1971 Volkswagen Beetle
4-cyl. 1585cc/60hp 1bbl
With an experienced team and a lot of data.
Volkswagen was planning for the water-cooled front-wheel drive Golf/Rabbit as the 1970s dawned but worked hard to upgrade the Beetle to keep it competitive. VW also developed the Super Beetle, which would herald in such refinements as a wraparound curved windshield, McPherson strut front suspension, disc brakes, air conditioning and eventually fuel injection. The Super Beetle was launched for the 1971 model year as a bold response to domestic compacts like the Ford Pinto and Chevrolet Vega. Still unmistakably a Volkswagen, it was three inches longer (all ahead of the windshield) with longer hood and re-shaped fenders. Luggage space up front increased by 80 percent and the spare wheel was now flat on the floor. Meanwhile, the double-jointed half shafts designed for the AutoStick cars of 1967 improved the rear suspension.
Worldwide, VW sales increased to 1,284,928 vehicles but slipped in the U.S. to 331,191, with 12,201 Cabriolets, which would be an all-time record for the soft top. The base 1971 Beetles retained the torsion bar front suspension. The Sedan was reduced to $1780, the Sunroof Beetle cost $1989 and the Cabriolet increased to $2299. The new 1971 Super Beetle debuted at $1899.
The Super Beetle was built on a new floorplan with McPherson strut front suspension and the 60 bhp, 1585 cc dual-port engine. Buyers loved the optional air conditioning for $267. VW boasted 89 improvements in the new model which was wider as well as longer, but had a much tighter turning circle. Larger drum brakes were fitted and disc brakes were optional. Magazine road testers reported 0-60 mph in 16 seconds, and a quarter mile in 19.8 seconds at 65 mph.