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How to identify a Super Beetle!

We get questions about Super Beetles on a daily basis, so here is a section of some common myths about Super Beetles, the truth about them, easy ways to tell if you have a Super Beetle, and some specific Super Beetle questions too!

Please note: VW did make some oddball models in various factories around the world that almost seem to exist only to create confusion. Usually these models were just built to use up excess inventories or to fill some model need within that specific country the cheapest way possible. So as a result strange models like standard Beetles with Super Beetle curved windshields and non-strut front suspensions do exist but they were never exported outside of their home countries (South Africa, Argentina, etc.) and you'll practically never find them in the US, Europe, or most other countries. They're interesting footnotes in VW's history but best ignored in regards to the rules below!

What exactly is a Super Beetle?

In 1971 to help compete against more technologically advanced models from other manufacturers and also to give the Convertible Beetles a better-riding platform to use, the Super Beetle was introduced. It did not replace the standard Beetle and both models were sold side-by-side.

Super Beetles, at least for the first two years, were just a front suspension upgrade, from a torsion beam front axle to a MacPherson strut front suspension. The addition of this new front end necessitated other changes - essentially all of the sheet metal from the cowl forward, the tie rods and steering damper were changed, the steering box, the front brakes were enlarged to help deal with the extra weight in the front (though in the US they remained drums), and even the hood molding had to be lengthened due to the new longer hood. Very few parts from standard Beetles were still used on the Super Beetle front section - wheels, tires, lights, and bumpers being the primary items.

In 1973 to further improve the model and to help differentiate it more aesthetically from the standard Beetle, a curved windshield was introduced along with a different dash and a slightly flatter roofline. Various improvements were done to front end a few months later though it remained a MacPherson strut set-up. The Super Beetle was discontinued in 1975 as VW moved towards the water-cooled models though Super Beetle convertibles continued through 1979 (some entering the US as 1980 models).


Truths and Myths about Super Beetles

Myth #1
- Super Beetles have a bigger engine than a standard Beetle
Truth - Super Beetles had the exact same engine that standard Beetles had. They were never faster, bigger, badder, or more efficient. The engines did not use their own numbering system or any other unique parts.

Myth #2 - Super Beetles all had big curved windshields
Truth - 1971 and 1972 Super Beetles had the "flat" windshield (well, they weren't truly flat, but lets not go into that here!). These two years used the same windshield as the standard Beetle. In 1973, the Super Beetle was redesigned and a new larger, curved windshield was added. No other Beetle used this windshield.

Myth #3 - Some Super Beetles had standard Beetle front ends
Truth - All Super Beetles came with Macpherson Strut Front Suspensions. They never, ever, came with any other front end. During the 1973 Model Year, the Macpherson Front Suspension was modified, but it was still a strut-front suspension. And, no, Standard Beetles never came with a Strut Front Suspension. The Macpherson Strut Front is the one thing all Super Beetles had and no Standard Beetle ever had and is the primary reason they were Super Beetles.

Myth #4 - All Convertibles are Super Beetles
Truth - Only Convertible Beetles produced from 1971-1979 are Super Beetles. You could not order a Standard Beetle Convertible during these years - they were only based on the Super Beetle platform.

Myth #5 - Only Super Beetles had those big, round taillights in the 70's.
Truth - You will hear a lot of people call the big "Elephant Foot" taillights "Super Beetle taillights", but this is not correct. All Beetles from 1973 to 1979 (and through 2003 for Mexican and Brazilian production), whether they were standard or Super used this style taillight.



The 2 easiest ways to tell if your Beetle is a Super Beetle:

(and while there are a lot of ways to tell if it's a Super Beetle, these are the only two that are really consistent and easy to spot no matter the year)

  1. Pop the hood! All Super Beetles had their spare tire laying flat.
  2. Look behind the front wheels - see a big spring? If you do - you are staring at the Macpherson Struts and it, thus, is a Super Beetle.


     

Common questions about Super Beetles

Q - Will this hood from a 1974 Super Beetle fit my 1971 Super Beetle.
A - No. Super Beetles used two distinct hoods. One fit the flat windshield models and one fit the curved windshield models.

Q - Did all Super Beetles use the same ball joints, struts, etc?
A - The Super Beetle front end was modified a few times. The Ball Joints were changed during the 1973 Model Year. The Struts were changed at the same time. The Struts were changed again in 1975 and the tie rods were changed at that time too. The Steering Box never changed until it was done away with in 1975 in favor of a rack and pinion set-up. The Steering Gear Shaft was changed at the same time. There were a few other changes here and there. Its important to know your chassis number when ordering parts, and be familiar with what the parts on your Super Beetle look like as there are some gray areas.

Q - What causes the Super Beetle shakes?
A - There is a lot of debate on this. Some people feel it is the wheels out of balance, that the front end needs aligned, the steering damper is shot, the tie rods are bent, the steering box is worn out and so on. However, while any of these issues will cause your front end to handle badly (on any car!), the truth is that none of these by themselves cause Super Beetle shakes, though they can make them worse. If your Super Beetle's steering wheel starts shaking round 40 miles an hour and this continues until you get to around 55 (sometimes it starts at lower speeds), then your Track Control Arm Bushings are worn out. After you replace these - then you might want to make sure the steering damper is fine (as it probably got worn out during all this shaking) and of course, make sure all off your other front end components are in good shape.

Q - What years were Super Beetles produced?
A  - They were made from 1971-1979. They were produced in three versions - Sedan, Sedan with Sunroof, and Convertible. The Sedans were only made from 1971 to 1975 (and were actually discontinued about halfway through the 75 model year). The Convertibles were made from 1971 to 1979 (though you will see a few 1980's in existence - these are really 79 models that showed up in the US after the new model year had started and were thus titled as 1980 models).

Q - I want my Super Beetle to look more vintage - can I bolt on earlier style fenders?
A - No. Super Beetle fenders only can trade out with other Super Beetles, at least on the front. On the rear, they are no different than standard Beetle fenders of the same year.

Q - Can I convert my Super Beetle over to a standard Beetle torsion-leaf front beam?
A - Good luck with that! Actually, it can be done and we have seen it but it's a lot of work for no real useful gain





We'll be adding to this section periodically, so be sure to check back!
Is our info wrong? Please tell us!

 

 
 

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