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THE YEAR 1967 was a memorable one. The Graduate, with Dustin Hoffman driving a cool Alfa Romeo Spyder, was a hit movie. The Beatles brought out Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band, with first-rate wacko Aleister Crowley lurking on its album cover.
And another with a similar sounding name, the 1967 Volkswagen Beetle 1500, had R&T enthusing, “Wonder of wonders, a bigger, stronger engine for the second year in a row.” The magazine called it “Wolfsburg’s contribution to the horsepower race.”
The Beetle’s 1967 air-cooled flat four produced 53 hp.
Not exactly dramatic? On the other hand, this was 3 hp more than the 1966 Beetle power and more than twice the 25 hp of the original 1938 Volkswagen, “People’s Car.”
Here are tidbits gleaned from R&T’s road test of the Volkswagen 1967 Beetle 1500, together with my usual Internet sleuthing. Indeed, at the conclusion of its road test, R&T made a prediction that, especially in retrospect, was dramatic indeed.
Less End Swapping. “The most important change in the 1967 VW,” R&T declared, “is the new rear suspension.” Briefly, the magazine said, “… the VW’s tendency to oversteer is substantially reduced.” That is, it was less likely to swap ends under certain conditions, such as crosswinds.
R&T explained, “The effect of crosswinds is magnified by oversteering properties, diminished by understeering; the VW 1500 thus reacts far less violently to the occasional side gust. It’s still no locomotive in this respect, but it’s a lot more secure out on the road.”
Torque up; power meh. R&T reported, “The displacement increase [from 1285 to 1493 cc] has been taken out in torque rather than peak power: the 16% capacity increase is accompanied by an increase of 14% in peak torque and only 6% in power.”
There’s a good R&T mini lesson here: “Along with the more flexible engine comes altered gearing. All ratios are numerically lower overall.” The magazine noted, “VW’s basic approach remains the same: a comparatively large displacement engine geared for durability rather than all-out acceleration. Its low Wear Index of 42 points out the approach graphically, and it is probably the VW’s inherent durability, more than any other one factor, that has won it the remarkable popularity it has in the U.S.”
The R&T Wear Index, devised by John R. Bond, was based on how much an engine revs and how far its pistons travel. For example, an MG TC’s Wear Index calculated out to 88.2; a sturdy Volvo 122S sedan’s, to 68.0.
Geez. The stuff we learned back then from R&T. With only occasional whoppers.
The February 1967 road test of the Volkswagen Beetle 1500 concluded with, “For all its changes, though, the Beetle’s days are obviously numbered.”
The magazine must have had lots of numbers for day counting: The last VW Beetle Type 1 was produced on July 30, 2003, in Puebla, Mexico. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2020
Thanks for the post. Our first car was a 1967 beetle. Of course we continued the horsepower race like others and went with a 1600 cc kit on an engine rebuild.
Thank you, Paul, for your kind words. (There’s “no substitute for cubic centimeters,” little fellows that they are.)
My first car (JKO622E). Still miss it. Always felt pretty nippy up to 50mph and then seemed to die. Unfortunately, rust got it in the end.