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Beetle in the Boonies: 1972

Beetle in the Boonies: 1972

Good to see Tony W. back. His shot of the Mustang at Zion inspired me to haul out this one I took a year later, June 1972, near Lake Tahoe. Those were the days when, if a car happened to zip by as you were taking a shot, the chances of it being a VW Beetle were whole orders of magnitude greater than today. It's one of the interesting time-capsule details you notice in films of that period that have a lot of location filming, like on the streets of San Francisco in Bullitt or Dirty Harry; the sheer quantity of those things. Ektachrome slide. UPDATE May 2016: I've finally found out where this is: the VW is on California State Highway 89 approaching the intersection of State Highway 88 in the Hope Valley area south of Lake Tahoe. View full size.

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I grew up in SF. My dad bought one of these brand new from Stan Carlsen VW on 19th Ave. It was a 1970 Beetle; same exact color, with a sunroof. It had the pair of louvers in the rear hood - I think 1970 was the first year that VW had that feature.


My best friend's family had two VWs -- a Beetle that all of the girls learned to drive in, and her Mom's camper that she was often stopped in because she was going too slow!

We tootled all around in that Beetle all during high school. When she bought her first car, she bought ... a Rabbit. Old habits die hard!

Another '71 Super Beetle owner!

I also owned a '71 Super Beetle, but beige, bought used in 1976 for $1,400 in Northern Virginia. My dad and I split the cost just after I graduated from college.

I drove it for 17 years (the longest I've owned any car), across the country several times and back, down to Mexico and back, then for 10 years in Sacramento. It was an (almost) totally dependable vehicle, except for a few adventures, most notably blowing a spark plug and being stuck in a tiny Mexican town for four days.

I had the engine rebuilt in '85 and finally sold it in 1993 because of failing headliner and extensive cosmetic needs on the outside, and the tempting scent of a barely-used Mazda pickup truck.

I do regret selling that car now.

Oh the memories

When I was a little kid we had a neighbour lady that took us for a ride in her VW Bug. It had no back seats, we sat on milk crates, and there was a BIG hole in the floorboards. Being small at the time I am sure it looked bigger than it really was. But my sister kept hold of the back of my dress so I didn't end up on the road.

The Blacktop

ttpix, do you recall what road/route this was on?

49 percent

A note from my 1969 college (Chico State, CA) journal:

"49 percent of the cars in the parking lot are VWs."

Speaking of ashtrays

My car doesn't have an ashtray or lighter! I don't smoke, but I think the option should be up to the driver. Ah well, another thought for another day. Just came to me.

Just looked out my window here in SF

And there's a Beetle parked across the street. No shortage here.

I am with Coincidence

I was a Sunday driver like few others. Detroit to Bay City, was just a Sunday drive to me and my girlfriend. We took this drive on December 7, 1941.

When my wife to be and I heard on the radio what Japan had done at Pearl Harbor while we were on this Sunday drive I told her it will take us about six weeks to clean their clocks. Four years later with a wife and son at home I was being shot at by Germans in Germany.

In the 1970s I thought of all the money we could save if we had a VW. Then I thought it is much more important for us to be alive at the end of the year than any money we might save. That nixed the VW.

Bugs in Lake Tahoe

It's always grand seeing photos of specific locations we are familiar with. Not only have I spent my entire professional career in the automotive field (and that includes many VW Bugs) but the majority of it has been in the San Francisco Bay area and I can't begin to tell you how many times I have driven by this exact location on our way to our place in Lake Tahoe. The field you see on the left now serves a dual purpose as it is now used as a golf driving range in the spring and summer and a place you can rent and ride snowmobiles in the winter.

Beetle Year

It's hard to see in the picture but that Beetle in the picture is a most likely a 1971, is the only year it had that decklid, side tail light reflectors and the little vents behind the rear quarter windows.

If that isn't a little black crescent shaped vent behind the quarter window I am seeing then it can only be a 1970.

Nice Bug

I still see plenty of Beetles around here in San Diego. My best friend recently bought his own. Here's a picture I took:

As for me, I took a break from the time consuming process of scanning the big negatives, but I'm going to be posting more pictures soon. My dad's friend recently gave me a small box full of large negatives (which hasn't been opened since 1964) from the '40s, '50s, and early '60s, so I'll have plenty to work with for a while.

Consequently I won't know anything about them, but it'll still be interesting.

Nearly new, too!

An almost brand new VW at that -- I believe 1970 was the first year for those two vents in the, er, bonnet. Can't really call it a hood.

Super Beetle

Thank you for another fantastic image tterrace. Although you are somewhat older than I am, our upbringings share some of the same themes and imagery. Your photo of a 1972 Beetle conjured up fond memories of our orange 1971 Super Beetle. It was the first car my wife I purchased shortly before we were married in 1986. I think we paid around $500 for it, but the memories of that car and role it played in our young lives together are priceless. We may drive much newer and more expensive cars now, but that little Beetle that saw us safely through our first years together, rank it as the best vehicle we’ve ever owned. Thanks again.

We all had one

They were great cars, too. Any hill mine could not climb, it almost certainly would make it up in reverse.

Las Vegas

Bug in Bullitt

Pretty certain the frequency of sightings of Beatles in Bullitt was partly because the same same scenes were repeated, but filmed from different angles.

Beetles in california

No need for road salt in Calif - that's why thye're still around. We still have a few in Sweden, but they can't go out except a few times each summer - the rust worm never sleeps when it's wet.

re: smoking

my 2010 Dodge didn't even come with an ashtray, nor a lighter! but it has 2 electrical outlets.

however, it has no personality, unlike beetles, which always look happy to me!

Oh my !

This photo sadly reminds of how much I miss my "bug". Mine even had a gas gauge, talk about luxury.


Growing up in Southern California in the 1960's & 70's, you definitely noticed the over abundance of Veedubs. I recall one month sometime in the early 70's in my neighborhood there were 3 car wrecks, all involving VW's, all fatalities, and the vehicles getting the worst end of the deal were Volkswagen bugs. My parents took notice and forbade me from even considering a VW as my first car. My first car? A 1961 Chevrolet Biscayne that I did wreck later because faulty brakes. I wonder if I would even be typing this if it had been a VW?


What with the cigarette papers, roach clips, metal 35 mm film cans of stash, and some seashells from your last trip in Big Sur, those ashtrays had to be big.

Germans Don't Keep Old Cars

We had a series of VW's though the years including the highly treasured "Old Volkswagen", a very basic 1951 model my father brought slightly used in 1953. According to my friend who visits auto enthusiasts in Germany, they are unsentimental about these "obsolete" old cars. Even here, our German mechanic had a hard time understanding why we wanted him to spend extra time fixing the Old Volkswagen's mechanical brakes. "This car is worn out" he would say.

It's always nice to see a real one...

...those modern "cute" so-called beetles just don't have it. Nor do the current "Minis".
And, it would be interesting to hook a tachometer up to Winston Churchill's grave to see how many rpm's he's doing at the thought of Bentley and Rolls Royce being owned by Volkswagen...and Jaguar being owned by an Indian company.

I just had to post on this thread, after seeing a post by someone called "Lanceless"

The Beetle in Bullitt

Was moving at a conspicuously slow rate. Also watch the movements of pedestrians on the street to realize the film was accelerated a bit in the editing process, Still the best chase sequence ever.

As to the ubiquity of VW Beetles - I was in Madison, Wisconsin in the early 70's and you could spit in any direction and hit one. What is surprising is that for a vehicle that sold in excess of 500K units in 1970 (and tailed off precipitously after that), they seemed to disappear so fast from the streets. Road salt in Wisconsin had something to do with that attrition. The heater boxes (enclosures around the air cooled engine which would duct warm air to the passenger cabin), would rust out quickly and so winter driving was an adventure. A co-worker with such a beat and rusted VW was the only employee at our business able to start his car during the record cold of January 1982 (-41 F) and he ferried all the other employees to work in his ~1972 Beetle. The adaptation to the rusted out heater ducts in his car was a PVC pipe section that ran from the base of the back seats to the windshield to act as a defroster.

But I digress, this isn't a car-talk blog. I live the photos from the 70's, however. Keep it up.

Yellow was the color

That I remember being the most prominent at that time for the "Bug". My wife had a 72 when I met her and I thought this one was identical, but she said this one in the pic is a little earlier version. I know that the Beetle's body style was nearly unchanged during a 15 year span. At that time they depreciated in value very little compared to other cars.

VW Beetles

Even today you'll find more VB Beetles in San Francisco then in any European city. German cities included!

All work and no play...

It looks like the opening shot to "The Shining."


Those old VW's sure had big ashtrays. The cars nowadays have such little ones they are practically useless, and I don't even smoke.

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