Hella SB-12 Headlight Rings

Along with the many other interesting things about the 1967 Volkswagen Beetle are the Head Light Rings Engraved with Hella SB-12. The SB-12s first were used by Volkswagen on Type 3s—the FastBacks and SquareBacks which came to US Dealerships.

Then for reasons unknown to us today, Volkswagen decided to install these special Head Light Rings on early ’67 Beetles—only those manufactured from August–October of 1966. The validation of this information has taken many years of checking the VINs of original, unrestored ‘67s which had SB-12s installed.

If you want to check to see when your ‘67 Beetle was manufactured, go here.

You also will be able to check your Engine H0 Case Serial Number to see how close it is to your VIN.

In today’s world, you will find SB-12s installed on a lot of ‘67 Bugs no matter what month the car was manufactured. Unless you are a purest, it really doesn’t matter if they came with the car, or not. They are very cool to have installed and finding a good set these days is getting harder all the time.

As we all are aware, Volkswagen made a lot of Beetles. However, the ’67 Beetle is the milestone year sought by collectors. It has been said that you either love or hate ‘67s. It really depends on how many of those one-year-only parts are already on the car when you acquire it and how many you have to chase down.

The bottom line is–if you have SB-12s on your ‘67 and it is an early ’67, great. If you have them installed on a later ‘67, enjoy them, because they are not easy to find these days and that is one of the first things folks look for when they are checking out a ‘67.

The SB-12 Head Light Rings pictured in this article are of some of my special ‘67 items–a Hella Box of NOS SB-12s and one of the SB-12s I unwrapped for this article.

I would like to thank my good friend and mentor, Bill, who is an expert on the 1967 Beetle.


Richard R. Marcoux

Editor’s Note: Richard Marcoux owns two Unaltered 1967 Beetles—a Convertible and a SunRoof Edition Sedan. Along with Richard’s expertise, these cars have proven themselves invaluable to the 1967 Beetle Community, providing an open window on how a 1967 Beetle Convertible and a SunRoof Sedan would have appeared as they exited the factory doors–the Sedan from Wolfsburg and the Convertible from Osnabruck, Germany.

Thank you, Richard, for opening that prized box of NOS Hella SB-12 Head Light Rings!

Posted by Jay Salser

My wife, Neva, and I have been driving and working on VWs since 1976. In fact, we raised our family in these cars. Now, we are retired and enjoy VWs as a hobby. The ’67 Beetle always has been our favorite year. We own a '67 Beetle and a '68 Karmann Ghia.

  1. Great article, Jay! I receive so many emails from around the world seeking the one and only SB 12 rings.

  2. Frank J.Connolly, Jr. March 17, 2018 at 10:03 pm

    WOW! How interesting. I must check my 67.

  3. Nice, I need a good pair for my 67.

  4. Thanks Richard and Jay for such a detailed article. Does anyone have a picture of these SB 12s on a car? I’m still not sure what they look like.



  5. Stephen L. Murray March 18, 2018 at 2:04 am

    Richard and Jay –

    100% Correct. I have an Early ’67 Beetle (Production Date: October 20th, 1966), and it did in fact come with the SB-12 Headlight Rings. And yes, ONLY on Early cars. Another unique feature which distinguishes Early ’67 Beetles from Late ’67 Beetles (Front Seats, Interior Trim, etc.).

    I have collected a few “Spares” over the years, and currently have three -(3) SB-12 Trim Ring spares. Very, very hard to find today., like most Original, German VW Parts.

  6. Speaking of your ’67, Gary. We should do an article about your new find.

  7. Hello, Stephan…Thanks for more information and verification on the SB-12s! I told Richard that we could hope for more data to roll into the information base! Keep enjoying that ’67, Stephan! jay

  8. I would love to buy your SB-12 rings if you interested in selling.
    You can email me at vwbeck@gmai.com

  9. Eric that would be fun.
    The 67 is going in the paint shop at the end of this week so I’ll start taking some before and after photos.

  10. A while back, I contacted Paul’s in Pennsylvania about re-chroming some SB-12s. At the time it was going to cost $400 for the pair. The process is complicated by the fact that the engraving of the letters and numerals must be “deepened” or they can be obliterated by the polishing-re-chroming process. Paul’s does a really great and careful job. I once had a customer in Puerto Rico who sent a pair of SB-12s to a shop on the Island. They ruined the Rings due to not engraving the letters-numerals. By the way, the Rings are made of brass. if you have seen one which has worn chrome, it is evident. And, they are not attracted to a magnet. jay

  11. Alway’s have been curious about the SB-12’s. What does SB-12 stand for? Why was it stamped on these headlight ring and not on others? Other than the stamp, is there any other notable difference?

  12. Hello, Jeffrey…I do not know the why of the SB-12. This also is stamped on the inner retaining ring of ’67 Beetles–but does not depend upon whether the outer ring is an SB-12 or simply the plain ring. To my eye, I can see no difference between the plain ring and the SB-12 ring. Hopefully your questions will prompt someone with knowledge to comment. You will note that on the box, the VW Part# is 311-941-175 (with -177 written over the -175). You can access what appears to be the same ring using either part number. Again–for me a question–was there really a separate part number for the SB-12s jay

  13. Stephen L. Murray March 19, 2018 at 1:13 pm

    Gentlemen –

    I believe that the “SB-12” stands for “Sealed Beam – 12 Volt”, but have no knowledge of WHY – VW Stamped the Early Headlight Rings with this designation.

    And Jay, you are CORRECT, again. Yesterday, Sunday, I attended the “25th Anniversary Car Show at the Bob Baker VW Show”, in Carlsbad San Diego. Long story short, there was a ’67 Beetle there that was “hodgepodged” together (early sixties interior and Dash Knobs, late ’67 front Seats) and SB-12 Headlight Trim Rings. Needless to say, not “Period Correct”.
    However, it did have a set of “SB-12” Headlight Trim Rings, which the owner told me that he had re-chromed. The “SB-12 Stamp” was somewhat illegible. Not good.

  14. Hello, Stephen…Head lamp IS Scheinwerfer in German. That COULD account for the “S”.
    Yes, I saw a wanted ad the other day–a person wanting SB-12s in order “to complete my 1967 Beetle project”. We’ve believed for so long that ALL ’67s had the SB-12s that now we do not feel correct without them on our cars. As Richard says–it’s okay to have them. But, just to clear the history–they originally were correct for only a short while during early production.
    Keep the ideas coming, Stephen! jay

  15. Jeffrey Hicken March 19, 2018 at 7:05 pm

    I suppose the reason that SB-12’s were only seen on early US Type 1’s is that they were repurposed from the then current Type 3 stock. Once that existing Hella stock was used up, the next batch didn’t have the stamp. They probably removed the stamp for aesthetic reasons.

  16. Todd Van Winkle March 20, 2018 at 1:47 pm

    I wish I could put the set I have on my 67, but since its a 67′ Standard with 6 volts, I cant…so I installed them on my 68′, looks so cool..

  17. David Brown sent the following to me via private communication: “I think that it is very simple, so simple that it probably will “tarnish” the legend. First consider the Volkswagen Part Number…. 311-. That’s the big clue as to where a part Originates, those First Three Digits. Then -941-….. that’s simply the “Head Lights” section of the Book and ALSO, the corresponding location in the Parts Department Shelves where it would be found. -177 and any following Letters are where in the -941- section a -177 Part would be found. All this in numerical order from 0-thru 9. Price Books are the same; location is keyed to those Center Three Digits. It was an incredible system until it was over-run by the massive addition of all the water-cooled parts. PLUS, Audi was on the same numbering system, but with their own separate Price Books !!

    Anyway, Type 3s (311s) had these same Head Light Rings from the beginning, which is late 1961. The “SB-12” Versions were perhaps Hella’s code for use with Sealed Beam Headlights. Note that the Inner Head Light Rings, as well, are stamped SB-12. These Inner Retaining Rings continued to be used much longer than were the SB-12 stamped Outer Rings. jay salser

  18. A note of the Hella SB-12 headlight trim rings. 1967 and later Beetles used the outside headlight trim rings which came in several materials. Most were chrome plated thin, stamped steel (or tin). I even have some that are chrome plated plastic. Many Asian knock-offs are so cheap, the screw hole flange collapses if slightly over-tightened. SB-12s were used on ALL VW vehicles including Ghias and Tipo 2. Supposedly SB-12 stands for Sealed Beam-12 volt. A southern California company is actually reproducing them for about $50 each. Genuine SB-12 headlight trim rings are actually chrome plated copper over a brass body. You can check this by holding a magnet to them and it will not stick. Many years ago I made the mistake of having a nice, straight pair of SB-12s re-chromed only to have the SB-12 stamping near completely filled in with chrome. Most chrome shops don’t have the first clue what they are doing in this regard, so ask first before re-chroming yours. I have 3 1967 Bugs: sedan, sunroof and convertible. The sunroof came with the SB-12s, which in 1969 was not a big deal at all. Now, its all the rage for some reason. Another one of those classic 1967 only parts.

    I was very pleased to see our 1967 restored Beetles turn 50 last year. My wife calls them our kids just for fun and has named them all to keep them straight in conversation. Hilda, Helmut and Heinrich sound better then the green one or beige one.

    Also, did you know: That even though 66 and 67 Bug door handles look exactly the same, 1966 won’t work on a 1967 Beetle. They are both indeed one-year-only because the inner locking mechanisms are different. I know because I repair and re-key them all the time. K profile is 67 only.

  19. Honestly I don’t believe the SB-12 stands for Sealed Beam 12 volt. It’s too convenient. Considering sealed beam headlights were in the earlier US cars, why call it out? The earlier headlight rings weren’t coded “SB-6”. And why was it there for only the first half of ’67? Until I see a more documented source, it’s just internet lore. just because one guy says it and others buy into it and it’s published on a number of internet forums, doesn’t make it true.

    VW and Hella are German companies, on most of the earlier packages everything is in German. I worked in the parts department at Green Motors in Norwalk CA in ’78-’79 and even then the parts were still tagged in German. Why would they stamp something using an English translation? It doesn’t add up.

    Until someone can provide documented proof, I’m not buying it.

  20. There is a lot of “missing” information regarding vintage VWs. Wouldn’t it be great to go back in time to interview Dr. Porsche or some of the other engineers to learn why they did certain things. We are left to cast about for information. IF–we can draw conclusions based upon factual information, good. But–we still must realize that although from our perspective we draw some conclusions–we may not have
    ALL of the facts. We are fortunate to have the little information about the Hella SB-12 Rings that we do have. The researchers for this Article did a LOT of work before they wanted to put it to the VW Community. What we do know is what this Article publishes. Why, for instance, the Engineers named the Rings “SB-12”–we don’t know. We can speculate. T-3s were using this style of ring from the earlier ’60s. Exactly when the SB-12 stamping began to be used for the T-3s–we only can speculate. We must ask ourselves–“When did 12 volt systems begin to be used for T-3s?” I do not have the answer. T-3s were being produced and used in other countries before they came to the USA. Did their rings bear the SB-12 inscription? Maybe some of you Readers can offer some concrete information to these questions. In the meanwhile, we make progress a step at a time. It’s a treasure hunt! Once in a while, we strike gold. More often, we find a mangled “penny”. LOL jay salser

  21. Funny thing is.. when I acquired my 64 notchback, it had SB12 rings on it! Obviously an add on by a previous owner. They promptly made their way to the chrome shop and eventually onto my RHD 67 bug.

  22. Rick Meredith May 17, 2018 at 12:29 am

    My early ’67 has SB-12s both innner and outer rings. Being a punk kid, I stupidly painted the outer rings, filling in the SB-12 logo. I’m hoping at some point to strip the paint to reveal the logo.

    1. Hello, Rick…If you did not scuff the head light rings prior to painting (to make the paint hold), they should strip fine. If you scuffed them–that’s another matter. They can be restored–but at a steep cost. If you find that you need to re-chrome them–make sure that the shop knows what you have and knows how to preserve the engraving. jay salser

      1. Thanks Jay… I can’t remember if I scuffed them or not. We’ll find when I strip them

        1. Rick–I’m keeping my fingers crossed–hoping that you did not scuff the rings! Let us know what you find. jay

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