TECH TIP Technical Index

A look at the evolution of the Beetle speedometers 1949 to 1979

1. May 1949 - September 1952
You may be asking, "where are the oil pressure/generator warning lights and directional/high-low beam indicator lights?" Yes, they are definitely missing, due to the fact that these displayed within the dash pod!! The dash pod is a Bakelite backing which serves as a means to mount the speedometer and displays the indicator lights. The dash pod was placed dead center of the dashboard on all September 1952 and earlier Beetles. This is most definitely the simplest speedo that VW used. Nothing fancy, just an odometer, red marks for permissible speeds in individual gears and a rate of travel needle. The speedo depicted measures the rate of travel in kilometers per hour. For countries measuring in units of miles per hour, 0-80 miles per hour could be measured (just in case your 1949 Hebmuller was Okrasa powered!!).  

2. October 1952 - March 9, 1953
VW omits the dash pod, and incorporates the warning lights and directional indicator lights within the speedometer. The speedometer is now located directly behind the steering wheel, which will be its final resting-place. VW also incorporated a translucent speed indicator needle, and repositions it to the 7 o'clock idle position. The speedometer face was finished with a black face and grey accents, which was previously brown. For countries measuring units of travel in miles per hour, 0-80 miles an hour could be measured. The unit depicted features an optional trip meter, which is not present in production model vehicles. 

3. March 10, 1953 - December 1953
This speedometer is identical to the March 9, 1953 unit, with the exception of the directional indicator light. The previous unit used two separate arrows, pointing in either direction (the lamps did not illuminate individually, however). The new unit features one arrow, with point at each extreme. This speedometer measures rate of travel from 0-120 kilometers per hour or from 0-80 miles per hour.

4. January 1954 - July 1960
This speedometer is very similar to the December 1953 unit, with a few the exceptions. The directional indicator light was of the same design, but slightly enlarged. Also, for all 1956-1959 convertibles painted Inca red, the color of the directional indicator illumination cell was changed from red to that of a yellowish color. This was done to provide a contrast between the color of the dashboard and the indicator illumination in an effort to notify the driver upon the status of the directional indicators. The red marks for permissible speeds in individual gears were changed slightly to compensate for the increased engine horsepower. This speedometer measures rate of travel from 0-120 kilometers per hour or from 0-80 miles per hour.

5. August 1960 - July 1962
VW made a few adjustments to this speedometer. The clear rate of travel needle was deleted and a white, solid needle was used. VW deleted the gearshift indication markings, it was now up to the pilot to decide and when to change gears!! Speedometers produced from May 1962 are now equipped with a green cell for directional indication, previous models used red. In addition, all European destined automobiles were equipped with a red line inscribed onto the 50 K/hr mark, which served as a reminder for European local speed limits. The range for the rate of travel measurement was adjusted to compensate for a newly adapted engine and transmission. The speedometer now measures 0-140 kilometers per hour or 0-90 miles per hour. The unit depicted features an optional trip meter, which is not present in production model vehicles.

6. August 1963 - July 1967

Not much changed from the July 1962 speedometer, with the exception of the gearshift markings now reinstalled for all speedometers that measure distance units in miles per hour. The speedometer retains the 0-140 kilometers per hour and 0-90 miles per hour measurements.

7. August 1968 - July 1968
VW incorporates the fuel gauge within the speedometer, and moves the high-low beam indicator light to just below the 3 o'clock level. The speedometer retains the 0-140 kilometers per hour and 0-90 miles per hour measurements.

8. August 1968 - July 1970 Beetle, 1971 Standard Beetle and Super Beetle
VW changes the face into a solid black configuration with taller numbering. The former face was black with gray accents. 1969 Beetles retained the center most chrome garnishing ring, while the 1970-1971 Beetles sported a white painted circular ring and the outer bezel was painted silver. Also added was a tenth of miles measurement for cars equipped with speedometers measuring in miles per hour. For cars equipped with a rear window defroster, an indicator light was added to the 8 o'clock position, and an ATF (automatic transmission fluid) indicator light was added to the 4 o'clock position. The speedometer retains the 0-140 kilometers per hour and 0-90 miles per hour measurements. Most speedometers were produced with fuel gauge provisions, however some were not depending on original purchasers' option.

9. August 1971 (1972 Standard and Super Beetle) - July 1977 Standard Beetle

The silver outer bezel is dropped in lieu of a black bezel. The numbering is changed yet again, this time in favor of a shorter, bolder variety. A new rate of travel indicating needle is also installed. All indicator lights remain the same. Also, on some of these cars, the rate of travel indicator needle was painted fluorescent orange. Most speedometers were produced with fuel gauge provisions, however some were not depending on original purchasers' option. The speedometer now measures 0-160 kilometers per hour or 0-100 miles per hour, however some were produced with both gradients.

10. 1973 - 1979 Super Beetle
The Super Beetle speedometers are identical to the previous standard Beetle in terms of numbering style, however the ATF indicator light is omitted, and an EGR light is added to 1975-1979 fuel injected cars. The face of the speedometer is set an angle to compensate for the Super Beetle dashboard. The speedometer retains the 0-160 kilometers per hour or 0-100 miles per hour measurements, however some were produced with both gradients.  

TOP