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Volkswagen Beetle Convertible 50s Edition
This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!
Published on Tue, Jan 8, 2013
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
MEMORIES OF MIDNIGHT By Zoran Segina It is a calm winter evening in my hometown of Zagreb. Milo Berger, my next door neighbor, has just invited me to a midnight ride. Milo has everything we need – a valid driver’s license, indomitable resolve, and the keys to a family’s 1967 Volkswagen Beetle 1300. What Milo does not have is his father’s permission to use the car. Milo’s father is a respected professor of industrial engineering. Dipl. Ing. Bergerspent spent considerable amount of time, effort, and money bringing the Volkswagen from West Germany to Yugoslavia. As it befits the precious family transportation jewel in the possession of a meticulous man with a fondness for things mechanical, the Volkswagen is garaged, used only on occasional weekends, driven at optimal speeds, and regularly washed, polished and maintained. After seven years the car looks brand new.
Milo’s invitation is not purely altruistic. To pull his nocturnal stunt, Milo requires assistance of several similarly inclined adventurers to help him bring the car out without waking his parents. The garage is in the middle of the courtyard, in plain view from his parents’ third floor bedroom. To get out, we first need to open (and then close) garage doors, then shift the Volkswagen in neutral, push the car approximately fifty yards through the aural danger zone, open-and-close a larger metal and glass courtyard gate, and roll the car into the street, all without turning the engine. The air-cooled 1300 cc boxer power plant has a distinct sound, and Mr. Berger’s is the only Volkswagen on our block. Needless to say, on the way back we have to reverse the whole process, as quietly as possible. As we set on our jaunt, our efforts are further complicated by the fact that Mr. Berger prudently shod the Volkswagen with studded winter tires. On the dry courtyard asphalt, in the still of the winter night, the studded tires on the sixteen-hundred-pound Volkswagen rattle like a tread on a German Panzer. In retrospect, I firmly believe that Mr. and Mrs. Berger were good sports, and while undoubtedly fully aware of our nocturnal efforts, played along. Our pushing, pulling and huffing must have given them good chuckle.
Was it an episode similar to the one described above that, according to automotive lore, prompted the chairman of the Volkswagen Group (the grandson of Dr. Porsche who built the original model) to reminisce about his days in the Beetle, and suggest the resurrection of the venerable model in 1994? The rest, of course, is history. The new Beetle created the whole new market for modern versions of legendary European models such as MINI, and Fiat 500. The 2013 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible comes in three flavors – the 50s, the 60s and the 70s edition. Even though the platform is seven inches longer, three inches wider, and half an inch taller than the old (new) version, the black 50s convertible somehow looks more compact than its predecessor. The overall proportions of the car are truer to the old Beetle, especially inside. The oversized dashboard top is gone. There’s a correctly proportioned bowl-like indentation for small items. The dashboard is covered in polished carbon fiber to resemble the metal one in Milo father’s car. The driver looks at three gauges with a speedometer in the center, flanked by a tachometer on the left, and the gas gauge on the right. An almost flat windshield brings back memories. Even the wipers look flat and simple. But this is a twenty-first century car, so a rocker switch on the windshield wiper stalk turns on various computer data. A carbon fiber accented steering wheel is shaped somewhat triangular, making it smaller in appearance. The 50s variant comes with a control button that changes the illumination of the oversized front door speakers and the door sill from red to white to blue. The pale light can also be turned off. Opening the tonneau requires but a simple push on the button above the rear view mirror. Despite its size, the very thick cover stows neatly. With the cover closed, the cabin becomes surprisingly quiet even at freeway speeds. The tonneau cover is stashed in the trunk. On the top of a miniature trunk is a built-in shelf which houses the wind protector that can be spread over the open area to prevent buffeting by the wind. Behind the rear seat is a back storage space just like in the traditional Beetles.
The added length of the chassis allows the passengers to enjoy the rear seats in reasonable comfort. As for handling, if your creator is legendary Dr. Ferdinand Porsche, and your close relatives have names like GTI, you offer more road capability than the name Beetle would suggest. It is true that the 170-horsepower engine at times runs out of breath, and the steering can feel imprecise (especially with the strong cross winds on the Southern California freeways), but the 2013 VW Beetle Convertible possesses serious road handling capability, and the reassuring brakes permit dynamic driving. The Conti Pro Contact 215/55 R 17 H rated tires grip the road well, but cannot compensate for a relatively short wheelbase which makes ride occasionally bumpy and jarring, especially on the concrete paved freeways. The center armrest is height adjustable, but can be lifted out of the way so as not to interfere with steering. The center console shifter has a sport setting, or can be pushed to the right for manual gear changes. I have not encountered a single person, male or female, who did not like the design, handling and the feel of this new Beetle. Jin admires the aluminum accents in the interior as opposed to cheap plastic. My mechanic David is impressed with the handling. The Tall Girl finds the seats supportive. A stunningly beautiful Alexandra easily gets into the rear as we are heading to a rainy night dinner to discuss her title role of Heather in the upcoming movie “The Texas Chainsaw 3D.” We know today that the movie did exceptionally well. And then there are Bobby, Amrit, and Karen, the three cuties from Punjab, by way of Bay area, who came to Southern California for the holidays to enjoy our mild weather. Having met in a parking lot of a local bakery we quickly reach a conclusion that the girls ought to be members of the Beetle Convertible test team. The approaching storm is still far enough, so the top goes down. The four passenger car forces us to leave their friend Aaron at the table while the test team piles in. Underway, the peal of the girls’ laughter fills the Santa Monica streets, from Wilshire to Ocean Avenue and up the San Vicente. Upon our return, patient Aaron is offered another test drive. He likes the car.
The driver’s seat has multiple mechanical adjustments and the telescoping steering wheel can be easily positioned. Front seats are heated and the overall heating is exceptional – which we find out on our way back as the weather gets colder. Tips of the nicely sculpted and chrome-covered rear view mirrors have blinker warning lights. The inside rear view mirror has traditional oval shape and good visibility. The absence of B pillars requires that the front seatbelts be positioned low. They are so far behind the seats that it becomes almost impossible to reach them without opening the doors. There is a spoiler above the trunk lid. There are two exhaust pipes on the left. The bottom of the doors flares to resemble the running board on the old Beetle. There are also memories that very few modern cars have. More than just being cute, the 2013 VW Beetle has an automotive personality – such a rare feat in contemporary design and engineering. There are some technical drawbacks though. The new Beetle Convertible weighs 3200 pounds – over half a ton more than Ing. Berger’s car. Pushing it out the garage, and then back in, would require far more effort. With the engine off, steering would be very hard, and the electronic transmission system may not appreciate it. On the plus side, the engine is quieter that the one in 1974, and the studded tires are no more. But, I wonder whether Milo and I would be deterred with these minor inconveniences if we were back in our teenage years? For more information about Volkswagen Beetle Convertible, click here
SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2013Volkswagen Beetle Convertible 50s Edition Price: $24,995.00 (base) $26,890.00 (as tested) EPA fuel economy ratings: 21 city/27 highway miles per gallon (LA Car observed: 22 mpg) Engine type: 2.5-liter inline five cylinder 20V MPFI, double overhead camshaft with variable intake timing Horsepower: 170 at 5700 rpm Torque: 176 pound-feet at 4250 rpm
Transmission type: DSG automatic transmission with Tiptronic sequential manual mode Drive configuration: Front-wheel drive Steering: Rack and pinion; hydraulic power assist Suspension Front: Strut-type with lower control arms, coil springs, telescopic dampers, 22-mm diameter anti-roll bar Rear: Multilink,coil springs, telescopic dampers 18 mmdiameter anti roll bar Wheels : 17-inch aluminum alloy, with 225/55 R17 H Conti Pro Contact all-season tires. Brakes Front: 11.3 x 1.0 inch vented discs, power assist, dual circuit Rear: 10.7x 0.4 inch solid discs Curb weight: 3206 lbs Performance 0-60 mph in 8.5 seconds Top Speed: 113 mph (electronically limited)