There are many legendary cars that everyone - amateur or not - knows: the Mini, the Citroën 2CV, the Fiat 500 or the mythical Porsche 911 that is celebrating its 50th anniversary these days. Of all of them, thousands or even millions of units have been produced, there are owners' clubs all over the world and massive meetings are held in the most diverse places practically every year.
What has made these cars legendary and world-renowned products? Except for the German sports birthday boy, the rest have stood out for their nice lines, their groundbreaking and innovative design in their day and for having been accessible utility vehicles for the great middle class. These models, which already have a place in the popular imagination, are led worldwide by the Volkswagen Beetle and in Spain for the inevitable Seat 600.
Now, if we do a little mental exercise and remember some of the numerous concentrations of these vehicles, What is it that strikes us the most? None of the 'usual', no matter how well restored they may be -except for the very first series- will be able to swirl an acceptable number of onlookers around them ...
The special versions are another story. A 600 Siata -Formichetta, Tarraco or Minivan-, a Serra or even the 800 with four doors will monopolize all the attention among the hundreds of participants of the concentrations of pellets.
The same thing happens with the Beetle meetings: people focus on the 181, Karmann-Ghia, Kubelwagen or any of the many derivatives of the legendary original Volkswagen, leaving their conventional versions a bit aside.
This is the case of those known as Volkswagen Type 3, that is to say, the only Wolfsburg products that in the 60s could go unnoticed due to their, let's say, normal design; but that, nevertheless, today are all the rage among fans of the German brand's classics.
Actually, these are not very rare models, since around three million copies were manufactured between 1961 and 1973, but that less striking design to which we have just alluded and the relatively complicated mechanics have made it quite difficult to see any in driving conditions.
The Volkswagen 1500 Type 3 and its 'flat' engine
The Type 3 designation encompasses a large number of models and bodies, all with the common point of using technical solutions already more than proven at the beginning of the 60s: those that gave rise to the Beetle chassis-platform.
The only mechanical novelty was the engine flat, which was a somewhat modernized version of the old air-cooled four-cylinder boxer engine designed by Ferdinand Porsche in the late 30s, adapted so that a boot of acceptable dimensions could be placed on top of it.
The new automobiles were launched at the 1961 Frankfurt Motor Show, which was held in September of that year. In the center of the stand and as the main attraction was the Volkswagen 1500 cabrio, version of which finally only about twenty pre-series units were manufactured.
From the moment of this launch, the new Volkswagen attracted the attention of the public and numerous orders began to be received in the same room where it was presented. Afterwards, the commercial success would continue for many years.
And yet there was nothing groundbreaking in the approach of these cars. The overall design was sober and typical of the sedans of the early 60s, the equipment did not give many joys and the engine was not too powerful.
In addition, the use of space was similar to that of the Beetle, since the rear seats were somewhat tight, the front boot was quite flat and the gap behind the rear seats had been eliminated, although the rear boot more than made up for the latter.
Indeed, Volkswagen Type 3 they have two trunks ...
The magic of marketing raised the Volkswagen Type 3
Returning to the matter at hand, the German brand did not offer any model of greater capacity and four doors really different from the Beetle, although some pre-series prototypes were built that did not get to see the light.
Then, What made the Type 3 Volkswagen so successful in the commercial arena? Plain and simple, the marketing and reputation that Volkswagen already had at that time. All the advertising for the new models emphasized the already established reputation of robust, durable and almost unbreakable automobiles.
To such an extent that in some of the original catalogs the scene represented in a large double-page color photo was the following: a workshop, with two elevators. Uploaded in one, a Beetle and, in the one next to it, a 1500 Type 3. On the side, a small text explaining that despite looking unbreakable, VWs can also suffer some mishap, so it is advisable to visit the workshop for the pertinent revisions every certain number of kilometers.
And it is that little more than this - and the unusual offer of two trunks - Wolfsburg publicists could grab to sell their new car.
The press of the time did not receive the Volkswagen Type 3 when they were released in the early 60s, well, for one reason or another, the competition they had always surpassed them.
In Germany they coincided, by price and size, with the Ford Taunus -especially the 17 M, since 1961- and the Opel Rekord and Kadett. The Fords had a groundbreaking and very modern design for their time, they provided quite acceptable performance -in some cases with a V4 engine- and, in addition, they offered the possibility of opting for a four-door body.
The Opels were not far behind, with a range completely renewed at the beginning of the decade, American-style design and names that have survived to this day: the Kadett, as small coupes with acceptable performance and a spacious trunk and interior, and the Rekord like elegant small four-door saloons.
The same was true in France, where VW Type 3 they had to live with the Renault 'all behind' -Gordini and R8- and the Simca 1000 that were presented in the same year of 1961. All of them offered four doors, space for as many adults and a cheerful performance.
And in this scenario, what happened? Well what the efforts of the press and the competition to cancel the new German product were in vain; it succeeded in its own way, and without detracting from the traditional Beetle that was still being marketed simultaneously.
In the end, it was shown that the reputation of robustness and durability outweighed habitability or performance, although no one understood Volkswagen's refusal to make four-door saloons for Europeans - only in Brazil was a Type 3 produced with that character , the 'Brasilia' 1500, which was never sold on the Old Continent.
An old Type 3 restored for a wedding
Seen from today's perspective, Type 3s are curious and rare cars that arouse the admiration of fans and that in a way stand out for the sympathy of their lines.
Look if not the protagonist of the photos, a 1500 S from 1964 equipped with sunroof -operable ceiling- and painted in a nice color 'Ruby Red', which was what it was called in the catalogs of the time, although originally it was light gray.
This car has been in the same family since 1976, when the father of the current owner bought it… in exchange for a Citroën Tiburon! You have read that correctly, it seems that, tired by the reliability problems of the hydropneumatic suspension, he decided to cut his losses and go to the leading brand in reliability of his time. Perhaps the German technicians were not as wrong as it seemed ...
Then came the moment when his eldest son turned 18 and got his driver's license. To avoid greater evils, the far-sighted father decided to store his car under cover in the garage, until the youngster got tired of waiting and, after a few years, he bought a Seat 127.
With the second offspring - and current owner - exactly the same thing happened, having this one to acquire a Renault 5 while the Type 3 continued to sleep in the dark.
After several years it had to be left out in the open due to space problems after a domestic reform, and it was not until the year 2.000 that its rehabilitation was decided, carried out in secret to surprise on the occasion of a wedding.
Sheet metal restorations, interiors and electrical installation were carried out in small workshops in the area, being necessary to send the mechanics to a VW specialist in the Madrid area even though it started after 24 years stopped and went by its own means. to the workshop.
An engine that needs expert care
These flat engines -which share several characteristics with those of the Porsche 914- they are durable but need the care of expert hands, and not in vain in the original workshop manuals it was recommended that basic adjustments such as ignition, carburetion or cooling should be made by professionals - better officials - and not by oneself.
And this in the first versions of "simple" mechanics, since from 1967 there was a version of electronic injection and automatic transmission for the US market, and since August 1971 all Type 3s incorporated an electronic control unit for fault diagnosis, becoming pioneers in this matter.
The car in the photos does not yet mount any of these ultramodern advances because, as we have said, it is a 1500 S from 1964, which is distinguished from the simple 1500 N for its greater power -54 versus 45 hp- and for some equipment details such as elongated turn signal lights or hubcaps with trims.
Of course, what did not change in the twelve years of production of the most conventional Volkswagen was its beautiful instrument panel with three large separate indicators in front of the driver, which despite being designed in 1960 would not clash in any current retro-style car .
Today Type 3s are highly sought after cars, especially for fans of air-cooled VWs. Finding one of these working in our country and with a lifelong national registration is a difficult task, so we invite you to enjoy the images; undoubtedly, his charming lines have gained a lot over the years.