In the late 1950s, Volkswagen thought that they needed another model to complement the wildly successful Beetle designed by Ferdinand Porsche, and to appeal to the middle class. They had already launched the Italian-designed Type 1 Karmann Ghia, and it was proving successful as well. They wanted something which was visually different from the people’s car (read conventional), but they wanted to leverage whatever tooling and parts they could. What emerged was the VW Type 3. In September 1961, at the Frankfurt Show, VW introduced several new models in the Type 3 range. A sedan (the Notchback), an estate wagon (the Squareback), and a sporting coupe (the Karmann Ghia). Cabriolets of the Notchback and Karmann Ghia were also introduced, but never actually entered production.

thesamba.comThe Notchback was intended as a family sedan. It had a tall greenhouse, and followed the prevalent 3-box design that carried on into the seventies for many different marques. To my eye, the Notch is one of the best executed of the 3-box cars in terms of its proportions and layout. It has simple lines and little in the way of chrome trim. The interior was also simple, with a 3 guage binnacle, and typical spartan VW beyond that. Seats were basically the same as the Beetle. Over the production years, the interior remained basic, but did have many improvements. They included better heating and ventilation, multi-speed wipers, more trim, headrests, etc.

Type 3 engines were initially 1500cc. That does not sound like much, but it was a 25% increase over the engines in VWs at the time, and made for faster and more powerful (53 HP) vehicles. The Notchback in particular only weighed 2200lbs. Engines were rear mounted, and because creating space was a goal, they were “compressed”. In essence, the Type 1 engine block and cylinders were the same, but all of the cooling was “pancaked” to minimize height and live under a trunk. It was a brilliant execution of packaging, and surprisingly accessible for most routine work. In 1963, VW introduced dual carburettor versions of the motor (1500S). I can tell you from working on one that although the dual carbs were a performance improvement, they made the plugs nearly impossible to get to ! In 1965 VW moved displacement up to 1584cc (65 HP), and in 1968, fuel injection was introduced. there are a few Drag racing cars around, the Notch was never really a strong motorsports platform. Perhaps because the Ghia was the sporting version of the Type 3, and the sedan always had cooling issues. That has not stopped the nutters of the world from making them into crazy modified street machines with Subaru engines, and all manner of customizations. A stock Notchback is a rare animal. Type 3 production in Germany ended in 1973. However, like other Vws, they continued to be produced in Australia for another year, and in Brazil for another 10 years.

14 Replies to “VW Notchback”

  1. Have not seen one of these in a looong time. They used ot overheat like th bus. rust in the heater tunnell like all vws Look good with rims.

  2. Dear Wayne:

    I had a 1968 VW Beetle, with the semi-automatic transmission, as my first car. I put a quarter of a million miles on it. That transmission was a pain in the butt though. The safety switch would stick on it all the time.

    I never liked the Carmen Ghia. And the little station wagon looked middleaged to me. But the Beetle was a cool car, even if the defrosters were feeble and the heat weak. As I recall, the windsheild washers were powered by the air in the spare tires.

    Nice column as usual.

    Fondest regards,
    Jack • reep • Toad
    Twisted Roads

  3. Wayne, there is a notch in NJ if you are looking. Needs motor work, but only minor rust. I'm sending you an email. Peace.

  4. Ah, this brings back some nice memories! My very first auto was a '64 VW sedan, type I and many fond experiences. Many years later I purchased a '71 Karmann Khia convertible, which I still own and enjoy. Later on I bought several Westphalias and Microbuses. I always wanted to buy a squareback, but that never happened and most likely never will, but I do miss the Westphalias and wouldn't mind finding an older split window pre '67 for local events and/or the newer Eurovan or Vanagon Camper, diesel for cross country touring with the family. Just in case anyone is listening.

    Thanks for the memories once again Wayne !

  5. Dear Colin,

    They are a rare sighting in the northeast, but I sa 3 on my last trip to CA. Like the 2002, they look great with a slightly lower stance and some rims. Cheers.

  6. Dear Jack,

    The "autostick" in the VWs was a strange beast, but they were surprisingly durable, and trained you not to rest your hand on the gearlever !! You just can't beat cheap durable cars good for a quarter of a million miles. Cheers

  7. Dear Carl,

    I agree that this is a sleeper classic. The numbers for all VWs were pretty large though, so for now it keeps values down a bit. That won't last……

  8. Dear Bevelicious,

    I must be lucky, as I see 3 or 4 every time I am in southern CA. I agree though that you see a lot more fastbacks and squarebacks. Cheers.

  9. Dear Todd,

    As many know from this blog, and conversations, my first restoration was a Bug, and I would LOVE to find a 67 or earlier Bus that was not a basket case. We need to talk !! Cheers

  10. Just bought a 1962 Type 3 Notchback for a $100 bucks Canadian. Was registered in Alberta last in 1992 and the plates ran out in July of that year. I found it in Saskatchawan parked in a farm field. The Vin on it is 0083402 so in my searching I think it might be late 1962. It's going to need a complete pan restoration but everything is there except the outside rear view mirror and it needs a new medium blue paint job. Will probably need to do a complete engine job and check all the suspension as well. It will of course need new tires but the old bias ply all hold air even though they where all flat. it's going to be a big project but one worth tackling. Like everybody says it's a sleeper classic. I personally thing it's a sporty little sweetheart and I fell in love with it as soon as I found it. My friends are tired already of the GaGa I'm expressing about it.

  11. Dear Franklin,

    The shape just looks perfectly proportioned to me. I came close to a purchase a few months ago, but it was too much of a project even for me. I look forward to your progress reports. Cheers

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