Article by Tyrone Morris

When the law was passed in Mexico that taxis had to have four doors back in late 2002, the final chapter of the air-cooled beetle would unfold.

VAG as we know had contracted vw mexico to produce beetles for the european market back in the late 70’s, as demand still warranted imports into Germany from latin America once the Germans had ceased european production in 1978. The ships kept on docking into Emden until European safety regulations halted the final batch of 50th anniversary beetles to Europe in 1985. This could have been the end for the beloved air-cooled icon, but luckily the Mexican government encouraged and incentivized ongoing local production as the taxi industry benefitted by the supply of these green and white “vochos”, ironically resembling the old german polizei colours. An ongoing lease of life for the air-cooled model echoes the rebranding of the golf1 legacy in South Africa. It appears that the two death-defiant models even shared some parts, i.e. the steering wheel and interior of the late mexican beetles mirrors that of the late mark 1 golfs.

In response to the new Mexican legislation and ongoing decline in sales figures, VW Mexico decided to halt production of the Volkswagen Beetle (vocho) which was the Mexican taxi driver’s favourite.The decree merged in 2002 under the mandate of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, then Mexico City’s governor. This decree prohibited the granting of permits for public transportation in the form of taxis in Mexico City to two door cars, restricting even more the marketing of the Vocho in favor of the Nissan Tsuru (third generation Nissan Sentra), which now became the new favorite of taxi drivers in Mexico, so that sales of the Vocho fell even further.

It was in the month of June 2003, when the Volkswagen Sedán Última Edición was introduced as a final model to bid the air-cooled Beetle farewell. A totally nostalgic car, which resembles the past glories of the Volkswagen Beetle. This Final Edition consisted of 2,999 units for sale to the general public in Volkswagen dealers across Mexico, while one (the last one to be produced), would be immediately shipped to the Volkswagen Museum in Wolfsburg, Germany, testifying a historic age which ended on July 30, 2003, when the last Volkswagen Beetle (the unit number 21’529,464) left the production line in what was now called “the hall of sorrow”, accompanied by a Mariachi singing the song “Las Golondrinas” (A Mexican folk song that speaks of a farewell). This latter Beetle was headed to the port of Veracruz, where a ship would take it to his final destination. Locally the ultima edicion costed MXP $ 84,000.00. They sold swiftly from dealerships, leaving many people with the desire to own one of these copies. At this time, Volkswagen presented some advertising with a nostalgic tone. In some of them, they showed a small space to park, and many cars that tried unsuccessfully to occupy it, after what appeared to get a sedan, then showed a sentence saying: “Es increíble que un auto tan pequeño deje un vacío tan grande. Adiós Sedán.” (“It was incredible that such a small a car leaves such a large emptiness. Goodbye Beetle”). One of the curious events that occurred was the fact that a group of owners of dealerships, in Mexico, came together to buy one of these cars, which was sent to the Vatican city as a present for Pope John Paul II.

june-2007-new-camera-house-and-ultima-074

The Ultima’s sold just as well in the States and across the Atlantic the demand was even hotter. In the UK the official importer and distributor was a company called Beetles UK, a subsidiary of Danbury camper conversions (the same company responsible for importing Bay window kombis from Brazil). The allocation they had were completely sold out at a cost of just under ten thousand pounds, before any had docked in the United Kingdom. By the end of 2003, my chance of owning one was becoming even slimmer as most collector’s had snapped them up, and even if I were to miraculously acquire one, I had not yet found a dedicated space to keep the beetle safe from the elements.

By some bizarre twist of fate I received a surprise call in the spring of 2007 – by which time I had purchased a house with an empty double-garage! The man from Beetles UK had remembered to keep my name handy just in case somebody had changed their mind, which potentially could afford me the opportunity to own one myself. This was not the story however! As fate would have it, apparently VW Mexico had kept some 20 units in the factory way past the production end back in July 2003. The twenty that were kept back so to speak were used as press cars and allegedly some for a deceased mexican tycoon who obviously could not take delivery of his vehicles. This remarkable in-house VW “factory barn find”, was owing to the fact that an external head office factory audit had uncovered these cars behind closed doors, and that they had to be disposed of to make way for North American Touran production space. These last few were made available to Beetles UK in the European spring of 2007. I received this news with the enthusiasm, befitting of someone who has just won the Lotto and immediately committed myself to a purchase price of thirteen thousand, seven hundred and fifty pounds for number nineteen from the end of production – ironically my birthday date. The colour – Harvest Moon Beige with black interior. I decided to keep mine stock standard with left-hand drive configuration, despite being offered a right-hand drive UK conversion at and extra cost of two thousand pounds. I eagerly awaited my spicy, air-cooled pressie, and after I could barely wait no more, I was delivered the fantastic news of its arrival on the 16th of June 2007 to my front door!

The Specification of the 3000, 2003 Ultima Edicion Beetle is as follows – (Not to confused with the 3000 Last edition silver Beetles in the UK in 1978!)

Two colour combinations on offer:
Aquarius Blue with Franell Grey interior
Harvest Moon Beige with Black interior

  • Moldings, bumpers, wheel covers and door handles in chrome finishing
  • 165/80 R 15 White-wall radial tires
  • 5J X 15 body coloured stamped steel wheels
  • Complete carpeting in passenger room
  • AM/FM stereo CD player with 4 speakers and chromed antenna
  • Two exterior chromed mirrors
  • Specific noise isolation in passenger room
  • Glovebox cover and dashboard inserts in body color
  • Carpeted lid for rear trunk
  • Carpeted front trunk
  • Special commemorative plaque on glove box cover
  • Complete cloth upholstery
  • Bags on front back seats
  • Map’s bag on drivers door.
  • Chromed VW Logo on the top and Emblem with the coat of arms of the City of Wolfsburg at the front trunk lid
  • Tail lights with chrome moulding

My Ultima still resides in England, where I hope to get it out to South Africa as
a tribute to our local chapter and possible museum exhibit as a token of appreciation to a special individual who has been a loyal servant to keeping South African Beetles alive and well for all who know him! I have been informed however since my return to SA after almost a decade away, that 2003 is the watershed year for banning left-hand drive imports into the Republic. Can anyone shed some light inn this for me please?