Uitenhage, Eastern Cape - One of the stars of the newly revamped Volkswagen museum at Uitenhage is Jan, the oldest Beetle in South Africa.
This Type 1 Volkswagen was built on was built on Wednesday 14 September 1949 at the original Volkswagen plant in Wolfsburg.
In 1971 VWSA and Wheels magazine ran a competition to find the oldest Beetle in South Africa; the winner was David Rubin of Middelburg, who was given a brand new 1300 Beetle as a straight swop for his car, which was then already 22 years old.
Jan was put on display around South Africa before being returned to the Volkswagen plant in Uitenhage, but the old Beetle wasn’t up to museum standard and couldn’t be displayed, so it was left in storage for years, quietly deteriorating further.
Then it crossed paths with another Jan - VWSA head of product engineering Jan Schiedek-Jacht, a classic car enthusiast of note, who offered to restore the historic split-window Beetle.
When his staff at product engineering heard about it, however, they offered to help and, for the next seven months, the team devoted their spare time to a full restoration of Jan the Beetle. They repaired and restored as many original components as they could, sourcing replacements for parts that couldn’t be saved from specialist suppliers in South Africa, Germany and the United States.
The result is the ‘looks just like new’ Beetle you see here, resplendent in its original colour and trim. The rebuild was finished just in time for the George Motor Show in February 2017, so Jan the Beetle’s ‘shakedown cruise’ was a 630km round trip to the Southern Cape - 67 years, four months and 10 days after rolling off the production line in Wolfsburg.