January 19, 2009

Mexico's love affair with air-cooled Volkswagens.


Unless you have one as a driveway ornament, air-cooled Volkswagens are a distant memory of the past for most people. Maybe you drove one in college or maybe your parents had one when you were born. In Mexico, however, this archaic but time-proven design is still used daily. In fact, Mexico stopped production of the Beetle in 2003. The basic design is the same, it still uses a type 1 engine (though it's fuel injected). Some other changes include an updated dash, an alarm, bumper-mounted turn signals in the front and in some cases the headlight trim is body-colored. A lot of taxi drivers in Mexico City have a Beetle although the city is pushing them to get rid of them because of the pollution they emit. As a side note, another good alternative for taxi drivers is the Nissan Tsuru, the early 1990s Sentra that is still in production there.



I spotted several of these delivery vans:


And, while most Beetles you see in Mexico are fairly new, the old ones are still represented. The huge car culture there means that most cars seem to stay on the road which is great to see:


Buses are still around but they don't all fit into the "air-cooled Volkswagen" category. For the Mexican market, Volkwagen started using the water-cooled 1.4 in the early 1990s. Mexican production stopped but they're still built in Brasil. The ones designated for export (mostly to the Mexican market) are water cooled but the ones built for the Brasilian domestic market still use the type 1, air cooled engine. Interesting thing is, in Mexico, they still use Buses as, well.. buses. The collectivos are sometimes Buses and various private enterprises use them to shuttle people (like the red one pictured, which we took to go from downtown to a river). The radiator in the front is a dead giveaway that you're looking at a water-cooled Bus.



The Volkswagen Brasilia was built in the 1970s in Brasil primarily for the South and Central American markets but they were also sold in Mexico. It was an attempt at creating a more versatile Beetle- the body ressembles a type 4 body but it uses a type 1 engine. Other parts were borrowed from VW's parts bin, including taillights pulled from a type 4. They're around but by no means common and I was often in taxis, buses or friends' cars so photographing one proved to be hard but here's a rather clapped out one:


Lastly, this was an interesting find- a very early Bus that still has semaphores.

Photos were taken in Mexico City, Oaxaca and San Cristobal.

3 comments:

Ian Scott said...

I'm one of those who have one of these as a driveway ornament.

Ronan said...

Heeey, me too- what's yours?

Ian Scott said...

yellow submari.... 'seventy-five standard beetle. Just got rid of a '74 Super Beetle in the fall. I still have the windshield and rear (with defrost) window if you ever know anyone who needs them.