Recently, I was down in Puebla, Mexico for the Final Edition of the Volkswagen Beetle, even though I don’t really believe it’s final at all. Puebla is significant to Beetle-fetishists because the Puebla plant built Beetles (or, as they’re called in Mexico, Vochos) from 1967 until the (real, air-cooled) Beetle’s end in 2004. This makes Puebla like the Wolfsburg of the Americas, and, even though they haven’t been built or sold for almost 15 years, there’s still plenty of old Vochos buzzing around the city. I saw many of them.
Puebla is a lovely colonial-period Mexican city, and has a lot of old European-style architecture and charm. In general, the cars of Puebla are a hard-working, un-pampered lot, and automotive life seems fairly punishing.
Even so, there’s some interesting cars in the city, and, of course, a good number of old Beetles. With once-ubiquitous Beetles becoming more and more rare and valuable in America, seeing old VWs in what used to be their natural role—cheap, rugged beater cars that everyone had, at some point—is also becoming more and more rare every year.
That’s what was so exciting about Puebla—there’s still many old Beetles around, being used every day, worked hard and repaired by hand with whatever is handy. They seemed like cars that their owners clearly love, even if they don’t have the means to keep them perfect.
I really like cars like this, and being in a city with so many old Beetles just casually strewn all over was a wonderful thing, for me, at least.
Come on, let me show you what I saw!
We’ll start out with some non-VWs, just to at least give a facade of variety. There’s a lot of old Datsuns and Nissans around, like this mid-to-late ‘70s Datsun 710 wagon. I really liked the swoopy lines of this thing. It sort of reminds me of what a Japanese take on a Ford Torino wagon would have been like.
When I was growing up, these early ‘80s Ford Fairmont wagons were everywhere. They lost a lot of the more exuberant character of the old ‘70s LTD Country Squires, but kept all the fake wood, just now on a much more clean and staid body design. I haven’t seen one of these in the U.S. in, jeez, decades.
They imported Brazilian Type 2 buses to Mexico for years, and later built them in Puebla, too, including the strange Frankenstein’d water-cooled versions later. This one I think is a Puebla-built one, probably late ‘70s? It has a big rubber bumper from something else on the front, and adaption I saw on a number of buses.
I like how that demon on the mural looks like he’s giving the bus a good kick, too.
There were some really striking old tanker trucks in use around the city, including these Dodges that had bodies that looked a bit too small for their chassis.
I like this red-and-white one a lot, especially its rojo toro hood ornament here:
That’s pretty great.
Okay, time for a Beetle. I like the monochrome yellow look of this one, right down to the French-yellow headlamps. This, I think, was an early ‘80s Vocho, and someone took the time to weld in the little horn grilles from a ‘67 and earlier Beetle into the fenders, just because.
Very cool! I finally saw one of those Maserati Volkswagen Opel BMW Hybrid Multifuel Diesel EcoBoost Passat GLI Sports I’ve heard so much about! They’re even more impressive in person!
There’s a lot of customization and aftermarket parts to be seen on Puebla’s Vocho population, with things like these low-profile smoked taillight lenses being pretty popular, as well as that little rear wing that replaces the old license plate light holder and adds a third brake light.
Also, multiple Pontiac badges.
I think this bus is labeled “Advance Press,” which I guess means it’s used as some kind of media/press vehicle? Whatever it’s used for, it’s got a very well-protected front end.
As an aside, when VW changed the front vent panel between the turn indicators from a stamped, painted metal piece to the black plastic piece you see here, I always thought it gave the Bus’ face a monobrow, and reminds me a lot of noted Muppet Bert:
This is a very representative example of a Puebla Beetle—battered, well-worn, but still holding together, and with plenty of life left in it. This one looks like an early ‘90s model—you can tell by the wider center strip in the bumpers and the single tailpipe, which indicates a catalytic converter and a fuel-injected engine.
Not all the Beetles are that rough, of course—there’s a good number around in quite good repair, like this one, with its fetching big round driving lights.
Another bus, showcasing some if the determined parking jobs to be seen around town.
As the old VW buses begin to age out of general use, they’re often replaced with great mid-engined Japanese and Korean buses and trucks, like this Nissan and that Hyundai.
Here’s another nice one, I think from the 1990s, when all the chrome bits went away, and they made headlight rings and bumpers body-colored, both for cost-savings and to update the overall look of the car. It sort of worked?
While they’re nowhere near as plentiful as they once were when the plant was still cranking out Vochos by the thousands, if you just do a bit of looking around Puebla you’ll find Beetles everywhere, and it’s sort of intoxicating.
This one had lots of modifications—nerf bars, sportier wheels, billet mirrors, and, by the sound, some nice engine modifications as well.
Of course, for every well-maintained and carefully modded Beetle, there’s about five almost zombie-like rough Vochos growling around town as well.
Here, we’ll take a quick break from all the Vochos. I’ve always really liked the design of the Ford Ka, a popular city car in Europe and Mexico, but not one that ever made it to America. It fills a very similar role as the original Beetle: cheap, useful, and with a good bit of character.
Note the sturdy-looking DIY bumper repair on this one.
One of the nicest Beetles I saw was also one of the most deceptive. This one looks like one of the 2004 Ultima Edition Beetles, with its chrome trim, re-introduced Wolfsburg crest on the hood, big chrome hubcaps, and that particular shade of blue. But I don’t think it’s actually one of the last Ultima Editon Beetles.
A careful look shows that some of the trim pieces aren’t exactly placed the where they should be, and the center strip on the bumper is more narrow, suggesting this is an Ultima Edition replica built on an older Vocho—a 1989, I think.
Who cares, though, really—it still looks great.
And, for contrast, here’s another workhorse Bug, with one wiper and a big side mirror.
Look at this! It’s a Datsun/Nissan 1600, not a common sight at all anymore. I always thought these had a sort of Fiat look to them.
There was some fun stuff at the Volkswagen factory itself. To transport people around, they had the car everyone has been demanding VW build: a three-row, eight-seater convertible Golf.
The factory put this together by pretty much just chopping the roof off a Golf and adding some seats in the cargo area. They did cover the B and C pillar holes nicely, though.
Even more dramatic was this extended-wheelbase three-row New Beetle convertible limo. I bet this would be great to take autocrossing.
This Ford Maverick with the 302 V8 was pretty cool as well, and looked to be in amazing shape. It’s for sale!
The oldest Beetle I saw was this one, which I think was a ‘66, though if it’s a Mexican-built one, it could be a ‘67 or even ‘68—they were updated on a different schedule than the German ones. Those rubber-faced bumper guards are a pretty rare option, too.
I took this crappy picture for two reasons: one, to try and get a shot of that VW bus back there, which had a whole other bus welded to the roof as a second story.
The other reason was to show that larger bus. There were tons of those around, and they all seemed to have a different design of fiberglass front end covering the big block V8 mounted up front there. These seemed to be private city buses of some sort.
I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a Golf as clapped-out as this one. It had almost no interior, and seemed to be made of bondo and rust. Big props to whoever is brave enough to bomb around town in that beast.
On Day of the Dead, this Diá de los Muertos VW was spotted roaming the streets, reminding past ancestors of all the old Vochos they used to drive in the world of the living.
I just included this picture of all these little baby Jesuses (I think?) because it’s kind of creepy. You’re welcome.