While I definitely will touch on points which I used in that article, the focus of this article is different. I’m going to chasten sellers but at the same time not let buyers off the hook.
Things in the World of Vintage Volkswagens are heating rapidly. Prices of vehicles are rising steadily. As I have said before, the day of a running, driving VW for $500 or even a thousand dollars is over! Forgive that rare case, of course.
A decent vehicle that doesn’t take complete restoration to get it going is going to cost $6500 to $8500. I had to give up my idyllic world of cheap Beetles a few years ago. I consider myself a “veteran” VW buyer, having bought and sold scores of them over the years. In all conditions for all sorts of reasons. I could ferret them from backyards, garages—anywhere that owners had parked them. It was easy. Had I more money at the time and more space, I would have bought hundreds. But, that wasn’t the case.
Now, I drool when someone comes up with a decent Beetle for $3000. Wow! How did I miss that one?!
Okay…let’s examine a specific case. Eric and I field lots of buying questions but many people who come to us already have purchased a car which they hope will be the car of their dreams!
Let’s call him Bill. Bill and Eric and I conferred after the fact. Bill had purchased a Convertible 1967 Beetle. He contacted us when he noticed an anomaly—a simple thing at first, but as the story played out—a travesty! Bill gave permission for us to use his story in hopes that it will help others to avoid what happened to him.
Bill used a well-known VW WebSite to search for his dream car. He eventually discovered a 1967 Beetle Convertible in California. The seller sent multiple photos for Bill to see. When all questions had been asked, the deal was sealed, money crossed palms and the car was shipped across the Nation to its destination.
While cleaning the project Convertible, Bill discovered that someone had installed a ’68 and later shift lever. Wanting his ‘Vert to be original, Bill found a stock shifter Online and set about to install it. To his surprise, the stock, year-correct shift lever would not fit. ’67 and earlier shift levers have a pin on the “ball” which fits into the “cup” of the shift rod in the tunnel. The cup had no notch for the pin! What???
That’s when Bill talked to Eric and me. Questions began to pour from us. What’s the VIN beneath the rear seat? Does it jibe with the tag behind the spare tire? Are the wheels 4 lug or 5 lug? And on and on.
Bill’s answers elicited further questions. The picture began to come into focus. It came to a head when Bill closely examined the VIN beneath the rear seat and discovered that it was a little crooked. Upon further examination, he could see that it had been grafted into the chassis. Not only so—the original VIN that had been cut and removed was pushed beneath the heater tube on the driver’s side. It read: 118xxxxxx The chassis is from a ’68 Beetle!
Then, Bill began to compare photos which the seller had sent to him. The seller’s photo of the VIN showed it to be in good condition. Yet, when Bill received delivery of the car, he found the sound deadening material surrounding the VIN to be melted.
And…the aluminum VIN tag behind the spare tire was missing.
It doesn’t cease there. Convertible ’67 VINs should read 157xxxxxx. The seller thought to deceive but probably had no idea that a Convertible’s VIN differs from that of a Sedan (117xxxxxx). He grafted a ’67 Sedan VIN into the ’68 chassis.
More: the dash appears to be from a ’68 or later because there are holes for the padded dash installation and Bondo squished around the corners where something was altered.
What the seller in California did is, literally, criminal. That this seller still is known to be advertising cars constitutes a further danger to other prospective buyers.
Every prospective buyer—that’s you!—should follow these simple rules.
1. Study to know about the type of car which you want to purchase. Do not buy on impulse. Do not buy, then expect to learn about the car later. You are the author of your decisions—make those decisions to be determined decisions!
2. Upon finding a car which looks promising, personally view the vehicle. If this is impossible, have a friend, relative or a hired appraisal firm to view and to critique the car. Make sure that the one who views the car has in hand all of the criteria which you expect of it. Send messages back and forth, make vocal phone calls, send photos back and forth. Ask lots of questions of the seller. If the seller is vague or fails to answer your questions, take that as a prime indication that this is not the car for you. Bill’s wife urged him to fly to California to inspect the car. But, the cost of flying there and back seemed to be a waste of time and money—at the time.
3. Make certain that both VINs are on the car—not “in a drawer somewhere” or just flat missing. Remember—every Volkswagen Beetle has two VINs. The two VINs must agree. Moreover, they must agree with the title papers. Know what the VIN for a Beetle Sedan or Convertible should be.
4. Besides having the seller to properly sign the title and to relinquish all relevant papers, draw up a Bill of Sale, clearly marked—As Is Sale– with an identical copy for both the seller and the buyer. Such a Bill should include complete names, addresses, phone numbers, the VIN of the vehicle, the amount of the sale and the date of the sale. Both the seller and the buyer should sign the Bill. People who don’t take these precautions have prepared themselves for possible disaster.
5. At least liability insurance should be at once purchased before the car is to be moved. Make plans accordingly, ahead of time. It’s not a bad idea to have made arrangements with one of the collector insurance companies so that your investment also will be protected. If you use a transport, you may be required to have extra insurance.
Bill has changed plans for his “Dream Convertible”. He now plans to spend less money and time with finishing the vehicle. He hopes just to enjoy the car as a “car”.
I expect more and more of this sort of thing to happen as Beetles become more valuable and complete cars become increasingly scarce. There is that touch of greed in some which propels them to mix-n-match, creating, as Bill said, a Frankenstein. A restored Frankenstein remains a Frankenstein.
We hate to be distrustful but when it comes to parting with thousands of hard-earned dollars…be skeptical…be wise. Vigilance is our guardian!