The 10 Best Old Volkswagen Cars of All Time

Ever since the Volkswagen factory was taken over by the Brits following WWII, the German auto giant has made some of the most recognizable old cars in history.
Written by Cameron Thiessen
Reviewed by Jessica Barrett
Updated on Jun 08, 2022
You might have heard that the brand behind lovable classics like the Volkswagen Beetle or Type 2 bus has some dark origins. It’s true that the beloved automaker was originally created by the Nazi-controlled German government. Luckily for fans, though, VW didn’t successfully begin producing the “people’s car” until after WWII.
British Army officer Major Ivan Hirst, a member of the Corps of Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, took the VW factory under his control after the area around it had been liberated by U.S. Armed Forces. Thanks to his initial dedication, the success of the VW brand has come a long way since its evil origins. Volkswagen now finds itself tussling with
for overall sales records around the world.
We here at
certainly have some opinions about which Volkswagen models through history deserve the most attention, so we’re taking a break from finding you
cheap car insurance
, to take you back in time for a look at the coolest old Volkswagen cars!
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What makes an old car great? 

When we talk about what makes old cars great, we’re not necessarily talking about the same criteria by which we would assess a new car. A new car is supposed to be a functional and safe utility, while old cars function as historical icons, now used almost entirely for pleasure.
None of the cars on this list will perform better than their modern classmates, so we can’t just assess their value based on how fast they go, how quickly they speed up, or how tightly they take corners. Any car enthusiast knows that there are historical and aesthetic intangibles about their experiences driving classic cars that transcend concerns such as performance and power.
That’s why we’ve compiled this list based on **positive historical impact** and **reputation in automotive history**—not to mention any impact on history outside of the automotive industry. So, without further ado, the best Volkswagen vehicles of all time!

10. Volkswagen Passat (1973-present): A pretty good family car with a whole lot of names

VW Passat
entered the scene as a mechanical twin to the Audi 80, a full-size car that did the trick. The Passat is one of those vehicles that had many names. Look out for the alternate names Dasher, Santana, Quantum, Magotan, Corsar, and Carat…This must have been before they got Rudolph!

9. Volkswagen GTI (1976-present): Fuel-injected icons

We’ll talk more about the Golf and the Rabbit later, but it's there where we can find the origins of the
name—a name that has meant sport-tuned brilliance for the VW brand.
GTI stands for Grand Touring Injection, referring to their fuel-injected engine systems that allow GTIs to go very fast for a very long time. It should be no surprise that the rest of the world eventually wanted a turn.
Americans wouldn’t get a taste of the GTI until 1983 with the Rabbit GTI Mark I. It was equipped with a fuel-injected 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine that could send this super light car absolutely flying while only having to produce 110 horsepower.
The GTI engine has since been available on various Volkswagen models—all of which are top-of-the-line and highly sought-after by collectors.

8. Volkswagen Polo (1975-present): The supermini/subcompact

Any car that can last as long as the Polo deserves praise as an established classic, and the cute little Polo has certainly done that. It’s solid, comfy, and practical, and it’s an absolute joy to drive—another budget-version of a great Audi, the Audi 50.

7. Volkswagen Corrado (1988-1995): VW’s iconic sports coupé

While the first versions of the Corrado were fantastic, especially by the time they reached American shores in 1990, it was the addition of the VR6 engine in 1992 that really set the Corrado apart.
This engine is now famous for its uniqueness in the VW’s history, a 12-valve engine small enough to fit where an inline-four might—in this case, a cute, lightweight 4 passenger coupé.
VR6 Corrado’s are now quite rare and well-loved by collectors and enthusiasts. British magazine Car called the Corrado one of the “25 Cars You Must Drive Before You Die,” so it is a shame that it never garnered greater popularity.
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6. Volkswagen Jetta (1977-present): A long-running sedan success 

From their 1979 beginnings,
Volkswagen Jettas
could be outfitted with a variety of engines, but they’ve always been known for having quick speed without requiring much power output in the first place. This ability to zip around without consuming much power makes the Jetta great on gas—even the earliest versions could get around 30 mpg, and VW has only continued to optimize fuel efficiency for the Jetta as the years have gone on.

5. Volkswagen Scirocco (1974-1992; 2008-2017): VW’s I4 sports racer

The Volkswagen Scirocco looks absolutely great, easily rivaling other stylish speedsters in attractiveness. Because there were so many different versions of them, each one is unique and many are quite valuable to collectors!

4. Volkswagen Karmann-Ghia (1955-1974): VW’s most stylish car

Perhaps the most conventionally attractive Volkswagen car ever produced is the Karmann-Ghia, another one of the company’s sports cars. Various big names had a hand in influencing the design concept, and Walter Dorwin Teague, the “Dean of Industrial Design” himself, included the Type 14 Karmann-Ghia on his list of the world’s most beautifully designed products.

3. Volkswagen Golf (1974-present): The class-defining VW hot hatch

is the best-selling Volkswagen model of all time. In fact, it’s one of the best-selling cars in the world, along with the Toyota Corolla and the Ford F-Series. It is one of only three cars to have wonEuropean Car of the Year twice, and it consistently appears on best cars of the year lists. The Golf GTI is still, by far, one of the most fun vehicles to drive, and recent
R-Type Golfs
have taken the model’s performance to even another level.

2. Volkswagen Type 2 Bus (1949-present): Most classic classic van

Inspired by Buckminster Fuller’s strange, futurist Dymaxion car, the Volkswagen Type 2 is one of the most recognizable vehicle designs in history.
Type 2s are classified as light commercial vehicles, but they soared to popularity in the 1960s. You probably know them as the “hippie van.” Since the Type 2 could transport so many folks at once while remaining compact and easy to drive, it was a far-out hit among the hippies—not to mention rock-and-rollers.
The VW Type 2 Bus’ close connection to rock and roll earns it a place among some of the greatest cars of all time, such as the Oldsmobile Rocket 88 or Prince’s “Little Red
.” In fact, the Type 2 would go on to appear on numerous album covers, such as Bob Dylan’s The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. It also went on to be an icon of the legendary Woodstock festival.
Chances are pretty good you’ve seen a Type 2 featured somewhere. You remember Fast Times at Ridgemont High? Well, that hippie van that Sean Penn and his buddies stumble out of in a puff of smoke is none other than, you guessed it, a VW Type 2. Those terrorists at the beginning of Back to the Future? That’s a Type 2 van they’re driving. Remember Little Miss Sunshine? Type 2.
The VW Bus is a testament to Volkswagen’s ability to create characters around their cars, to the extent that they can literally be their own characters in multiple classic films. In fact, you could almost end the article right here—but wait! VW’s top celebrity is still yet to be revealed…

1. Volkswagen Beetle (Type 1) (1945-1996): Beyond the “people’s car”

What we already said about the Type 2 can be said twofold about the
Volkswagen Beetle
, which has managed to play major roles in films like Footloose, The Cars that Ate Paris, and The Love Bug, where the Beetle literally played the film’s main character, Herbie.
Not only is the VW Beetle Volkswagen’s most recognizable vehicle, it was also the first type of car to come out of Volkswagen’s post-war production. It became an instant icon of West Germany’s eventual acceptance by the rest of western Europe
The original credit for the design of the Type 1 goes to Béla Barényinot Ferdinand Porsche, as it was proven in court that Porsche and Hitler stole Barényi’s ideas in order to develop their own Nazi-branded “people’s car.”
Nevertheless, it was in 1931 that Porsche developed his first Type 12 “Auto für Jedermann” (car for everybody)—to be sure a much less catchy name than “Volkswagen.” By 1938 the Volkswagen factory was commissioned, but only 210 KdF-Wagens were ever made before the start of WWII, when the factory became used exclusively for war production. The folks who had bought into Hitler’s savings scam to get a new Volkswagen would never end up getting their car—or their money back.
Thankfully, Germany was liberated from Nazi control, and the war was ended. While no British carmaker wanted the spoils from the Volkswagen factory, British Army officer Major Ivan Hirst wanted to put the factory to use. Changing a wartime policy to do so, he took control of the factory in 1945, employing many of the workers who were already there, and Volkswagen began producing 1,000 Type 1s a month—the first true Type 1s—1,785 of which were made.
The rest is all history—Volkswagen still produced Beetles for the entire world all the way until 2019, when sales had sadly dwindled too much to justify continuing. But the VW Beetle has already seen two reboots in its history, so don’t be surprised if we see another someday soon…

How to find affordable car insurance for your Volkswagen

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