Sunday, March 4, 2007

The First All-New VW in 15 Years!

What was probably the first road test of the VW 1500 available to American readers appeared in the October 1961 issue of Science and Mechanics magazine, a somewhat hardboiled pulp monthly for do-it-yourselfers and hobbyists.

It's a fair, well-written, and mainly positive review. The writer, Wayne Wille, takes the 1500 through its paces and finds that it more than lives up to the performance claimed by VW. He predicts the 1500 will be a success when it is finally available in the US -- in 1963 by his estimate. A photo of a very early Variant is included, which as in most American reviews of the time is compared to the now-obscure Corvair Lakewood station wagon. The car driven in the road test appears to be a prototype or very early production model with odd features including a white steering wheel (but with a black steering column) and the very early clamshell map pockets in the door panels. There's also a favorable description of the fresh air controls -- four air control levers that would soon become three in the production cars. Wille registers some surprise at the lack of a thermostat other than the manifold pre-heater valve (yet another clue that the car was a prototype -- the pre-heat valve wasn't fitted to production cars until late '62), but says thorough testing proved a thermostat wasn't needed according to VW's engineers. I guess they had reversed their thinking by late 1963 when an air-regulating thermostat was finally added.

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