This Is The Most Baffling VW Accessory I've Seen In A Long Time

Illustration for article titled This Is The Most Baffling VW Accessory I've Seen In A Long Time
Illustration: Jason Torchinsky

Part of what I love about the old air-cooled Volkswagen community is that the nature of the cars themselves encourages experimentation and a certain degree of freedom and whimsy when it comes to modifying cars or the accessories available for them. That’s why things like fake wind-up keys or those Rolls-Royce hood kits existed for Beetles, and people actually bought them. I’ve just been alerted to the existence of another old-school VW accessory, and I’ve got to admit I find this one really baffling. Have a look.


My friend Jason (another one, not me.—I’m more of a colleague to myself) sent me a link to this Samba ad selling “Rare OG VW Bug Brazilian Accessory Bubble Lenses” for $450. At first, I thought that these were fun bubble-lenses for taillights, to give that Jetsons-style futuro look to your Beetle, but, no, that’s not what these were for at all.

Illustration for article titled This Is The Most Baffling VW Accessory I've Seen In A Long Time
Screenshot: theSamba (Fair Use)

These were instrument lenses, one for the speedometer, and a smaller one for the separate fuel gauge (this gauge was from 1962 to 1967, after which it was integrated into the round speedo housing).

Now, while I suppose these sort of look cool, in their own strange way, they’re still absolutely baffling to me, mostly because they make the gauges almost illegible.

I mean, maybe they’re better in person, but that red tint is already going to severely limit how readable those gauges are, and add on top of that all of the reflections you’ll get from a hemisphere of glass over your instruments, and I’d say your chances of getting any useful information from a glance at your dash would be reduced to about zero.

I suppose if you’re just fucking done with having a dash that’s irritatingly legible and always, annoyingly, conveying information about speed and fuel and if your high-beams are on, then, yeah, these are great.


Oh, also, the two most important warning lights on an air-cooled VW, the oil pressure light and the generator light, are both red, and as such would be all but invisible under these things.

Well, before 1969 I think the oil one was green, but if either comes on while driving you need to turn the car off pretty immediately, so anything that keeps you from seeing those seems a bad idea.


And, they’re inside! Which means if you just adore that look so much, most people won’t even get to see them!

I looked around for other examples of tinted bubble lens instrument lenses and have so far come up empty. Can any of you, my hyperintelligent pals, think of any place you’ve seen something like this?


Is this a particular kind of hot rod subculture’s fetish item? Something big in a very specific community? A long-dead fad? I’m very confused.

Why do I kind of want one now, too?

Senior Editor, Jalopnik • Running: 1973 VW Beetle, 2006 Scion xB, 1990 Nissan Pao, 1991 Yugo GV Plus, 2020 Changli EV • Not-so-running: 1977 Dodge Tioga RV (also, buy my book!:


Slow car slow, Brazilian edition

Hello Jason, one of your Brazilian readers here.

Honestly, I never saw this accessory here and after a search also didn’t find anything about this. This must be something really rare and obscure or the seller put the wrong country origin. I’ll send your post to the greatest Fusca expert in the country and send you the response.

But keeping at the Fusca accessories, here’s the greatest one: the gear knob with a crab inside. This is considered very tacky, but I can’t help but love this thing. Also had this with other themes like saints, flags, spiders and other animals, but the crab is the king of tacky and gaudy. And I want to put that in my Honda Fite somehow.