So I’m going to look for a donor car to use for my EV conversion this should be easy enough. I thought through what I might like to drive or even something I could start with, just as a learning exercise. 

Vehicle 1976 Volkswagen Beetle 1600 L

Vehicle 1976 Volkswagen Beetle 1600 L

There is so much information on VW beetles on the web but mostly USA, which is fine, however the US imported all of their VW’s direct from Germany as many as half a million a year from Wolfsburg, Hanover and Emden.

The US was VW’s Largest export market in the air-cooled era. Check out the which documents the changing evolution of VW in the States. So getting a VW Beetle in the States is easy and they are relatively cheap as there are so many.

However not quite So in Australia, I started looking to my astonishment these things are not cheap, in fact they seem to have somewhat a cult following here in Oz. After a bit of research I found out more about the VW story here in Australia.


VW 1954 – 1959

Apparently we had a factory in Melbourne back in 1954 which initially Assembled the German CKD (Completely Knocked Down) Kits late 1953 which went to market in late 1954 (1954-1959).

Now this was ok because we were then the same as everywhere else. We did locally manufacture some paints, glues, bolts, fasteners, rubber, cloth trims and electrical components by 1956 the Australian assembled VW was more than 50% Australian Made.

VW 1959 – 1968
The Melbourne factory was expanded and began to fully manufacture the VW in Australia with Australian-made parts, not the German made parts. They expanded the factory some 10 times.

VW Australia built new presses and tools to stamp complete VW bodies and floorpans – apparently over 1,000 different pressed parts that make up a VW Chassis. By 1964 local manufacture was around 75%. An engine assembly shop, front end shop, aluminium/magnesium foundry, and transmission assembly workshop.

Australian made content was targeted at 95% by 1967. The more difficult to manufacture parts were still being imported from Germany. This era saw the greatest separation between Australian and US/Euro VW’s.

VW 1968 – 1976
During this time Australian Manufacture ceased and the Melbourne factory resumed making the German CKD Build kits. Millions had been spent on local existing tooling, but the demand could not support the re-tooling of the plant to make more modern vehicles. So we got stuck with the 1961 model, and the 1962 – 1967 VW models were essentially the same.

The Melbourne factory was designed to product 50,000 VW’s a year, however at it’s peak production it was only 34,000 in 1964. Sales slowed as the Aussie VW became increasingly out of date.

In 1968 that was the end of Australian production and all the equipment was sold off. The factory went back to making the German CKD build pretty much completely, except for some minor differences they were all effectively European in design.

VW 1976 – 1977
Nissan bought the factory in March 1976, and continued VW builds that year along with their own products. The very last Beetle was built in July 1976. Kombi, Golf and Passat builds ended in February 1977. Now all VW’s are fully imported. 

2000 Volkswagen Beetle 9C

2000 Volkswagen Beetle 9C

Why the big history lesson?
Well simply put it means that I need to make sure if I use a Beetle that the Drive plate will fit the model I’m might convert. As the US and Australian Bug’s are not the same. I must admit the VW looks like a great candidate for a conversion. The 1976 one shown above is going for $A 5472.00 with 960,000 on the clock. Ironically you can get the 2000 beetle cheaper. I suspect it doesn’t have the same allure as the early models. My 18yr old daughter said “don’t buy one of those 2000 VW’s they look crap”. 

On that note I suppose I’ll need to get one of the 1960 – 1970 bugs then pr I’ll never hear the end of it. I don’t know they both look good to me, then what do I know, I’m not young enough to know everything.

For more information on the History of VW in Australia go to the following Link. Australian Volkswagan Club

One of the best youtube series of videos is from Jehu Garcia “eSamba Weekly Project”, I loved it I followed every episode. Jehu converts an old Combi over to an electric Samba bus, goes through all the drama of gear blowing up and making his own Tesla style batteries, I think you’ll enjoy it.


Next time a look at the Mazda MX-5 as a possible candidate for conversion.