Thursday, July 19, 2012

My 1973 VW RESTORATION: Econo vs Standard Beetle

Now that I think I got the Super vs. Standard AND the German vs Brazilian beetle all figured out (I have a German Standard VW), another VW question was again hurled at me by local VW enthusiasts: do you have “Standard” or an “Econo” beetle? Just when I thought I’m done with the classification of my bug, here comes another category. It never seems to ends!

I surfed around for more information about this query but found difficulty gathering information on the “Econo” terminology. Only in my local VWCP forums did I see much discussion on it. It got me wondering if the “Econo” term is an internationally acceptable categorization or is it more local than anything else…I still welcome further clarifications on this topic from our international VW experts…

From my research on this topic and this series in general, it would appear that the VW beetle terminologies and classifications have been loosely applied not only in literature but more so in the net. Focusing more on this topic, we have clearly defined in my previous post on Standard vs. Super Beetles (My 1973 VW RESTORATION: Standard vs. Super Beetle) the definitions and structural differences between the two models:

     In gist, the Standard beetle (manufactured in Germany) is the original Beetle model using torsion bars for the front 
     suspension. This is the most common Beetle which evolved from the original Porsche design but was considered the 
     basic model- the Super Beetle the top of the line in Beetles. Super Beetles were introduced by VW as an upgrade from 
     the original model. Both models of the Super Beetle (1302 and 1303) use the MacPherson struts for suspension. This is 
     the main element making it different from the Standard Beetle. The other structural differences were mentioned in my 
     previous post.

Further readings on this topic revealed some literatures used the “Standard Beetle” term mostly more on the cosmetic aspects of the design as opposed to the structural aspects mentioned in the definition above. The Standard Beetle was described as a “stripped down” model of the Beetle without almost any body or window chrome trim.  The door handles, hood handles and front turn signal housings were painted, usually in grey.  These were sold primarily in Europe, but available in other markets such as Canada.  In the same line, the term Deluxe Beetle was also mentioned in comparison (primarily sold in the United States) with the familiar body and window chrome moldings, door and hood handles and chromed front turn signal housings.  To add to the confusion, with the introduction of the Super Beetle in the 1971 model year, the Deluxe Beetle which continued in production was informally called a “Standard Beetle” to differentiate between the two models and continued to have all of the “Deluxe” trim appointments. 

In the US when VW introduced the Super Beetle, they started calling the old car just "the Bug". The real "standard" or basic models were sold in other countries, but never in the US. They had different names depending on which country they were sold in. For example in Germany, it was sold as the "Sparkafer". I think in Canada a different but more basic model was labeled "Custom (correct me if I'm wrong) as opposed to "Deluxe". Australian Standards were called the Austerity models. In the Philippines, I believe they were popularly known as the Econo Beetle.

It would appear now that the term “Standard” beetle can be used to classify the bug either:
1. based on the basic structure- suspensions, etc. (Standard vs. Super Beetle model)
2. based on cosmetics -chrome trimmings, etc.  (Standard vs. De Luxe Beetle version)

So where is the question on Econo Beetle vs Standard Beetle coming from? In one of the local forums I follow, the “Econo Beetle” is termed as a stripped-down version of the Standard beetle model.

Putting together all the information above, I came up with the following conclusions on the question of “Econo vs Standard” beetle:
1. On this question (not to confuse it with the structural Standard vs. Super Beetle model comparison above), focus should be more on the cosmetics.
2. The Econo and Standard classification is actually comparing the same model- the Standard beetle model (NOT the Super Beetles).
3. The “structurally” Standard Beetle model was classified into two versions “cosmetically”:
     a. Standard Beetle- “stripped down” model of the Beetle without almost any body or window chrome
        trim.  The door handles, hood handles and front turn signal housings were painted, usually in grey.
     b.Deluxe Beetle- with the familiar body and window chrome moldings, door and hood handles and
       chromed front turn signal housings.
4. With the introduction of the Super Beetle in 1971, the cosmetically Deluxe Beetle continued in production and was informally called a “Standard Beetle” to differentiate between the two models (Standard and Super) and continued to have all of the “Deluxe” trim appointments.
5. I believe that due to # 4.
     a. the cosmetically “Deluxe beetle” with all the trim appointments were named cosmetically “Standard
        Beetles” in general.
     b.The cosmetically “Standard beetle” which is “stripped down” without almost any body or window 
        chrome trim among other things was now termed (in the Philippines at least) as the Econo Beetle. The  
        same version may have been labeled differently per country like "Sparkafer"(Germany), "Custom”
       (Canada), Austerity models (Australia), etc.

6. The “Econo Beetle” is the cheaper version of the structurally Standard Beetle model without the usual enhancements and accessories of the DE LUXE version- hence more economical (cheaper).

Below are the original “Econo Beetle” specifications:
1200cc engine, single port
blade bumpers
Small taillights
Sealed beam front fenders 
Less chrome in general (no chrome strip front hood, etc.)
Painted vent window frames

1967 Canadian Custom

6 volt electronics
          Fun fact: The 12 Volt Electrical System was available as an option in Europe for the 1965 and 1966
          model year.  In the 1967 model year, it became standard and was introduced in the United States at
          that time.

Short headliner -Headliner upholstery is on the roof area only and does not extend to the inner pillars of the roof interior.

VW Standard: From a 1968 Hungarian brochure:

It would be rare now to see a “pure” Econo Beetle on the road due to numerous after Market accessories sold not to mention that Beetles bought directly from the dealers are already customized from its original basic factory state to increase the price or as requested also by the buyer.

My bug:

I was a bit confused in coming up with the Econo vs Standard classification of my bug because of the dealer customizations mentioned done when it was bought.

My 1973 Standard German beetle specs:

Painted vent window frames
Short headliner
1300cc engine, single port
Europa bumpers

VW Beetle Europa Bumpers

1977, German 

Sealed beam front fenders
With chrome strips and parts in the front hood
12 volt electronics
Big taillights


I think the body of my 1973 German Standard Beetle itself is that of an Econo Beetle (painted vent window frames and short headliner) but is customized to look like a US De Luxe version (1300cc engine, single port, Europa bumpers, chrome trimmings, big taillights, 12 volt electronics, etc.)

I have a 1973 German Standard customized Econo Beetle.


My 1973 VW RESTORATION: German vs. Brazilian Bug.

My 1973 VW RESTORATION: Standard vs. Super Beetle



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