle?

The Super Beetle is an improved version of the standard Beetle, introduced by Volkswagen in 1971. The Beetle convertible after 1970 was based on the Super Beetle. The standard Beetle sedan continued to be sold in the US alongside the Super Beetle sedan. The Super Beetle sedan was also known as the 1302 sedan until 1973, when it became the 1303 sedan.

The improvements featured in the Super Beetle included a flat trunk floor, flat placement of the spare tire in a recessed well, and a relocated and reshaped gas tank, resulting in a phenomenal 86% increase in trunk space. These changes were made possible by the adoption of a MacPherson strut suspension in the front instead of the traditional Beetle torsion bar suspension. This suspension vastly improved the ride quality. In 1973 the Super also received a new curved windshield which increased the amount of space between the front seat occupants and the windshield, thus increasing the sensation of roominess in the cabin. In 1975 rack and pinion steering was introduced to the Super, making its steering more precise and responsive.

The Super Beetle sedan ceased US sales after 1975. Standard Beetle sedans continued to be available in the US through 1977. From the front door pillars back, the Super and the Standard Beetles received the same improvements each year, including engine, transmission, rear suspension and body component changes.

Are Super Beetles worth more than Standard Beetles?

Generally speaking, early Beetles are worth more than later Beetles. Among enthusiasts, Supers are almost always worth less than Standard Beetles in the same condition. However, the general public cannot usually distinguish between the two and so in the general market the difference in worth will be smaller or non-existent. Special editions, of which there were quite a few based on the Super platform, can add some value if the equipment is original and in good condition.

What is special about a Super?

Supers handle very well. They have a smaller turning radius, more precise steering, a better ride, and a longer wheelbase (3 inches), all due to the MacPherson strut suspension. They have much more trunk space. However, they weigh about 155 – 160 pounds more than a Standard, and so they will not accelerate as well as a Standard with the same drivetrain.

The other unique feature of Supers is that they came in many special editions to try to stimulate flagging sales in the 70’s. Among them were the Baja Bug, Sun Bug, Sports Bug, Love Bug, Fun Bug, LaGrande Bug, Champagne Edition, several European editions such as the Jeans Bug, City Bug, Winter Bug and Big Bug, and two special convertible editions, the Triple White (exterior, interior and top color) and the Epilog (Triple Black). These special editions were usually cosmetic, including unique paint, lettering, decals and interior trim, although some also came with special wheels. Details of these special editions can be found in many VW books, for example, “Volkswagen Beetles, Buses and Beyond” by James M. Flammang, Krause Publications, 1996, among others.

Do Supers have special problems?

Supers use many components, especially forward of the doors, that are different from Standards. For instance: front inner and outer fenders; trunk lid; windshield (from 1973 on); steering; front suspension; apron and trunk floor. In addition the floor pan has an additional structural member welded to the front of the pan to accommodate the different steering and suspension. Because these parts are unique to Supers, and there were far fewer Supers made than Standards, they are not as easy to find nor as cheap as they are for Standards. It is also expensive and difficult to convert a Super to a Standard and is usually not worthwhile to do so. Such a conversion would also significantly lessen the value of the car.

Another problem unique to Supers is that their front suspensions are very sensitive to wear of their components, giving rise to a shimmy in the front wheels and steering around 50-60 mph. There are numerous components to the front suspension that can cause the shimmies, and it sometimes requires replacement of numerous bushings, ball joints, linkages and even the struts before the”Super shimmies” are eliminated. You are very likely to encounter this problem if you own a Super for several years unless the previous owner replaced all the parts already. It is important that you test drive a Super at highway speeds so that if it suffers from the shimmies you can incorporate an estimate for repairing that into your offer to the seller. Plan on spending as much as it would cost to replace similar components on a modern day compact car.

The final major problem in a Super is that unlike Standards but like most modern cars, part of the body is used for the front suspension: the tops of the struts are bolted to the inner fenders. Thus, a Super floor pan is not totally independent of the body the way a Standard floor pan is. This can be a safety problem if the inner fenders rust extensively, because the front struts depend on those sections for support. In addition to all the other places to check for rust on a Beetle, pay special attention to the inner fender areas and trunk area near the tops of the struts. If rust is severe in those areas the car may not be safe to drive.

How can you tell a Super apart from a Standard?

The surest sign of a Super is behind the front wheels, where you will see a big coil spring. Standards have no visible springs at all in the front. Other signs of Supers are: a bigger and wider trunk lid (at the front it seems to bulge above the bumper); a flat trunk floor; a spare tire sitting flat in a recessed well in the floor; a windshield washer reservoir located on the passenger side of the trunk, unlike Standards which have it on the driver’s side; a flat gas tank only a few inches high and located very close to the windshield, unlike a Standard’s which is vertical and close to the front of the car; a spare tire jack located under the rear seat behind the battery, unlike Standards which have it in the trunk.

From 1973 on, all Supers also have a protruding, rounded windshield and a shortened trunk lid without the VW emblem near the windshield. Many Supers of all years, but not all, have a row of vertical slots in the front apron under the bumper. These slots were intended to channel cooling air to the air conditioner condenser coils which were located behind the front apron. However, A/C was optional and so some Supers were delivered without the slots.

Should I buy a Super instead of a Standard?

For practical use, Supers are best because of their extra space and better ride (when properly maintained), while still retaining most of the classic look and feel of a Beetle, especially for the general public. They drive well in modern traffic where good high speed handling is important. They are cheaper to buy than Standards because they are not as old.

Parts are readily available for most of a Super from the front door pillars back, because production of Standards continued in other parts of the world up to 2003 and Supers share parts with Standards from the front door pillars back. However, front parts for a Super will probably be harder to find because Supers were not produced outside Germany in any appreciable numbers, and were only produced for a total of about 8 years. Buying a Super will also require a little additional caution on the part of the buyer, to test drive the car at highway speeds to check for the shimmies, and to inspect the tops of the inner fenders for rust around the struts.

For the classic car enthusiast, Standards are better to buy, the earlier the better. Standards are more favored in car enthusiast circles and so a pristine Standard will generally elicit more “oohs” and “ahs” than a Super at car shows (although Supers usually have their own classes at the bigger shows). Enthusiasts generally feel that a Super looks inflated and awkward compared to a Standard. Supers are sometimes referred to as “Fat Chicks” for this reason. As a result of this bias, Standards will command higher prices among enthusiasts and collectors.

Consequently, Standards are more expensive to buy because of their higher value, and original or NOS (“New Old Stock”, meaning new, original, and never used) parts for them are more expensive. However, because more parts are interchangeable among various years of Standards, you can probably find more used parts that will fit a given Standard than you will for a Super.


Additional Super Beetle Resources

Websites:
http://www.Superbeetles.com
http://www.superbeetlesonly.com/

Books:
Essential VW Beetle Cabriolet by Keith Seume, Bay View Books LTD, 1996
Volkswagen Beetles, Buses and Beyond by James M. Flammang, Krause Publications, 1996
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jheil
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 24, 2004 1:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Very nice, Joe. I learned some things I didn't know (like the difference in turning radius).

Is this a swan song for the girl you just dumped?
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 25, 2004 10:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great article! I love my "fat chick" and your attention to detail, in the article, I hope, will make more people interested in these great cars.

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79SuperVert
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 19, 2004 1:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wow. I just stumbled across this. I didn't know they had posted the article. It was fun writing it. I'm glad you guys found it interesting.
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PC
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 26, 2004 9:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I thought it would be appropriate to mention that super beetle convertibles were available until 1979 in the US.

Also, starting in 1975 Volkswagen, beetles shipped to the US were fuel injected.
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 26, 2004 11:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Good points to add. Maybe Jen could edit the first paragraph to reflect that. Thanks.
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 06, 2004 6:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

PC wrote:
I thought it would be appropriate to mention that super beetle convertibles were available until 1979 in the US.

Also, starting in 1975 Volkswagen, beetles shipped to the US were fuel injected.


Also, the dash board was bulged up around the instrument section.
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 22, 2004 2:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm very impressed I knew some of the things but I was inlightened by the turn radius also good article give you props Applause
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 29, 2004 1:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for writing that. I would have never known the difference. I have been looking EVERYWHERE for exactly what is contained in that article. Kudos! Very Happy
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 17, 2004 7:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nice article, a good introduction to the Super world!
I have found one little error in it, though:

Quote:
The other unique feature of Supers is that they came in many special editions to try to stimulate flagging sales in the 70’s. Among them were the Baja Bug, Sun Bug, Sports Bug, Love Bug, Fun Bug, LaGrande Bug, Champagne Edition, several European editions such as the Jeans Bug, City Bug, Winter Bug and Big Bug, and two special convertible editions, the Triple White (exterior, interior and top color) and the Epilog (Triple Black).


The European Jeans bug (manufactured in 73/74, I think) was not a Super. It was a standard 1200 with fancy colors (yellow and orange), black plastic instead of chrome all around and jeans upholstery. This special edition was meant for young people and in a way some sort of a trendy sparkäfer. Google tells me there are some pictures here: http://www.sebeetles.com/74jeans.htm

City and Big bugs were in the same "special edition"-style, shown by the black logo on the sides, but - quite correctly - based on the 1303 (Super) and with other distinct add-ons and colors. If I am not mistaken, the black line along the base of the doors was introduced as a design element with the Baja and Marathon editions of the 1302.
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 17, 2005 7:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

After reading this great article on supers, I went out and bought a 73 with only 80k miles on the odo. I found rust around the front strut wells from inside the trunk. I thought it wasnt that bad so I bought it despite the warning in the article. There's a steel bar attached to brackets going from one strut well to the other - is this an add on? Am I doomed? Or can the rust areas be repaired? On test drive it went 65 without any front end shimmy or vibration. Drive nice.
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 18, 2005 8:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've seen those bars installed on customized Golfs. They are an add-on supposedly designed to make the front end stiffer for hard driving. But they still depend on the structural integrity of the strut attachment points. If I were you I would treat the rusted areas pretty soon from both inside the trunk and underneath in the wheel well and hope they have sufficient thickness left to provide the necessary support. And unless you plan to rally the car I would take that bar off...just unnecessary weight for normal driving.

Otherwise, good luck with your Super!!
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 20, 2005 2:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

can anything be done to get rid of the shimmy-ever? 4 years ago, i had the control arm bushing, steering damper and L+R ball joints replaced. now its back and progressing quickly. do i just need to have these replaced every 4 years or...
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 20, 2005 7:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Number one is to make sure your front wheels are balanced and properly inflated. Otherwise, I went through a similar process where I replaced just about everything and the shimmy was diminished but never went away completely.
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 21, 2005 8:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

francescanewyork wrote:
can anything be done to get rid of the shimmy-ever? 4 years ago, i had the control arm bushing, steering damper and L+R ball joints replaced. now its back and progressing quickly. do i just need to have these replaced every 4 years or...

Was the idler bushing replaced?
That could be your problem.
Some info here.
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 11, 2005 11:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

a little update: i had the idler arm bushing replaced with a bronze on that was suggested in one of the links. i also had the center tie rod replaced, alignment done.
drove it on the freeway yesterday. it was soo smooth and shimmy free that it almost scared me (don't know why, just did Smile felt weird after years of compensating, i guess)...
if any one has been having this problem, try the bronze idler arm bushing.
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 17, 2005 6:59 pm    Post subject: Super Beetle Safety Reply with quote

Another small advantage of the Super Beetle is safety, not that any old Beetle is safe by today's standards.

The steering column in a Super Beetle is a three-section design, with the shaft coming out of the steering box offset to the shaft with the steering wheel. In a severe front end crash, the steering column will not be driven into the driver's chest the way the straight shaft in the regular Beetle would be (even though later Beetles have a collapsible section of the column to help in this regard.)

Also, the design of the luggage compartment in the Super Beetle is supposed to be more crashworthy than the regular Beetle. The additional front end length gives more "crush space", if nothing else.

Finally, the curved windshield on '73 and later Supers makes the interior seem more roomy, but makes it less likely to be smacked by a head in a front end collision.

Things to consider, especially if your teenage driver is hellbent on driving a Bug! Wink

Don
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 24, 2005 9:35 am    Post subject: super Reply with quote

A new guy says great article. I am dumb, i thought front turn signals were bigger on super
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 02, 2005 4:16 pm    Post subject: ENGINE!!! Reply with quote

Hey hello guys...
My name is MIke...and I am a BIG fan of this Web page. Finally I have the time to register...and to ask u a VERY VERY serious question,and I need answers quickly.
Ok here is the whole deal
I am planning to buy a Super Beetle. I have an 1972 Bug 1300J, but I've always wanted a Super Beetle.So I tested it today...and I was surprised.
I took more time to accelerate then the 1300...and when I was looking at the engine, when I pressed the gas it swirled...up and down...IS THIS swrilling a normal thing, I don't have "problem" in my other standard Bug.
SO My question, is this a bad engine and cannot be fixed or it can be fixed. Please answer me...I am on a dead line by tommorow ...I have to know this.
Btw...the Super has 38000 miles on it, first paint...it has rust but...it is not something big...THERE is work to be done on it.
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79SuperVert
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 02, 2005 8:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

"Swirling?" I don't know what that means but if the engine is moving a lot when you give it gas it could mean the tranny mounts are bad. That's not real hard to fix although the engine has to come out to replace them. I don't know if the Super weighs much more than the Standard but poor acceleration could be caused by the motor being out of tune. Is it a bad engine? You would have to do a compression check on it and drive it around a while at various speeds to see how it runs. As good as this site is, nobody can give you a remote diagnosis of the engine. If you haven't checked this car out thoroughly I would take my time even if you lose the car because Supers are easier to find than Standards at a given price. Unless you're getting the car for nothing.
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