Junkyard Gem: 1961 Volkswagen Baja Bug

Junkyard Gem: 1961 Volkswagen Baja Bug


There was a time, many years in the past, when Volkswagen Beetles modified to compete in off-road desert racing (or a minimum of to appear like desert racers) have been used as day by day transportation by many American drivers. Modified with uncovered engines and fiberglass physique elements, these Baja Bugs— as they’ve been identified since the primary ones appeared in Orange County, California, within the early Nineteen Sixties— have all however disappeared from our streets now. Meaning they’ve additionally largely disappeared from our junkyards; certainly, I hadn’t run throughout a single discarded Baja Bug since I began documenting automotive historical past in automobile graveyards again in 2007. Lastly, I ran throughout as we speak’s discover: a real Baja Bug in a Denver-area self-service yard.

Volkswagen of America ultimately got here to embrace the Beetles that have been cruelly sliced up into dune buggies and Baja Bugs, however it took awhile. When VW had me drive a stock-bodied Jetta at 206 mph on the Bonneville Salt Flats again in 2018 (as a result of of my unimaginable driving expertise I used to be the one automotive journalist residing shut sufficient who owned SCTA-compliant race gear), they introduced alongside each a Meyers Manx and a 1969 Baja Bug. Right here they’re, photographed with my appropriate-vintage Ricohflex VII movie digicam.

I got here of driving age in Northern California in the course of the top of the Baja Bug craze on the West Coast, and loads of my highschool classmates have been roaring (on the time, the State of California had no exhaust-noise laws for automobiles with engines displacing fewer than 1600 cubic centimeters, which utilized within the theoretical if not precise sense to hopped-up air-cooled VWs, so these automobiles have been LOUD) round city in Beetles in varied states of Baja-ization. For causes that made sense to me on the time (1983), I dropped 50 bucks on a 1958 Beetle with an alleged Porsche engine (truly a Kind 3 VW engine with crank-mounted cooling fan, twin carburetors and straight pipes) and your complete rear physique torched off in Baja-ish type. On account of surviving far too many miles pushed on this automobile, my coronary heart is stuffed with affection for Baja Bugs and it saddened me to see as we speak’s Junkyard Gem meet such a destiny.

My automobile did not actually matter as a real Baja, as a result of it lacked the light-weight aftermarket fenders and frunklid. This automobile bought a correct Southern California-style Baja conversion, in all probability in the course of the Seventies or Nineteen Eighties.

The manufacturing facility construct tag was lengthy gone, maybe as the results of casual title modifications over the many years, however we will place the possible date of manufacture of this automobile by utilizing sure clues. To start with, the rear window is the one used on U.S.-market Beetles from the 1958 via 1964 mannequin years.

The swingaxle rear suspension got here from a pre-1969 automobile, and the wheel bolt sample on the brake drum signifies pre-1968 origins. This does not imply a lot while you’re attempting to determine the mannequin 12 months of a Baja Bug, as a result of off-roaders want the swingaxle suspension to the later IRS and swap them in. This one has aftermarket blue spring plates.

The Beetle offered in North America bought a gas gauge on the sprint (utilizing a purely mechanical system involving a bicycle-brake-style cable operating to a float within the front-mounted gas tank) beginning with the 1962 mannequin 12 months. This automobile’s sprint lacks the gas gauge gap, which possible means it is a 1958-1961 automobile. After all, somebody might have swapped in a pre-1962 sprint panel, however then once more the floorpan is likely to be from a very completely different automobile, resulting in a Ship of Theseus-type debate that by no means ends. There have to be bits from a dozen Beetles right here, anyway.

U-Pull-&-Pay thinks it is a ’61, so we will assume that it got here to the yard with some type of details about its mannequin 12 months.

Somebody yanked the engine earlier than I bought right here, leaving the bolts contained in the bellhousing. Air-cooled Volkswagen engines are nonetheless in demand, so they have a tendency to get bought rapidly after showing in a boneyard.

The fiberglass fenders have endured a lot struggling throughout their lives.

There’s loads of thick physique filler over outdated harm. The physique began out pink.

Off-road lights as soon as lived on the tube bumper.

It lived a protracted and little question adventurous life.


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