The Classica Car Show will host a huge variety of Beetles, split-window Kombis, Karmann Ghias, Type 3 Squarebacks and Fastbacks, and perhaps an even wider array of Golfs from 08:00 to 16:00 on July 3 at the vast Nasrec facility situated just a few blocks away from Soccer City.
Classic Kombis make you think of packing in your job, loading up a sleeping bag or two and a couple of your closest friends, and heading out for who knows where. Nothing epitomises the carefree hippie lifestyle immortalised by the 1969 Woodstock Music Festival as much as an early split-window VW bus or van.
As for the VW Beetle, just about everyone who has grown up in South Africa has some connection to it, whether it has been a trip through the Karoo with the wind buffeting the little bug from side to side, or dousing a quick electrical fire caused by a short circuit from the battery located, weirdly, beneath the back seat!
With so many different varieties of Beetles, Kombis, Ghias and Golfs rolling in from 08:00, a quick VW spotters’ guide is in order.
The (original) VW Beetle, 1951 – 1979
• The split-window Beetle
The split-window Beetle was the first variant of the bug to be built in South Africa, staring in 1951. The split-window (unlike the Kombi of the same nickname, the Splittie) was located at the rear of the Beetles, and these variants were produced until the end of 1953. They are noted for very thin bumpers, usually without over-riders.
• The oval window Beetle
These were produced from 1954 to the end of 1957. The oval window at the back is tiny, and like the split-window Beetles, these are now very scarce and collectable. Some owners of later models actually faked the oval model by welding up the bigger aperture and inserting a small glass window. But genuine ovals have longer cooling slots beneath the window than the fakes.
• The 1958 Beetle
This was the first Beetle to get the bigger back window and the last Beetle to be fitted with those little indicator arms on the door frame, known as “trafficators”. Instead of a winking rear light, a little metal arm pops out to indicate the planned direction change coming up.
• The 1966 Beetle
The very early Beetles were fitted with 1100cc engines, and then, all Beetles were 1200ccs for a decade. But in 1966, the first 1300cc Beetles were built. These have a small “1300” badge on the engine lid, but still use the early rounded bumpers and small tail lights.
• The 1967 Beetle
For a short spell of about six months, the 1967 Beetles built in Uitenhage came out with disc brakes. You can recognise these models by their flat hubcaps and steel wheels with cooling slots. Later in 67, the disc brake spec was dropped (too expensive to build in SA) and the Beetle reverted to drum brakes for the rest of its model life.
• The 1968 Beetle
This came with new squared-off bumpers and a 1500cc engine. Many Beetle enthusiasts rate the 1500 engine as one of the best ever, superior to the later 1600. The 1968 front lights were also more upright than the earlier models.
• The 1600cc Beetle
This first appeared in 1970, and the first models had single-port engines. Later 1600 models had slightly more powerful twin-port engines. The 1300cc model was also still available in the 1970s, and in 1974 the big change came in the form of larger, bulbous tail lamps. These lamps actually became even bigger in the final years of the Beetle’s model life, which ended in January 1979. It had been in continuous production here for over 27 years!
• Special Beetle models
A notable special Beetle model produced here was the VW Beetle SP, a “hot” twin-carb version with 14-inch Rostyle wheels and stripes, and a special exhaust system. It was a bit quicker than the stock 1600 model.
Another was the so-called “Superbug” or S version produced here in 1975. These were the only South African-built versions to have a curved windscreen and a modern padded dashboard. The S had 15-inch Rostyle wheels.
There were also some cosmetic special models introduced here based on the stock 1600, such as the Jeans Bug, with denim upholstery, the Fun Bug, and the Lux Bug.
The Volkswagen Kombi
The original VW Kombi was first introduced here in 1955. This is the very collectable Kombi known as a “Splittie,” because of its split front windscreen. The Kombis were known internally in the Volkswagen Group as Type 2 models. Their engine size increased to 1500cc in the 1960s, but they were still extremely slow.
The second-generation Kombi was introduced here in 1968 and initially called the “Clipper.” This had a 1600cc engine, and was quite a bit bigger. Nowadays, these second-gen Kombis (and van and pickup variants) are known among enthusiasts as “Bay Window Kombis” because of the rounded shape of the windscreen. They came in bus, van and pickup form, including a double-cab pickup known affectionately as the “half-loaf”!
In the mid-1970s, a Splittie version of the Kombi was reintroduced, known as the Fleetline model. Most Splitties you see running around these days are of the later Fleetline variety.
The third generation VW bus or Kombi, the much more squared-off version, was introduced here in 1980 and stayed in production until the mid-1990s. It came in engine sizes varying from 1800cc to 2 500cc.
The Volkswagen Karmann Ghia
The Karmann Ghia was a Beetle with a sport-style body introduced in 1955. The first examples arrived here in about 1957 and these are known as “low-light” Ghias, because of a lower headlight height and smaller front air intake “nostrils”. These were all left-hand-drive models, and all Karmann Ghias were fully imported. In 1960, the first right-hand-drive Ghias became available. The following year, the Type 3 Karmann Ghia was introduced in Germany and a few found their way here, but not in large numbers. It is estimated that only about 500 Karmann Ghias were ever imported here between 1957 and 1974. They all have stock VW Beetle running gear.
The Volkswagen Type 3
This was the third distinct Volkswagen model to be produced and first appeared here in 1962 as the Volkswagen 1500. This came initially in a three-box design, and later station wagon models (known as Variants) were introduced and were very popular. A 1600 Fastback model was introduced in 1969, as well. Their engine design had a horizontally mounted fan, but was otherwise quite similar to the Beetle flat-four configuration. Many Type 3s came in twin carburettor form.
The Volkswagen Golf
The first Golfs appeared in South Africa in 1978, initially in 1100cc and 1300cc form. They were a bit problematic at first, with overheating problems, but soon became very popular. They came in two-door and four-door guise. The 1600 GTS model was the performance model in the early 1980s, until the advent of the first famous Mk I GTi 1800, which was introduced here in late 1982. In mid-1984, the Golf II was introduced, and the GTi that arrived in early 1985 model was extremely popular.
The Golf 3 came in the early 1990s, followed by the Golf 4 in the late 1990s. The next big breakthrough for the Golf came in 2005 in the form of the Golf 5 GTi, today considered an all-time classic.
In 1985, after the launch of the Golf II, Volkswagen made the decision to continue building the Mk I Golf in bright primary colours, and called it the Citi Golf. This model was hugely popular and stayed in production until 2009! A very collectable Citi Golf model is the GTi-engine CTi from the mid-1990s.
For more information on the Classic Car Show, contact Paulo Calisto on 060 524 3767 or visit www.classiccarshow.co.za.