New Volkswagen 1500 Will Hit 81 M. P. H. (Jul, 1961)

81 miles per hour? That’s ridiculous. Who on earth would ever want to drive that fast?

New Volkswagen 1500 Will Hit 81 M. P. H.

FROM THE specifications it appears that the new VW 1500 is based on the chassis of the familiar, beetle-shaped ’61 model. Wheelbase is unchanged at 94.5 inches, although the new car is six inches longer over-all at 166.3.

The larger body (rated as four to five-passenger capacity) with front and rear luggage compartments, has increased car’s weight from 1631 to 1896 lb. Performance will not suffer however, as the new version of familiar four-cylinder, horizontally opposed, air-cooled engine develops 53 horsepower versus the current engine’s 40 (SAE rating).

New engine displaces 91 cubic inches compared to 72.7 of the current car. Increase was achieved by enlarging bore and stroke from 3.03 x 2.52 to 3.3 x 2.7 inches. Gear ratios of the 4-speed synchromesh transmission are unchanged.

Space for the rear luggage compartment was created by relocating the cooling fan from its pedestal on top of the engine to direct drive from the end of the crankshaft. Carburetor was changed from vertical to horizontal type.

Suspension remains four-wheel independent by torsion bars and trailing arms. Tire size has been upped from 5.60×15 to 6.25×15. Electrical system remains 6-volt.

  1. Matthew says: April 4, 200812:47 am

    It seems to me though that the pace of innovation in automobiles, perhaps until only recently when electronics started being used, was pretty slow. We coud all probably drive that car within about two minutes of sitting in it.

    On the other hand 53bhp, 47 years ago, if you had a growth rate of 2% per year that would mean 134 bhp today, which is about what that car’s equivalent have, don’t they?

  2. sweavo says: April 4, 20081:29 am

    Won’t all the air get sucked out of the passenger cabin?

    I don’t follow Matthew’s argument above. What is a pace of innovation? How do you measure it? This is something that’s easy in computers: cycles per second, memory size, power consumption.

    The automotive sector has involved lots of innovation in mechanical linkages, control layout, fuel delivery, power, economy, comfort, traction and roadholding, braking systems. Even though the cars of 40-50 years ago are operated in a similar fashion to modern cars, try one, then tell me they are the same. In my ’65 triumph, the driver had to take responsibility for stopping the car or making the corner, not the ABS or the tyres! Gear changes were more a co-operative activity with the car rather than a simple selection of gear. Maintenance was a genuine weekly necessity. If you go back to the 1920s, you need to manually adjust the timing advance when you are accellerating, something rendered obsolete by vacuum advance.

    Measured by horsepower, yeah innovation’s been slow. They had 130HP in 1907: http://www.bigscalemode…

  3. Dave says: April 4, 20084:45 am

    “We coud all probably drive that car within about two minutes of sitting in it.”

    Most europeans yes, but Americans, no.
    It has a manual gear box which is the standard in Europe, while Automatics are more normal in the US

  4. nlpnt says: April 4, 20085:10 am

    I’m American and I drive a stick 🙂
    Not making any promises about finding reverse on a rear-engine VW though…

  5. Tim Giachetti says: April 4, 20085:16 am

    reverse? Push the stick down and pull toward your knee and forward. I love old VWs and have , unfotunatly , a 72 super beatle
    took me about 10 minutes to find reverse the first outing.

  6. Ben Blok says: April 4, 20089:07 am

    It depends on wether or not the transmission has synchros. I dont know when those were invented and used in consumer cars. But if it has no synchros I doubt many of us could use it unless you know how to double-clutch.

  7. Ben Blok says: April 4, 20089:14 am

    Aha, found it in the wikipedia article of Double Clutching:
    Synchros were introduced in 1920: “Before the introduction of transmission synchronizers (in the 1920s) ” (source:…) so indeed we probably can drive this car without problems.

  8. DooMMasteR says: April 4, 200811:25 am

    Many motorcyles had no synced gearbox until the 60s when even these smaler transmissions had sync 🙂 you have to increase the RPM untill the gear locks if you shift down
    the reverse gear ist often bad synced (even today) which somtimes results in “BAD” noise during shifting into reverse

    Volkswagen had also US-Trannies which had the reverse below the 5th gear or right to the 4th
    today and in Europe VW uses the left beside the 1st position in combination with push down
    Renault has a locking ring around the stick which has to be disengaged to shift into reverse 🙂

  9. Jerry says: April 4, 200811:44 am

    I can’t believe anyone would think this is a difficult car to drive. Maybe I’m getting old or something. When I was a teenager (in 1980s California), everyone’s first car was a 1960s/1970s VW. I grew up in an all-Volkswagen family: my dad drove a VW bus and a Squareback; my mom had a Karmann Ghia and a Bug. My grandparents had a Rabbit. My first car was a Bug and my second car was a Jetta. If I got into the car in the article, I’d know all the controls by instinct and the smell of the jute carpeting would send me to an early childhood flashback.

    A few notes on the history of synchromesh: The first synchromesh car was the 1929 Cadillac. By the early 30s, virtually all American cars had synchromesh. In Europe, synchromesh was a little rarer: economy cars usually had crashboxes. (Bugattis, interestingly enough, always had crashboxes, even though they were luxe cars.) As an austerity car, the first VWs all had crashboxes. I believe that VW added synchromesh to export/Deluxe models in the early 1950s. Certainly by the late 1950s/early 1960s, all VWs sold in America had synchromesh.

    It wasn’t until the 1960s that synchromesh on all the forward gears was common. Before then, 1st and sometimes 2nd were unsynchronized. To this day, it’s extremely rare for Reverse to be synchronized; the only cars I know of with synchromesh Reverse are Saabs. That’s why it’s always best to come to a complete stop before engaging Reverse.

  10. Neil Russell says: April 4, 20082:37 pm

    Automatic is the only way to go these days, there’s no way I can balance a phone, coffee cup, stick shift, and watch tv all at the same time 😉

    Actually I drive a Fiat and I love tossing gears in that sloppy box back and forth.

    I suppose though, that the ultimate manual drive would be a steam car, I’d love to give a Doble a spin

  11. Blurgle says: April 4, 20084:54 pm

    …I take the No. 7 bus.

  12. Chewxy says: April 4, 20087:02 pm

    Oh bugger. No wonder the flux capacitor didn;t work

  13. Casandro says: April 4, 200811:22 pm

    Well on the Autobahn you can easily drive that fast. In fact the 81mph is preety much the recommended speed there.

    However to be honest, the car industry hasn’t gotten far.
    Cars aren’t significantly more efficient than back then.
    They don’t last longer.
    The only progress has been in reliability, but we might already have passed a peak here.

  14. Matthew says: April 5, 20082:12 am

    I’d probably measured the pace of innovation by per capita GDP growth, although maybe per worker per hour GDP would be better. I think my point then is that cars have probably advanced about as much as the economy as a whole, whereas obviously computers have advanced quicker, and (as an example) gold jewellery rather slower.

    Of course one problem with cars and technological advance is currently (and not true 10 years ago) the gasoline is pretty expensive (although cheaper in terms of GDP than it was in 1980).

  15. Neil Russell says: April 5, 20089:27 am

    Matthew, you are dead on right about the price of gas, comparing prices of everything else from even 40 years ago just about all consumer goods have gone up 10 fold.
    Gasoline was actually pretty cheap here in the US up until a couple of years ago and now the price is right in line with most other goods.
    Yet somehow we were able to have 5000 lb automobiles in 1968 and the price of gas wasn’t that big an issue.

  16. Orv says: April 5, 20081:11 pm

    @13: Actually, they are more efficient. But those efficiency advantages have been mostly used to increase horsepower instead of fuel economy. Also, cars have gotten heavier, due to advances in safety and comfort, and that hurts fuel economy.

  17. Daniel Cooke says: April 10, 200810:09 am

    regarding point 9.

    A Synchro Gear box isn’t the opposite of a crash box. A Crash box is one with straight cut gears rather than helical gears. You can have a crash box that is synchromeshed, but being straight cut just a lift of the throttle, slam the gear and you are in just like my Classic mini.


  18. CarMoz says: April 12, 20107:22 am

    Hi there,

    Interested article, I am glad to share with you more info about this vehicle since I was a proud owner long ago 🙂

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