Notched-up one of those personal automotive goals on the weekend — a drive in an original Beetle.
This immaculate 1977 Beetle 1200L is one of the dozen or so historics owned by VW’s UK importer and brought along to a drive day for the new Up and Beetle III.
In basic spec with a smooth 34bhp 1192cc flat-four and supple suspension, I really enjoyed wending my way along some English lanes at 40mph, enjoying direct, steering and feeling the unique cornering balance of the rear-engine.
When you relax back into a drive and don’t need to be somewhere at some pre-determined time, it’s amazing how 34bhp and 1100cc is all you need.
Like so many classics with narrow rubber — 5.60 x15 inch crossplies incidentally — and no power steering it’s also a wondrous thing to drive a light (862kg dry) car and see how engineers of their day delivered light rim weights and precision simultaneously.
Funny how long it can take to fulfil an automotive ambition like this. I remember making a mental note way back in 1998 at the launch of the Beetle II to get into an original Beetle after a conversation with Autocar’s then European editor, Peter Robinson, who’d grown up in Australia with the ruggedly-engineered vee-dub.
A price comparison is intriguing, too. VW says this Beetle was priced at £2626, whereas the new Up Move, with 59bhp, 999cc and 929kg retails at £8970.
A quick cruise around the internet suggests this might be equivalent to £12,700 today, based on the retail price index over the intervening 35 years. Which is an interesting perspective on what appear to be increasingly expensive new car prices.
The Up incidentally is a game-changer in a different way to the Beetle. It’s beautifully and solidly engineered and built, which makes it feels like great value-for-money. VW will surely sell a pile.
More significantly it heaps yet more pressure from Germany on French, Italian, Japanese and Korean car-makers, who haven’t had this sort of competition in the small car sector for a long while.
Anyway, given the chance of driving an everyday car from the past, of some historic significance, what would it be? 2CV, original Mini, Ford Model T, Fiat 500?