Volkswagen Beetle – The Peoples Car

The Volkswagen Beetle is one of the most instantly recognisable cars in the history of automotive manufacturing, and just as interesting as the silhouette of the iconic bug is the story behind its concept. In this article we will take a quick look at the history of the Beetle and delve into its Australian connection throughout the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.

The origins of the Volkswagen Beetle date back to the early 1930’s when a Fuhrer by the name of Adolf Hitler proclaimed that the automobile, an at the time luxury afforded to only the very rich, should be available to the masses. Hitler specified that the ideal vehicle must be suitable for carrying 2 adults and 3 children at 100 km/h, while consuming no more than 7 litres of fuel every 100 km. Tasked with creating a vehicle to service the needs of the masses was tasked to Ferdinand Porsche. Porsche set about designing and building three prototypes, branded only ‘Volkswagen’ (“The Peoples Car”), the very round, bug-like appearance of the car ensured it was colloquially referred to as the Beetle.

Throughout WW2, Porsche developed a number of military spec Beetles that served as the first to leave his Wolfburg factory. With it’s now distinctive rear-mounted air cooled engine, the military spec vehicles were near on indestructible and were even designed to float for a short period of time in case of emergency!

By 1945 production was in full swing and the first customer vehicles were spreading throughout the streets of Europe. Armed with a 19kw flat four engine, the early Beetles proved a massive hit with the public and at a price of only 990 Reichsmark, which was similar to the price of a small motorcycle; the Bug was a genuine option for almost all families.

Fast forward 8 years and importation of the Beetle commenced into Australia, with assembly of the Peoples Car commencing in Melbourne by 1954. Throughout the 60’s locally manufactured parts and panels were being utilised in Melbourne built Beetles, with work being undertaken at the now HSV owned Clayton manufacturing plant. As we’ve become all too familiar with in recent times, sales of the Beetle eventually began to decline and in 1976 all Australian Volkswagen manufacturing efforts were ceased and the workshop was sold to Nissan Australia.

It wasn’t until 1998 that the first major re-design of the beetle took place and a look at the current Beetle finds a significantly different car to what was established way back in the 1930’s. The engine has been moved to the more traditional front mounted layout while power figures have increased with range topping models featuring in the area of 150kw. The unmistakable shape is still present and although not everybody’s cup of tea serves as one of very few modern cars that pay homage to their historical ancestors.

Do you own an early model Volkswagen Beetle? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know about it in the comments section below.

American Hero – Top American Import

When it comes to American muscle cars it’s hard to look past the iconic Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro. Although there are a number of other stateside classics that will go down in history as American greats, it’s the Mustang and Camaro which typify what the scene is all about. In this article we’ll take a look at the two US classics, what made them special and how they were received in Australia.

In 1961, Lee Iococca, the Vice President and General Manager of Ford had a vision. This vision was to build a car that could seat 4 adults, have bucket seats, a floor mounted shifter, weigh no more than 2500 pounds, be no longer than 180 inches long and sell for less than $2500. After a few years and a couple of interesting looking prototypes, from this vision the Ford Mustang was born, with the first car rolling off the production line in March 1964.

In Australia, the Mustang has gone through periods of great popularity mixed with periods of little interest, mostly as a result of the cost of importing and RHD conversion proving to be a bridge too far for local consumers. However, early Mustangs were a hit from the get go, with up to 200 first generation Mustang’s being imported by Ford Australia in 1965, converted to RHD at their Geelong plant and sold to the public for around $6000. The timeless design was received well by enthusiasts in Australia. Throughout the last 50 years, early year Mustangs have remained a desirable car for Aussie enthusiasts which are reflected in modern day re-sale values.
Of course, it would be remiss of us not to mention the current 6th generation Mustang which has proved to be a hit on our shores. The rear-wheel drive 5.0 litre V8 producing 306kw/530Nm is somewhat filling the void that has been left by the departure of the Falcon, providing the public with a high powered substitute for the XR8, albeit in coupe form.


On the General Motors front, the main competition to the Mustang over the years has been that provided by the Camaro. The Camaro was born in September 1966 as an answer to the booming popularity of the Mustang. Featuring a long hood, short deck, seating for four and a unitized body construction with a separate front sub frame, the Camaro came with engine options ranging from a 230ci straight six to a 427ci V8.


The Camaro was received well in Australia in the beginning, and was successful in Australian motorsports, further thrusting the classic car into stardom. Bob Jane would win both the 1971 and 1972 ATCC at the wheel of a Camaro ZL-1. Much like the Mustang, the Camaro went through a period in which they were less desirable to the Australian public which, unlike the Mustang, has not really recovered in the form of Camaro Australian sales. Unfortunately for Australian motoring enthusiasts, in its current 6th generation guise, there are no formal plans for the Camaro to reach Australian dealership floors.


Which generation Mustang’s and Camaro’s are your favourite. Would you like to see the latest Camaro on Australian showroom floors? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments below.

When Plastic Becomes Classic – The New Historics

If you are anything like us, in the last couple of years you may have found yourself with a confused look on your face as you sit at the traffic lights or cruise down the highway on the weekend. 

 

In front of you is a car on Historic or Club plates that is absolutely not historic from your perspective!

Of course Historic and Classic are different things to different people and even definitions vary, but we would be safe to assume that most people view an XYGT Falcon, an original Mini Cooper, a Datsun 1600, a ’57 Chevy and a A9X Torana as classics, whereas Historic vehicles tend be 1940’s and earlier in our book.

As time marches on though, so does the rolling Historic/Classic/Club registration systems that have been adopted across the country. Most Australian States and Territories employ rolling 30 year Historic/Classic permit schemes, whereas Victoria and WA have a rolling 25 year cut off for Historic vehicles. SA has adopted an alternative philosophy, with a fixed date for cars needing to be built before 1/1/1979 to be eligible.

For the most part, these schemes rely on a club’s helping to administer the approvals and there are generally some additional requirements and technicalities across the states, however we would have to write a thesis to explain all the ins and outs for each state. Wouldn’t it be great if we could have some Australia wide regulations on these types of schemes! It may be a pipe dream, but we can always hope.            

It’s important to note that as we write this article, if we wind back time 30 years, it would be March in 1987. Even scarier however for the status of ‘Historics’ is that WA and Victoria are now accepting vehicles older than March 1992! As 1992 represents the newer wave of what is eligible in these states, we will focus on this year for the sake of simplicity; and for other states, take it as a sign of things to come.

As we scan our way across models released in 1992, a picture starts to emerge of the reality we are starting to see appear on our roads.

So what cars were built in 1992?

Starting locally, the Holden VP Commodore was well into production and everything from a Berlina to a rare VP HSV Maloo Ute could receive the historic treatment.

Over in the blue oval corner, Ford had just released the EBII Falcon GLi and in fact next month is 25 years since the EBII XR8 hit the showrooms.

The records show that after the Falcon and Commodore, the remainder of the Top Ten cars sold in Australia in 1992 are the Mitsubishi Magna, Toyota Camry and Corolla, Ford Laser, Toyota Landcruiser, Nissan Pulsar, Toyota Hilux, Mitsubishi Lancer and the Holden Rodeo. Perhaps not all of these cars will meet criteria or will be approved, but from what we can see generally could be considered under the schemes in Vic and WA.

If money was no object, why not register a 1992 McLaren F1 road car?

Another shock has been was seeing imported JDM vehicles such as the Nissan Silvia and Skyline’s already running around on Club/Historic plates.

 

Hyundai X2 Excel anybody? Didn’t think so, but if you were keen the option is there!

The rest of Australia may be eyeing off 30 year old vehicles still, but if Victoria and WA’s schemes are anything to go by, we will be quickly shifting our definition of Classic and Historic, at least as it applies to registration.

So the next time you double take on a car that is very un-historic, consider the future. There will come a time when that VF commodore wagon in the garage might be ready……..scary thought!

Are you currently running a car on Historic/Club/Classic registrations schemes or eyeing off a model that is about to become eligible? We’d love to hear your stories and experiences in this area from around Australia.

Mr Bean, McLarens, Minis and Movies – The Rowan Atkinson Car Collection

One of the most famous of all British actors’ Rowan Atkinson shot to fame in Blackadder, but of course is remembered most for his Mr Bean character, that formed the TV series and movie spin offs of the same name. The Mr Bean character left audiences around the world in ruptures thanks to the comedic brilliance and eccentric style of Atkinson. At the same time, the iconic yellow Mini that Mr Bean drove around complemented the character of Mr Bean perfectly, and who doesn’t love a Mini!

In a world far away from the crazy world of Mr Bean, Rowan Atkinson is an avid car enthusiast and collector, owning many jaw-dropping, rare vehicles.

Many enthusiasts may already be aware that for many years Atkinson owned an incredible McLaren F1, one that he purchased brand new in 1997 for 640,000 pounds.

Not one to leave the McLaren as a museum piece in an air conditioned garage, Atkinson effectively drove the car as his ‘daily’ for many years, putting a huge number of miles on the car and was regularly spotted picking up groceries and attending events in the car.

With so much driving, the chances of an accident increase and unfortunately, the poor McLaren was involved in two crashes during Atkinson’s nearly two decades of ownership.

The second and far more serious accident occurred when Atkinson lost control on a high speed slippery bend, colliding with a tree. The impact was so severe that the engine of the McLaren was thrown 60ft from the car and left Atkinson with a broken shoulder.

Luckily the McLaren was insured, because the repair bill was a massive 900,000 pounds (or around $1.5 million AU), becoming England’s highest ever single insurance pay out at the time. What was the annual insurance cost you may be asking? Apparently it went up to around $90,000 after the big crash!

Atkinson ended up selling the McLaren in 2015 for the tiddly sum of 8,000,000 pounds (13 million AU!) Bargain!

The McLaren was only a small piece of a bigger collection of classics.

 

 

 

An Aston Martin V8 Vantage Zagato is something of a rarity but Atkinson enjoyed stretching the legs of the British thoroughbred while in his ownership.

 

 

 

Mercedes Benz SLS with gull wing doors anyone?

 

 

 

Atkinson is a fan of Honda’s and although he also owns a Honda Civic Hybrid plug in model, the Honda NSX makes up for things and is a much nicer sight!

 

 

Atkinson is quite private so other rumoured cars in his possession are hard to confirm, but a Lancia Delta Integrale and an Audi A8 are among those believed to be in his stables.

One thing you won’t see Atkinson buying is a Porsche!

"I have a problem with Porsches. They're wonderful cars, but I know I could never live with one. Somehow, the typical Porsche people -- and I wish them no ill -- are not, I feel, my kind of people. I don't go around saying that Porsches are a pile of dung, but I do know that psychologically I couldn't handle owning one." he explained.