Last of the line  (November 1994)

This silver beetle attracted our attention when we spotted an advertisement in Exchange and Mart for an incredibly low-mileage, late-model Bug. Always on the lookout for stories, particularly regarding 'unknown' vehicles, we made a few calls and tracked the car down to Chesterfield. There, it transpired, the Bug's owner, John Lamb, had been associated with VWs for some 20 years having been employed at, and ultimately running, a Chesterfield dealership. By the time he moved on, the dealership had diversified into Porsches and Citroens. The 'old' Beetle was surplus to requirements and left with John.

Diamond Mine

If you could walk into a British VW dealership still selling Emden-built Type 1s during the autumn of '77, then this is exactly what would have been on show. The L97A Type 112 Diamond Silver '78 (chassis number 118 200 1623), has just 159 miles on the clock!

Having been kept in dry storage for the last 16 years, the Beetle's condition is, as you'd expect, excellent though the bumpers and hub caps would benefit from some rebuffing and the engine needs a thorough spring clean. Other than that, the car is probably the best original we've ever seen. The 'new' smell may have faded but the interior still has that new-car feel. Operation of the Marine Blue cloth / leatherette seats is as smooth and slick as you'd expect from a new VW and the headliner is still taut and free from the gruesome nicotine staining that is seen in many other Bugs.

The interior trim panels are finished in the same shade of blue and even the Toric inertia-reel seat belts complement the theme. Door fittings are plain black plastic, typical of the cost-cutting measures which VW pumped into the Beetle towards the end of German production.

The padded dashboard is devoid of a radio but there is fan-assisted ventilation, a heated rear window, and hazard lights to fiddle with, should you feel the need. The speedo may not be the most comprehensive ever fitted to the Beetle but it does feature the battery-saving addition of an HRW warning light - and that incredible mileage on the odometer!

Time Bandits

Under the front bonnet, the cardboard luggage area and fuel tank cover are unmarked, the wiring itself remaining as pristine as the day the harness was fitted. Needless to say, we doubt the spare tyre had even seen tarmac prior to us carefully lifting it out to examine the wheel well. All the decals, body labels and stickers which, more often than not, disappear during resprays or repairs are still present, even down to the paper body-colour label!

In the engine bay, the alternator-equipped 1200 motor waits for the day someone is going to make use of it although, given the unique nature of the Beetle, it seems highly unlikely that it is destined for anywhere other than a museum or a private collection. If the owner were tempted to show the car, though, it would need a polish as the tinware still hasn't had all the factory-applied protective wax removed!

When he left the company, the '78 joined John's two other VWs: a Strato Silver 1954 Oval and a '64 with a pristine interior. The former, originally owned by his uncle, was sold to a third party as a learner vehicle. After it had served its purpose, John made the owner a decent offer and the car returned to the family fold. The '64 is anthracite in colour. The low-mileage, one-owner-from-new car was actually purchased from the dealership by a Mr Pont who sold it back to John many years later. Even the plastic protective seat covers are like new! Times move on and John has decided that the time has come to part with all three of his Beetles. The '64 and the Oval were issued with age-related plates in the '70s, but the original ones have been traced and are included with each car.

These two should be within financial reach of a great number of people but, in view of the unique nature of the '78, it's a different kettle of fish. Be prepared to offer a sum close to five figures! If this, the '64 or '54 interest you, then enquires can be made in the evening to John Lamb on phone number deleted.

VolksWorld November 1994

Last of the line

A silver Beetle that has done just 159 miles - yes, 159 miles! It's the closest you'll get to a brand-new German-made Beetle. Words by Clive Holland. Pictures by Norman Hodson.