Difference Between a Beetle and a Super Beetle

There's a big disparity between the Volkswagon brands

Super Beetle
1971 Super Beetle.

If you've been bitten by the VW Bug or plan to purchase your first Volkswagen classic car, you need to know two things: a brief history of the brand and how to tell the difference between a Beetle and a Super Beetle. No one can argue the fact that these are iconic classic cars.

They remain a favorite of collectors because of the amount of support and documentation available, and they are also one of the most socially connected cars thanks to a rabid fan base. Beetle ownership comes with the opportunity to join VW clubs or interact with Volkswagen fans on facebook. It's a great starter car for those wishing to participate in this fast-growing hobby.

Volkswagen Beetle History

Development of this economy car began in the late 1930s and it was produced in small numbers until it was interrupted by World War II. After the war, mass production began and they designated the automobile as the Volkswagen type I. The term Beetle became a loveable nickname the German people bestowed upon a car currently marketed as the people's car, which is the actual definition of the company name.

The catchy nickname caught on and used as a marketing tool in Germany and other countries where they exported the vehicle. In 1946, the Volkswagen factory, located in the newly minted town of Wolfsburg, started producing 1000 VW type ones a month. In 1949, the first two units sold in the United States and delivered to New York City. Although production was limited due to a shortage of materials in the postwar environment, in early 1955 the factory managed to produce more than one million vehicles.

It wasn't until the company formed Volkswagen of America that the ball really started to roll. The 1960s turned out to be a decade of growth with the addition of four new models. In the third quarter of 1970, the first Super Beetles began to run off of the Wolfsburg assembly line where it all began. They built the new and improved models in sedan format until 1975 and made them available as a convertible through 1980. In 1972, the company surpassed the 15 million mark securing the record for the most single model units built. This unseated Ford and its model T as the previous title holder.

Difference between a Beetle and a Super Beetle

If you ask classic car collectors about the difference is between a Super Beetle and a standard Beetle, most will tell you that the super version is much longer. This is a true statement to some extent. A Super Beetle is only two inches longer than a standard one. This can be really hard to detect with the naked eye. Luckily there are many things we can see easily to help us determine the difference between the two.

From a mechanical standpoint, one of the biggest differences is the front suspension. A standard Beetle used torsion bars and the Super models were upgraded to a McPherson strut and coil spring type set up. This improvement increased ride quality while improving the Bug’s poor turning radius at the same time. The accuracy of the steering and the pleasant ride are easily detected on a road test.

One of the improvements Volkswagen wanted to make with the introduction of the Super Beetle was to increase the storage capacity. This became the automobiles' Achilles' heel and hindered sales as North American driving enthusiasts needed room for the family. The modest increase in length allowed the manufacturer to store the spare tire flat in the trunk, located at the front of the vehicle. On a standard Beetle, the spare tire takes up a lot of the storage capacity. On a Super Beetle, the spare is out of the way leaving more room for luggage or groceries.

Volkswagen Beetle Facts

Here are a few more interesting facts about this car. The early post-war models had a top speed of 71 mph, making them Autobahn ready. Although it would take a long time to reach this speed with its air cooled engine rated around 35 hp, the vehicle posted fuel economy numbers above 30 miles per gallon.

Due to the automobile's odd shape, water displacement abilities and tight fitting seams, a Volkswagen Beetle is capable of floating on the water for several minutes before she gently starts to sink.