1956 VW Beetle Hidden in a Backyard for 40 Years Is a Rare Time Capsule

Introduced in 1938 as an affordable "people's car," the original Volkswagen Beetle soldiered on until 2003. Sold for a whopping 65 years, it was built in no fewer than 21 factories spread across 17 countries and six continents. And at 21.5 million units sold, it's still among the five best-selling nameplates ever.
1956 Volkswagen Beetle 10 photos
Photo: 5150mxVW/YouTube
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As is the case with vehicles that have been built by the millions, the Beetle is anything but rare. However, the Beetle's affordable price and throw-away nature led to many examples being left to rot away in junkyards and barns. With millions likely ruined beyond recognition, factory statistics are no longer valid when discussing which model is rare.

But regardless of that, pre-1950 Beetles are genuinely rare cars because production hadn't yet taken off. Factory output remained well below 20,000 units until 1948 and didn't exceed 100,000 examples until 1952. While production grew quickly throughout the 1950s, it didn't surpass the 500,000-unit mark until 1959. And that's why many historians also label pre-1960s models as relatively rare. The 1956 version you see here is one of those oval window gems you rarely catch in the metal.

1956 brought no changes to the Beetle except for twin chrome tailpipes. Even so, it was a prolific year for the German company, with sales jumping by almost 19% to 333,190 units. Yup, I wouldn't call the 1956 rare either, but this specific car has two important things that set it apart. For starters, it's a US version, and records show that only 38,129 were imported that year. If we eliminate the 2,303 convertibles, we can narrow it down to 35,826 sedans.

Sure, that's still not low enough to get excited about finding a 1956 Beetle, but it's safe to say that more than half of them are no longer in one piece. Second, this Beetle is an unrestored and unmolested survivor who sat for 40 years. It's still in decent condition, which you don't see daily.

Rescued by Jason of the "5150mxVW" YouTube channel, which mainly deals with old Beetles, the sedan was retrieved from a backyard, where it's been sitting next to a 1960s version. The latter is actually the reason why the 1956 sedan got parked, as the owner preferred the newer Beetle starting in the early 1980s.

Our host also shares that the owner bought it used in 1959 and that the original engine was replaced at a Volkswagen dealership in Germany. Yup, as wild as it may sound, the owner took the car to Volkswagen's home country to have it fixed. And he has a German receipt to prove it.

Sporting the iconic oval rear window that graced the Beetle from 1952 to 1958 (rare but not as desirable as the split window), the sedan is still in good shape given its prolonged time in the open. The original paint has been replaced almost entirely by surface rust, but most body panels are still rot-free. More importantly, all the trim is still there.

The same goes for the interior, which still sports all the factory features, red seats, and door panels (for a nice combo with the silver-green dashboard). On the flip side, there are rust holes under the dash (a common issue for old Beetles) and in the floor panels.

The lack of info as to when the engine was replaced makes it impossible to tell what's under the hood right now, but this car was originally powered by a 1.2-liter flat-four rated at 36 horsepower. The company introduced an optional 1.3-liter engine good for 50 horsepower in 1966 and a larger 1.5-liter mill rated at 53 horses in 1967.

But regardless of which engine we're talking about, it still has oil in it, and it looks like it could be saved with a rebuild. In fact, I think the entire car is worth saving because it still has plenty of life in it, despite the rust holes. Check it out in the video below.

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About the author: Ciprian Florea
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Ask Ciprian about cars and he'll reveal an obsession with classics and an annoyance with modern design cues. Read his articles and you'll understand why his ideal SUV is the 1969 Chevrolet K5 Blazer.
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