First, a warning. This article is going to be so geeky, so niche, so insanely VW Beetle-geek focused that those of you not crazily interested in Beetle minutia should probably just close the window now. Really. For those who can hang, get a drop cloth, because minds will be blown, Beetle-taillight-wise.
Okay. So, here's the deal: I recently found out about a variation of Volkswagen Beetle taillight I'd never heard of before. This may not seem like a big deal, but as a kid I used to doodle the evolution of Beetle taillights in my notebooks at school. I thought I knew every Beetle taillight variant, from the "heart" lenses of the early 50s to the add-on reverse lights of '67, to the two different sizes of "tombstone" lights used. I thought I was hot Beetle taillight shit.
Then I got schooled.
Via some convoluted trail of Google image-searching, I happened to notice a picture of the rear of a Beetle that stayed my gaze like a condom full of chili flung into the front of a freight train. Something didn't look quite right. Most people likely wouldn't have noticed anything odd, but a lifetime of scrutinizing Beetle lights made me hypersensitive. These taillights had slightly different proportions of amber and red. They were divided half-and-half between the two colors, instead of the expected 1/3 to 2/3rds division.
My blood ran cold. What was I looking at? I looked around my office. Was I in the same universe I woke up in? Did donuts eat people now? Who am I?
Get a grip. Research. Research. I dove in, determined to find out what the hell I was looking at, and find it I did. So let me enlighten all of you, my friends:
These are known as the 50/50 taillights. They were produced for only one year, in 1960, and only for two markets: Australia and Italy. This is because in 1960, in those two countries alone, a law was passed requiring amber turn signals at the rear. That next year it would be required everywhere except in the US, and VW made the three-section lights with amber at the top (red still in the US) that we're all familiar with.