What’s Your Eleanor? – I’m Such a Square Edition


My greatest love of all is an old, boxy lump of metal with a weezy little 1600cc motor. It screams early 1970’s middle class suburbia family wagon. I’ve seen molasses in winter move faster. It has a face only I could love and yet I lust after one, each and every day. This one here is a prime example of why.

While I’m allowed to look at her when I visit, my specific Eleanor (read 1970 Volkswagen Type 3 Variant aka Squareback) will never truly come into my hands short of a miracle. This little beauty is owned by co-VW enthusiast and friend, Ron Mann.  I have been assured he is not giving her up in this lifetime and I can’t say I blame him. Talk about a barn find!  She was parked in a garage in Colorado with around 9,000 miles on the odometer some 20 odd years ago.  Since Ron acquired her in 1999 he’s put a few miles on her, the current odometer reading is 19,570 and 7/10 miles. Still not too shabby for a 40 year old car.
Yes that is her true mileage. Do not add 100K.

Aside from a little touch up on the body, Ron didn’t have to do much at all to get her road worthy and show ready. No dents, no major dings, no fuzzed up carpet or cracked vinyl. Even her little pancake motor is in near perfect condition and starts up without a hitch every time.  Her mirrors and chrome are shiny and her dash is showroom clean. She’s about as perfect as they come; the reams of awards that hang on the shop wall prove I’m not the only one who feels this way.
So straight, so clean, so pretty…

I know I’ll never own this gem.  So alas I search the great sea of used Type 3’s trying to find one that speaks to me, begging me to buy her, take her home and make her my own.

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  1. dculberson Avatar

    It is beautiful, but you want one you can tinker with and drive, right? You don't want to feel guilty every time you drive it to work. So here you go:
    Obviously the seat covers have got to go. Reupholster with original material, hide or remove that awful stereo and speaker set up, swap the steering wheel for an earlier one, and you're good to go! Actually if it wasn't so far away I'd be tempted. It looks to be in damn good shape for the price.

    1. Ambersand Avatar

      You know what? You're right. Now I need 2! Seriously, I'm looking for more of a weekend cruiser that will win at shows, but I won't totally pop a gasket (pun intended) if she gets a stone chip in the paint. Regarding the one on ebay – aside from it making me want to eat a hot dog with Heinz mustard, I'd need a lot of work (for my tastes) to be operable. Front seats – ugh! Gone. Stereo/speakers, GONE. Paint – GONE, give me factory orange please!
      Major positive is that she's stock. I'm a total stock freak. Sure, the bugs in the garage have 'roided out motors, but I can't have all that insanity pushing me to hoon the hell out of a Squareback and actually think I'm going to sleep at night.

    2. Mike_the_Dog Avatar

      I wonder if that car isn't a much later Brazilian or Mexican car with a fudged title? The steering wheel is making me suspicious…

      1. blueplate Avatar

        You're going to get that from eBay on any pre-1981 vehicle, since AutoCheck and Carfax rely on the standardized seventeen-digit VIN.
        Before the VIN, you only had a manufacturer's serial number, and AutoCheck/Carfax can't afford the risk that two different vehicles could have been built with the serial number "3632076314".
        There are VIN decoders available for most pre-1980 makes. Check out: http://www.thesamba.com/vw/archives/info/serialnu
        According to that guy, "363…" means it is a "36 (squareback), 1973 model year."

  2. engineerd Avatar

    There are certain cars that, despite their relative rarity, are very prevalent. Either you, your parents or a buddy's parents had one. The Squareback is such a car. I remember a buddy's mom in junior high drove one, and she would pick me and my buddy up at school in it. It was beat up, the tape deck ate tapes, the dash was cracked, and the speakers were more "sitting" than "installed" in the car, but there was no mistaking it for any of the other beigemobiles of the late '80s.

  3. Target29 Avatar

    Once viewed one of these up close at an auction, however it had been modified or Hoongineered to fit a 350 cu inch Vette engine with a Toronado transaxle.

    1. Mike_the_Dog Avatar

      So, was it mid-engined, did they alter the motor to run backward, or did they somehow install a reverser in the transaxle?
      On a side note, a Ford 2.3 (Pinto style) can be bolted to a VW transaxle with an adapter plate for some very interesting results…

      1. CptSevere Avatar

        I remember seeing ads for just that in VW magazines. It's an intriguing idea, I'm pretty sure you could wring more horses out a turbo Pinto engine than a VW mill, and it might just hold together.

  4. Feds_II Avatar

    These are fantastic cars. Pretty comfortable, pretty quiet, will keep up with highway traffic… Overall, a very useable classic.
    [shameless plug] I have a Fasty that I am trying to unload. I have no idea if the price is right or not. any thoughts? (will try and find pictures) [/shameless plug]

    1. Deartháir Avatar

      Your photos appear broken to me. Might wanna check it. 😉

  5. Mach830 Avatar

    I drove a 70 Square for many years. My aunt, who lives in Hawaii, still drives the Squareback she bought in 1971. It's still her only car.

  6. kvhnik Avatar

    Oh boy…Squarebacks have a special place in my heart. My wife-to-be drove one when we met over thir…..a long long time ago when I was still a teenager. It was a great car..except when it wasn't. I remember freshening the points with a nail file at the side of the road some 50 miles out from Fort Collins, CO. It was named Adolf. Alas, she rolled it in eastern Idaho during a bit of "inattentive driving". Always wear your seatbelts kids!

  7. soo΄pәr-bādd75 Avatar

    I still kick myself every now and then for selling my orange '71, but I know it was the right thing to do at the time. It had been sitting forever, and its fuel injection system was a mess, and I had no idea how to fix it. I loved that car in all of its quirky glory, and would love to have another, this time to keep forever. That said, my ultimate VDub would be a Notch. I'd sell my soul for a nice one.

  8. CptSevere Avatar

    I've always liked fastbacks, always thought they were nice cars, although bug freak buddies of mine warned me off of them. I knew a guy who had one, and he lit up the gas-fired heater once and we almost asphyxiated.
    They hated the big 412's even more, and I liked them, too. Haven't seen one of those in years, pretty rare.

    1. KAdams1476 Avatar

      I'm almost certain that I haven't seen a 412 (outside of a car show) since the early '80's. My grandparents had a long-time neighbor about three houses away that was a VW fanatic. Dashers, Rabbits, Scircoccos and Beetles crowded his driveway for at least 15 years. In all that time, I never saw a 412. This guy wasn't just a water-cooled VW guy, he had clearly drank teh VW Kool-Aid and had all kinds of cool stuff in that driveway/garage of his.

  9. Ambersand Avatar

    You beat me to it, just decoded the VIN myself! And that is correct 363 is a 73 type 3 SB.

  10. KAdams1476 Avatar

    And to add to my last post, especially to keep it on topic, my Eleanor is probably a 71-73 Toyota Celica with a badass engine swap. A fella named Koichiro did up one with a Honda S2000 motor and updated suspension. That would be the car that I struggle to find.

  11. FuzzyPlushroom Avatar

    Don't worry. I think they're pretty, too. The trouble I have is that up here, it'd only be a summer car… plus it'd be altogether too nice for me.

  12. FuzzyPlushroom Avatar

    Don't worry. I think they're pretty, too. The trouble I have is that up here, it'd only be a summer car… plus it'd be altogether too nice for me.