Little blue Beetle back in the fold

Riley Riley

Volkswagen Australia has acquired a rare 1951 Beetle that will form the start a collection of historic models at its Sydney headquarters.

The imported, split rear window Beetle, first registered in NSW, is believed to predate the introduction of right hand drive.

Sales of the Beetle did not start officially in Australia until two years later in1953.

Volkswagen Group Australia (VGA) Managing Director, Michael Bartsch unveiled the car at Volkswagen Australia’s headquarters at Chullora.

Guests included the previous owner of ‘The Little Car’, Volkswagen enthusiast and collector, Andy Roberts and Dieter Regel, son of the original owner.

The car was produced in Stuttgart in right-hand drive configuration and shipped to Australia when his family emigrated in the early 1950s.

Both men spoke of the Little Car’s amazing history in what became quite an emotional moment for both men.

Mr Bartsch personally secured the vehicle late in 2017 but kept the Little Car’s arrival a closely-guarded secret.

He spoke of the significance the little blue Beetle had not just for Volkswagen Australia, but for himself personally.

“I was first brought home from the hospital as a baby in a Volkswagen, and for as long as I can remember, my family has always had a Volkswagen in it,” he said.

“Bringing this amazing vehicle home to VGA has brought me great joy; and to me, is a part of the legacy I’d like to leave for the company.”

Official importation of the Volkswagen Beetle into Australia began in 1953, with local assembly operations commencing the following year.

Volkswagen Australia was formed in 1957, and by 1960 locally produced body panels were being used for the first time.

When the European Type One body received larger windows for the 1965 model year, Volkswagen Australia opted to continued producing the smaller-windowed bodies, with unique features to the Australian versions.

This was due to the limited size of the market and the costs involved in retooling.

Australian content had reached almost 95 per cent by this time.

The Australian subsidiary continued to produce the earlier body style until 1967, when declining sales forced a switch to CKD assembly using imported components the following year.

In 1968, Volkswagen Australia released its own locally designed utilitarian version of the Type 1, the Volkswagen Country Buggy or Type 197.

It hoped to sell them to the Australian Army, but the Army rejected the design due to the lack of four wheel drive.

In 1976, Volkswagen ceased Australian assembly operations, its factory in Clayton, Victoria, was sold to Nissan Australia and all Volkswagens were once again fully imported.


Left to right: Michael Bartsch, Dieter Reger, Andy Roberts.

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