1979 was a pivotal year for Volkswagen as it saw the end of production of the famous Beetle and the U.S. market acceptance of its replacement compact car model, the Rabbit (which first saw introduction in 1975). Both models were produced as convertibles in 1979, with the fold-down material roofs as a major marketing feature compared to American compact cars. With the end of the 1970s, thanks to the oil embargoes and the cost of gas, smaller and more efficient cars were the “in” thing, and convertible compacts were not that common.
Beetle Engine Details
The last Beetle model came with an engine measuring 1,600 cc that produced a palpable 48 horsepower. It was enough to go highways speeds. The engine itself was designed as 4-cylinder machine and matched with a 4-speed transmission. The engine used an air cooling system to keep temperature under control and was installed in the rear of the car.
The length of the 1979 convertible Beetle reached 165 inches from end to end, and the car itself weight approximately 2,000 lbs. The the convertible roof of the 1979 Beetle was canvas material machined to be durable and weather-proof, and came with a glass rear panel rather than plastic. Added benefits to the final Beetle model included a rear window defroster and adjustable head rests.
Beetle Pricing and Closeout
The final 1979 Beetle unit price rang in at $6,800 per car, compared to the approximately $1,900 with the early predecessors. The Beetle design continued to be produced after it was closed out of the U.S. market in 1979. Final convertible units sold off in 1980. European sales continued for another five years. And Mexican licensed factories continued to sell old-design Beetles until 2003 (see Reference 3).
The 1979 Rabbit
The second Volkswagen convertible in 1979 was the Rabbit. The Rabbit model was an angular, boxy compact car packaged with a 1.5 liter, four-cylinder engine that used water cooling and was installed in the front of the car. The diesel engine put out 45 mpg in the city and 57 mpg on the highway. Power generation reached approximately 71 horsepower. The gas model engine offered by Volkswagen used a capacity of 1.5 liters as well and did not get larger until the early 1980s. The transmission came in either a 5-speed manual gear set or a 3-speed automatic design.
The Rabbit provided a clear response to gas prices and inflation by serving customers an efficient 45 mpg in the city and as much as 57 mpg on the highway.
The convertible Rabbit came with a soft vinyl top that also folded back similar to the Beetle convertible. The most noticeable interior feature was the introduction of American-style color-coding of parts rather than the standard leather black or brown of typical German Volkswagen cars. The braking system used a disc brake and caliper design and the suspension was supported with MacPherson struts with each wheel independently suspended.
- Reuters: It’s Time to Say Adios to Beetle ‘Love Bug’ [http://www.maggiolinoweb.it/reuters/reuters2.html]
- Volkswagon Newsroom: Volkswagen Announces the End of its Classic Cabrio Convertible in the U.S. [http://media.vw.com/press_releases/volkswagen-announces-the-end-of-its-classic-cabrio-convertible-in-the-u-s-the-best-selling-european-convertible-in-its-time]
- Car Gurus: 1979 Volkswagen Rabbit [http://www.cargurus.com/Cars/Overview-c7082-1979-Rabbit.html]
- Car Pictures: 1979 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible silver / black top [http://www.carpictures.com/Volkswagen/Beetle-Convertible-silver-black-top-1979-04BGK335057045]
- Old Car and Truck Pictures: A Picture Review of the Volkswagen Beetle From 1961 to 1979 [http://oldcarandtruckpictures.com/Volkswagen/index2.html]
- AOL Autos: The Long, Lovable History of the Volkswagen Beetle [http://autos.aol.com/gallery/vw-beetle-history/]