Last but not least  (Summer 1994)

Throughout the Seventies Volkswagen bolstered sales of the Beetle in the UK with a number of special edition models - the Marathon, GT, and Big Beetle to name but a few of the more well-known examples. The occasion that really warranted special note, though, was when European Beetle production finished at Emden in 1978, and a special batch of the last 640 UK import cars were designated 'Last Edition' models.

Based on the 1200L, about half of these were finished in the standard 1978 model year colours - Alpine White, Riyad Yellow, Mars Red and Miami Blue. Just that bit extra-special, though, were the 300 cars produced with Diamond Silver (metallic) coachwork and further distinguished with blue cloth upholstery and a commemorative dashboard plaque. This plaque declares 'This is one of the last 300 Volkswagen Beetles to be produced for the United Kingdom' and is individually inscribed with the number of the car.

In fact, in comparison with the special edition models that had preceded it, the Last Edition models were the least 'special' of all, in terms of equipment level. Being based on the 1200L, the basic 1200 Beetle with the addition of a full headlining, padded dashboard, fresh air ventilation, rear parcel shelf, heated rear window, reversing lights, chrome hub caps and chrome bumpers with rubber inserts, the Last Edition Beetle was not even honoured with the sports wheels used on viitually all previous special editions.

Nevertheless, the silver Last Edition models are undoubtedly quite the most striking in appearance of all the special edition Beetles, the very simplicity of its lines being enhanced by the pure silver metallic finish, and never more so than when a number of these models are lined up together.

With that aim in mind, there is in fact a thriving register for owners of the Last Edition models, run by Julie Kinley and Wendy Flynn. Of the 300 original cars, neatly 100 are at present known to be still in everyday use - not a bad record for a car that is now over 16 years old. The Register concentrates their efforts on the silver metallic examples and would be very interested to hear from any other owners of these models.

We've come across a few ourselves in the pages of VW Motoring magazine over the years - number 165 being featured in a Secondhand Selection article in our November '90 issue, and number 15 in a Used Cars review in the April '93 issue, while number 36, RTD 497S, belonging to Dave and Anne Critchley appeared in our 'daily driver' slot in the June '94 issue.

Probably the most spectacular encounter we've had with the Last Edition models, though, was the line-up of 17 of their number at the VW North West event at Tatton Park, reported in our October '93 issue. The Register is planning another get-together at the 1995 event, at which it is hoped an even greater number of Last Edition models will be accumulated.

Last Edition Beetle No. 1 is owned by V.A.G themselves and is registered VWW 1, and the company also own an unregistered example. Three other examples are owned by dealers/garages - the eye-catching silver Beetles surely providing the ideal showroom 'draw'.

Probably the most interesting example of the breed, though, is the very last Last Edition Beetle, number 300. Martin Smith of the East Kent Air-cooIed Club has tracked this one down to Dover in Kent and reports that the car had originally been given to the Motor and Cycle Traders Benevolent Fund and was used as first prize in their annual fund-raising raffle, enabling them to raise over £20,000. The raffle was won by a Yeovil couple, Ernest and Jean Rogers, apparently the first prize they'd ever won!

Mr Rogers kept 'No. 300' safe in his garage until 1986, when he decided to sell it, advertising it in VW Motoring's Compact ads pages. It was subsequently bought by Mr Bradley and driven back to Kent, the longest single journey the car has ever undertaken, and even today it still has less than 28,000 miles on the clock and is still in excellent condition.

VWM Beetle Collection Summer 1994

Last but not least

When the last batch of European-built Beetles entered the UK in 1978, some were a bit more special than others...