Help This Man Find His Mom's Old Volkswagen BeetleS

The mother of a member of The Car Lounge car forum died from skin cancer back in 2002. Her favorite car was an orange 1973 Super Beetle, which was sold a few years back. Now the member, Watsonst04, wants to find the car and buy it back.

That's where we come in. Collectively, us Jalops may not be the most erudite of people, the most accomplished, the most refined— hell, collectively we probably don't even smell that great— but we can help people find cars. Let's do just that.

The car was sold without his knowledge by his brother when the poster was in Navy boot camp. Watsonst04 is out of the Navy now, settled down, and remembers very fondly his mom and her orange Super Beetle. She had the car for eight years, and every time he sees a Beetle he thinks of her.

FInding any car is tricky, but finding a particular Beetle is even tougher, even for most car-focused people. They made a vast number of Beetles, and they changed the way they looked only minimally over the 70 or so years they cranked the little humpbacks out. Luckily for everyone involved, I happen to be a Beetle identification Idiot Savant (emphasis on idiot, of course) and I'm going to show you exactly what you need to look for so you can spot the right model quickly and easily.

First of all, Watsonst04 has done a good bit of sleuthing already, so we know the car was last spotted around 5417 Freedom Blvd, Watsonville, CA, around a year and a half ago. So, if you're around San Jose or Gilroy or north/central California, please read on. It's an orange (lighter orange) 1973 Super Beetle, and the VIN is 1332148995. If you're looking at a suspect, you can see the VIN on a little plaque in the lower left corner of the dash, through the windshield.

The good news is that a US-market 1973 Super Beetle has several visual traits unique to that year; here's what they are, and how to spot them:

Help This Man Find His Mom's Old Volkswagen BeetleS

1. The Big Taillights: 1973 was the first year in Beetledom for the huge, tri-color "elephant's foot" tailights. They're big, round, and have amber at the top, then red, then clear. You can't miss them. Beetles prior to this one had much smaller red and clear or just red lights, either oval or vaguely shoe-shaped. Ignore those, and keep an eye out for elephant feet.

2. Bumpers: 1973 was also the last year of smaller, single-blade bumpers mounted on old-school brackets. From 1974 and up, to comply with 5 mph bumper laws, Beetles got bigger, heavier bumper blades mounted on beefy shock-absorbing struts.

Help This Man Find His Mom's Old Volkswagen BeetleS

These bumpers have a thicker black center rubber strip, and black rubber end caps. We're looking for simpler chrome blades with a thin black rubber strip which as likely as not is gone, leaving a black center tape strip— which could also be gone, leaving just a chrome groove. So big taillights, smaller, bracket-mounted bumpers = '73.

Those two are viewable from the rear (well, the bumpers are on the front, too), and are common to all Beetles, Super or, um, Normal. Same goes for a row of four groups of vents on the engine lid (though those were on '72s as well). Here's how to tell if it's a Super:

Help This Man Find His Mom's Old Volkswagen BeetleS

3. Curved windshield: 1973 was the first year Super Beetles got a curved windshield, and a real dashboard. Standard Beetles have a just-about-totally flat windshield, so ignore those. We're looking for a big, curved windshield, with larger wipers, and if you look inside, an actual dashboard with a hooded instrument cluster.

Help This Man Find His Mom's Old Volkswagen BeetleS

4. Funny little extra chrome trim: I've never been totally sure why, but '73 and up Super Beetles had an extra bit of chrome on the side, just below the windshield and just before the front fender. It's under the existing chrome detail strip, and may cover up a longish weld. They all had it, and I rarely see it removed— sometimes, yes, but usually it's there. Once you're looking for it, you can spot it from the side quickly.

Help This Man Find His Mom's Old Volkswagen BeetleS

5. Vented front valence: If you see one from the front, check under the bumper for a row of vertical air-intake slots. These were for optional air-conditioning (honest) since the engine does all its air-sucking out back. Standard Beetles won't have this. It's possible it was replaced with a non-vented one, but more likely it has it. It may be tricky to see, but anything helps.

There's some other traits, but these should do. In a nutshell, we're looking for big taillights+smaller bumpers+curved windshield. These add up to 1973 Super Beetle. The good news is, compared to standard Beetles, there aren't nearly as many Supers out there. The color is a lighter orange, no idea of condition or faded, etc. But I bet with a lot of eyes open in the area, we can find this old car, and help this man with a great way to honor and remember his mother.

If anyone has any information, either email Jalopnik's tips line or you can find Watsonst04's phone number in the original thread.