A very specific period of SEB history: Volkswagen AG took the decision that when European Beetle production ceased at the Emden plant in January 1978 the dwindling demand for new Beetles in Germany and a limited number of other European countries including, initially, West Germany, Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, and Switzerland, could be satisfied by importation of Beetles from the Mexican Puebla factory.
This Mexican export model was different from the Mexican home market Beetle in several detail respects including having the familiar (to European owners) 1200 cc 34 PS DIN instead of the home market 1600cc 50 PS DIN unit. Outwardly the cars looked very similar indeed to the 1976 – 1978 European production 1200L’s. The main external differences being that they retained the engine lids from the home market 1600cc model having the European style four sets of air intake louvres until July 1981 (for the 1982 model year onwards).
For the 1982 model year through to the 1985 model year these Mexican imports were fitted with the plain, unvented lids traditionally seen on 1200cc Beetles. Other minor external differences included the fitting of chrome trimmed running boards and the fact that the cars had plain, smooth surfaced, rear valance panels below the engine lid and between the rear wings rather than the style of panel fitted to all late series European Beetles that had a humped shape panel designed to accommodate models fitted with emission control exhaust system.
The officially unpredicted upturn in European sales of new Beetles immediately post 1978 prompted the release of what is arguably the most orchestrated series of SEBs. Unlike the European production SEBs the Mexican imports did not draw on particularly special paint colours, although several of the editions were released in the first year a particular colour was included in Volkswagen paint charts. The colours were however different from the normal series colours the Mexican Beetles were available for Europe in. The paint colours were tastefully complemented by unique interior colours and on most editions bodywork trim in the form of motif lining and/or badging.
Wheel treatment on all but the 1985 50Jahr edition were standard, not sports, but made special by use of body matching/complementing paint finishes and on some editions addition of trim rings.
In terms of historical documentation some of the best SEB sales literature ever produced by Volkswagenwerke was published for most of these editions. Consistent with many of the brochures produced for other special edition Volkswagens of the period (Golfs etc., ) the four page brochures were lavishly illustrated with factory studio photographs of whole car and detail shots and very much carried corporate image feel that associated them with the literature produced for the normal series production ranges.
In terms of Volkswagen production history the 50Jahr edition was a landmark edition in several respects and planned to coincide not only with the cessation of (official) sales of new Beetles in Europe but with the extensive celebrations held in Wolfsburg in October 1985 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Beetle.
Interestingly the Mexican SEBs imported into Europe 1981–1985 (1986, 2004) have become almost as popular as subjects in model manufactures catalogues as the preceding era of European produced SEBs.
Copyright Stephen Paul Hardy