Coachbuilt Bugs get their day at Amelia Island

It’s a subculture that is more likely to use the nickname Bug for Bugatti than for a VW Beetle, but the concours world has started to embrace the humble Volkswagen Type I. Of course, when you’re organizing a marquee event like the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance that features cars worth seven and eight figures you might want to select Beetles that aren’t quite so humble.

To celebrate the 70th anniversary of the first VW Type I to be sold in the United States, and to commemorate the current New Beetle’s end of production, the Amelia Island car show created a special class for coachbuilt, custom bodied Beetles, with the Volkswagen sponsoring an award for the winner of that class.

To set the Amelia Island Concours apart from other top concourses, the organizers typically honor a special class of cars each year that might seem like heresy to old-school vintage car enthusiasts, and Beetles got the nod for 2019.

1969 Beetle Wedding Car
1969 Beetle Wedding Car Volkswagen

As Europe was rebuilding from the devastation of World War II, coachbuilders trying to reestablish their businesses didn’t have many choices when it came to picking a platform for their custom bodies. The Beetle was widely available, inexpensive, and mechanically robust, plus its flat, platform chassis easily accepted custom coachwork. Custom bodied Beetles proliferated in Germany in the 1950s.

This year’s Amelia Island concours was the first time this many coachbuilt Beetles have been assembled in one place and it was also the first appearance in the United States for a number of the cars, including Ghia’s 1965 Karmann-Ghia Type 1 cabriolet coupe concept, owned by the Volkswagen Group.

The Volkswagen of America Trophy for the Most Elegant Coachwork on a Volkswagen was awarded to the 1951 Rometsch Beeskow Coupe owned by the Grundmann Collection in Oldendorf, Germany. Rometsch’s designer, Johannes Beeskow, designed the car for his wife. Five of the twelve custom bodied Beetles on display at the show were Rometsch products.

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