I’m mixing metaphors on this date, February 7th, because 49 years ago today the Beatles (band) appeared on the Ed Sullivan show to perform their smash, “I Want to Hold Your Hand”. The single had sold 1.5 million copies in under three weeks, and Americans were hungry for something enjoyable, just eleven weeks removed from the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The Beatles were wildly popular in the UK prior to the Sullivan show, and they toured the U.S. at various dates over the next two years, including Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado on August 26th, 1964. That was the only Beatles U.S. concert that failed to sell out, and the group was through with live concerts by 1966.
I’m not writing about the Beatles at this time, however, but about the Beetle Volkswagen convertible that was introduced late in the fall. The company has had quite a smash on its hands, as well, having manufactured over 21 million Beetles since 1938. Volkswagen was originally founded at that time by the German Labor Front, a Nazi trade union. The venture included production of an inexpensive car for the common person utilizing state-sponsored financing (“five marks a week you must put aside, if in your own car you want to ride”). Previously, Germans could typically only afford a motorcycle, but with the advent of a new Wolfsburg factory, hundreds of thousands could afford the new Beetle, which had been designed by Ferdinand Porsche.
The 2013 convertible I got to test was equipped with a five cylinder, 2.5 liter, 170 horsepower engine and six speed automatic with Tiptronic feature. It came in Platinum gray metallic with Titan black V-tech leatherette buckets for four inside. The rear seat is kind of a bench seat, kind of a pair of buckets. Five people should not enter the car, but four were in there on several occasions this week, and had fun. The VW had pushbutton start, proximity keyless entry, tilt/telescope, electric windows and locks, navigation system, cruise, and a Fender branded upgraded stereo with satellite radio. Front seats were manually adjustable, but seemed to get out of the way OK for entering rear passengers. The car has front-wheel drive, and a smallish trunk. The convertible top electronically races up and down and there exists a cover for it folded up in the trunk (unless installed, which I did with some exertion). Even with the top up, it’s fun to roll down all four windows and cruise like you’re driving a two door hardtop.
The styling of this new, third generation Beetle is the best yet, with more ample taillights and 18” aluminum/chrome wheels. Tires are 235/45R18 Hankook Optimo all-season radials. All on board enjoyed the VW ride, and road noise is acceptable considering the rag top. Fuel economy ratings are 22-city and 29-highway, with a 19 gallon gas tank that holds regular.
M.S.R.P. for the Volkswagen is $28,495, and that includes freight, technology package, and the Fender stereo. Friends that visited with me in the presence of the convertible during the week seemed to always express surprise at how little such a car listed for, and that is in the car’s favor. It garnered my respect, and it was fun to test.