1968 VW Beetle Semi-Automatic

Guide Price: £9,000 - £12,000


∙Excellent paintwork following recent respray
∙Engine refurbished
∙Rare semi-automatic version

The Background

Volkswagen’s Beetle has an enduring appeal and while it’s hard to pinpoint exactly why it was such a success it’s hard to argue against a car that found over 20 million owners during a production run that lasted over 60 years. It’s an almost timeless design and one that’s stood the test of time very well and was equally at home cruising in California as it was pounding dirt tracks in South America.
For such a long-lived model there were of course a vast number of updates carried out over the years and the example we have here is one of the rarer offerings – a 1968 1500 semi-automatic. The Beetle had always been praised for its precise manual gearbox but in some markets there was a demand for an automatic version and in 1968 a three-speed torque converter auto was introduced. It was called the semi-automatic as unlike a conventional automatic where you’d just stick the lever in ‘D’ and forget about it, the Beetle had three gears – L, 1 and 2 – that were selected via a standard-looking Beetle gear lever. L was more or less just used for pulling away on inclines with 1 and 2 being the only two gears used in normal driving.
While driving a semi-automatic Beetle did take a little getting used to one of the benefits in choosing this model was that it had revised rear suspension with a semi-trailing arm setup replacing the traditional swing axle thus improving the handling. 
The example we have here has been imported from Guernsey and has been the subject of much recent work including a respray and a mechanical overhaul. It now presents in excellent condition ready to be enjoyed by its next owner. It’s exempt from the ULEZ, VED and MoT tests so could make an ideal classic commuter car – put a smile on your face every time you drive to the office!

The History

This Beetle was in long term ownership in Guernsey – it was with the one owner for 40 years – but by the end of their tenure with the car it was in need of some TLC. The current owner bought it more or less on a whim as it looked to be a very solid and rare example of the Beetle.
Since he’s owned it the car has been imported to the UK mainland and undergone a significant amount of restoration work with a respray in its original red and a mechanical overhaul to ensure that it drives as well as it looks.

The Paperwork

Unfortunately there’s no paperwork to accompany the Beetle from its time in Guernsey but there are a number of receipts and invoices relating to new parts installed during its recent renovation.
Since its importation from Guernsey the tax has been paid on the car which has been acknowledged by the DVLA but a UK V5C has yet to be issued in the current owner’s name, although this is expected to arrive shortly.

The Interior

The interior of the Beetle presents very well and appears to be in original condition. The black vinyl seats are in good order and free from any rips or tears while the matching interior door trim panels also look to be in fine fettle and still fit well. There’s a very slight waviness to the door trims which suggests the cardboard backing isn’t in its first flush of youth, but this in no way detracts from the interior ambiance.
The carpet appears to be in good order and looks like it has been replaced at some point in the past and could do with being refitted by the driver’s side kick panel. The dashboard appears not to have been part of the repaint and is arguably the better for it, retaining a certain amount of original patina it remains in good condition. The original switchgear is present and correct and the, albeit sparse, instrumentation presents well, too. The odometer reads just 15,799, but it’s not known if this is the car’s correct total mileage.
The interior brightwork is in good order as is the glovebox and an old Pioneer radio cassette is fitted with speaker grilles in the side panels at the rear. The steering wheel is original and still looks great, too. Overall the cockpit is refreshingly original and in an unmodified condition and would be a pleasant place to while away the hours.  

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The Exterior

While the Beetle hasn’t been treated to a full nut and bolt restoration you wouldn’t know this from looking at the paintwork which has a deep lustre to it and presents in virtually immaculate order. The shut lines are excellent and the rubber beading between panels is in as new order.
The brightwork – from the bumpers to the mirrors – is in very good order and is a mixture of original and new parts. Under the front bonnet it presents well with the majority of components being original. 
A glance underneath reveals an underside which appears to be solid, but one that hasn’t been treated to the same level of detail as the body panels and there are a few traces of overspray here and there. The wheels and hubcaps are in excellent order and the wheels are fitted with new 165/80 R15 Nankang tyres.

The Mechanics

The Beetle’s engine has been treated to a partial rebuild with new pistons, crank seal and new cylinder heads. The carburettor has been rebuilt and the engine has been fully serviced with plenty of new items such as plugs along with a new alternator, coil and distributor.
Without road testing the car we can’t comment on how it drives but it certainly starts on the button and idles cleanly when being manoeuvred for photography and exhibits the characteristic VW Beetle flat-four soundtrack.

The Appeal

The VW Beetle has an almost universal appeal and would make a great starter classic for anyone wanting to dip their toe into classic car ownership. It exudes period charm but without the shabby and worn out feel that afflicts so many examples on sale. This example is a very honest and genuine car that’s been restored to a high standard to keep it running for many years to come. It’s not the fastest car by any means but this semi-automatic model is very rare in right-hand-drive form and would be just at home in a collection as it would be being used as a daily-driven classic.

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Auction FAQs
Auction Details
  • Year 1968
  • Make Volkswagen
  • Model Beetle
  • Colour Red
  • Mileage 15,799 Kilometres
  • Engine size 1493
  • Seller Type Trade
  • County Essex
  • Country United Kingdom
  • Auction ends
Bidding history
14 Bids from 7 bidders
  • Fr•••• £10,250 01/04/21
  • PG•••• £10,000 31/03/21
  • le•••• £8,200 26/03/21
  • To•••• £8,100 25/03/21
  • le•••• £8,000 25/03/21
  • le•••• £7,500 25/03/21
  • le•••• £6,500 25/03/21
  • le•••• £5,000 25/03/21
  • st•••• £1,400 25/03/21
  • pa•••• £1,300 25/03/21

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