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Last SA-built VW Beetle re-created

The last South African-made Volkswagen Beetle came off the production line on 18 January 1979 - and went straight into the Volkswagen museum, now the AutoPavilion.

The metallic bronze Beetle was the final example of 288 353 built at Uitenhage plant from August 1951 to January 1979, a production run spanning almost 28 years, 11 of them as the country's top selling car. Many of those cars can still be seen on our roads today.

The commemorative Beetle is back in its place of honour in the AutoPavilion.

The commemorative Beetle had only 200km on the clock when a vehicle carrier overturned on the way back from a show in Cape Town in November 2006, destroying nine of the AutoPavilion's most important historic cars, including this one.

But AutoPavilion manager Johan Wagner wasn't prepared to leave it at that. Although the body shell was total write-off, he got hold of another body of the same era in as-new condition and proceeded to re-create the last Beetle.

LUXURY FEATURES

It can't be called a restoration because it has a different chassis number, but every component that could be salvaged from the commemorative Beetle was carried over to the new body, which had been painstakingly resprayed using the same special metallic bronze paint as the original.

Wagner explained: “All the mechanicals and most of the interior from the original car could still be used. The original car was loaded with luxury features not found on any of the models which preceded it.

“It was built with most of the luxury features of the higher specification and limited edition 1600's such as the Fun Bug, Lux Bug, Jeans Bug and Snug Bug.”

Some of its special features include Bilboa cloth upholstery, black fender spats, a special gearlever knob, taper-tip exhaust pipes, a centre tunnel console, a cigarette lighter and Rostyle rims.

TWO YEARS OF PAINSTAKING WORK

It has taken two years of painstaking work, but the commemorative Beetle is back in its place of honour in the AutoPavilion, and who are we to whinge that it isn't the real thing - it's as much a tribute to the dedication of the AutoPavilion staff as it is to the nearly 290 000 Beetles that preceded it.

And anyway, the Beetle story is far from over - the second-generation New Beetle will be introduced in South Africa towards the end of the year.

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