1978 Volkswagen Beetle Review

1978 Volkswagen Beetle Karmann Triple White 1.6 fuel injected from North America

Year of manufacture1978
First year of ownership2001
Most recent year of ownership2004
Engine and transmission 1.6 fuel injected Manual
Performance marks 8 / 10
Reliability marks 9 / 10
Comfort marks 8 / 10
Running Costs (higher is cheaper) 7 / 10
Overall marks (average of all marks)
8.0 / 10
Distance when acquired162500 miles
Most recent distance167200 miles
Previous carMercury Cougar

Summary:

Gets you there in style, not speed.

Faults:

As with any 23 year old beetle, many things usually require repair and replacement to return the car to "like new" drive-ability.

Most of the rubber seals, boots, window scrapers and body gaskets required replacement.

Shocks and struts replaced, rear torsion bars sagging 5 degrees low were reset.

Replaced the coil, distributor, wires, and plugs.

All rubber fuel line hoses and injectors were cracked and were replaced to prevent a high pressure gasoline fire.

Convertible top was replaced - it was a piece of cake thanks to the later Karmann design using wires to secure the headliner and top to the header and rear apron.

Interior upholstery, door panels, carpet, visors, and hinge covers changed out. Also an easy job, but I should have stuck to an off-white color, however. The bright white looks nice, but makes the alpine white paint look darker and out-of place.

Tail light and turn signal lenses were crazed and cracked. Replaced with dimmer Brazilian-made tail lights.

Loose steering troubleshot to dry ball joint and tie rod.

Horn does not always work. This is due to the horn pad switches attempting to ground the horn circuit to the steering column, which does not appear to have a solid electrical connection to the chassis at the moment.

Failed emissions 6 times the first year, 3 times the second year. No garage in Phoenix area equipped with treadmill facilities and expertise to work on L-Jetronic fuel injection (classified as an "antique" system by the best garage in the county). After educating myself on the full operation and mechanics of the system, I was able to diagnose the problem to a faulty fuel pressure regulator. Timing of the distributor is critical. A slight change in timing can cause an emission failure. This is mainly the case in 1975-1980 beetles, since the EPA lowered CO output from 4.5 to 1.6%. Without a catalytic converter and oxygen sensor, you are at the mercy of your distributor timing.

Upper and lower speedometer cables have broken. Attempted to replace with full length Brazilian cable, but it failed within six months.

Starter failed to engage in hot summer months. This was due to age and length of wire running from the battery under the back seat, up to the ignition switch on the steering column, and back to the starter solenoid. The voltage drop across the wire left too little voltage to retract the bendix and turn the starter motor. I installed a bypass (or hard-start) solenoid adjacent to the starter. It cut down the circuit path from 30 feet to six inches. It starts every time now.

General Comments:

It's a real eye catcher. Many of the people in traffic will break out in smiles when they see you. Kids will play punch-buggy or yell "spud bug". Half of the people tell you that they "love your car", the other half tell you to "get the H E double toothpicks off the road". I'm sorry that it cannot accelerate fast enough for them, but I do like the 30 mpg fuel economy.

It's not a car that's made to go fast, but it does look nice and gets you noticed. It's a car that your kids want to have their classmates see them getting out of.

The later model lumbar seats are comfortable and it is one of the few small car convertibles that a 6 foot 3 driver can actually fit in.

Where else can you get a car that costs around $2000 and appreciates (by a factor of 5) in value as you fix and hold onto it?

The one lesson I have learned is not to pay garage rates for jobs that require the use of one-time special tools. You will usually spend more for the labor than if you just buy the tool and use it one time. Strut compressors, spring plate adjusters, and clutch alignment tools come to mind.

One would normally gripe about the number of repairs and costs associated with them to maintain a car. With beetles, we don't seem to hold such grudges. Maybe it's because they are simple enough that we can actually work on them ourselves and can take pride in what we accomplish with them.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 20th February, 2004

Average review marks: 8.0 / 10, based on 1 review