Sunday, April 11, 2010

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1973 Volkswagen Squareback

Most station wagons are conventional designs with a front-engine, rear-wheel-drive layout and four doors and a rear hatch. In Europe, that formula is sometimes different. Some companies, such as Volkswagen and Fiat, built a number of cars with rear-engine layouts. European cars were also generally smaller than American cars, so two-door wagons (and some sportier wagons with lower rooflines, often called shooting brakes) were fairly common. Some two-door wagons included the Opel Kadett and Volvo 1800ES. Domestic two-door wagons used to be common in the US, often as lower-priced alternatives to their larger four-door stablemates. Compact wagons such as the Studebaker Lark were common in two-door form. But after about 1965, domestic two-door wagons had all but disappeared, leaving the niche to European imports. And of those imports, none was quite as ubiquitous and popular as the Volkswagen Type 3 Squareback.

This car is a 1973 Squareback, the final year of production and one of the relatively few Squarebacks (known as the 1600 Variant in Europe) that were ordered with an automatic transmission. Many buyers were distrustful of a VW automatic after the so-called "Automatic Stickshift" available in Beetles proved to be unreliable. It is in good shape for the most part, with a straight body and rust only on the front bumper. The owner's neighbor told me it had been restored, and it looks really good. It wasn't finished yet, though. At the time these photos were shot, it needed a piece of rocker trim on the driver's side and a new Volkswagen badge for the back hatch.
These cars aren't worth very much, nor are they particularly rare. Over one million Squarebacks/Variants were made worldwide. Really clean ones aren't terribly difficult to find, although in San Francisco a really clean anything is in relatively short supply due to tight, street-only parking and godawful drivers. This is one of the nicer examples I've seen around, and the only one I've seen in recent memory with an automatic.

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