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.
But for that one glorious year, in those two glorious countries, the 50/50 light came in to save the day, with bright orange blinks of turn indication. Beetles were built in Australia as well as Germany at this time, so I suspect that these lights were probably made in Australia and imported into Italy for fitment on Italian Beetles.
So, here's my new comprehensive chart of VW Beetle taillights, with the 50/50 light included:
As you can imagine, these are very rare, and get can get pretty expensive, and I've even heard reports of people hoarding stashes of them. Most people probably wouldn't have any idea or care if they found these, but they seem like something of a Holy Grail to VW folks.
I'd kind of love to retrofit a set to my Beetle, just as a way of sending a little message to any hardcore-obsessed Beetle fans out there. And that message would either be you're not alone, friend or maybe, holy shit are we a pack of geeks.