15k: Incredible Survivor 1957 Oval Window VW Beetle

This 1957 Volkswagen is probably one of the most original and complete “Oval Window” Beetles left in existence. It was sold new in Portugal, rested in a barn for many many years, and was given a sympathetic refresh and re-commissioning by an absolutely fanatical and uncompromising car guy in the UK. The end result is essentially a 39k mile like-new ’57 Beetle with only a bit of light patina to show for its 56 years of age. It is being sold by the current owner who purchased it after the refurb in 2011, and is now available here on TheSamba.com forums in North Wales, for £11000 ($17750, or €13550). We know this is a bit above the normal DT price range – but it seems like an incredible survivor car for the right type of owner. We will even restrain from making our normal snide comments about how slow VW Beetles are and how they handle like oxcarts (OK, except for that one).

We are giving this a DT Rare badge not because of the make and model, but because of the rarity of this car’s condition. The seller only includes one image (the above driver’s side shot) and not much information. But he doesn’t need to. The previous owner documented the entire barn-find / cleaning / resuscitation / revival / protection / refreshment process extensively in two forum threads, which the current seller links to. Find his thread on The Samba here, and a UK-specific thread on Pre67VW.com here. All of the following images were found in these threads.

Above is the dusty ’57 Agave green beetle as it was found in a barn, stored for many years after leaving its home in Portugal for the UK. The previous owner (who goes by the handle Last Triumph, so we’ll refer to him as LT)  immediately embarked on what would turn into a year long preservation effort – most decidedly not a restoration. The car was disassembled, cleaned, lubricated, re-sealed, reassembled, adjusted and protected without major repainting, rechroming of any brightwork, or changing the overall look and feel that only comes from a factory-original unmolested car.

After a thorough bath and careful attention to cleaning and polishing the paint, LT had the old “barn find” looking presentable again, as shown above. The few missing spots of paint and very light superficial surface rust add character to the exterior and speak volumes to its originality. This car only has 39,000 miles on it from new, and shows that it was never abused.

When it was originally in service, this Beetle led a good life with regular maintenance as evidenced by the collection of Portuguese oil change tags hanging from the hood release knob. That carpet is original, as is the rest of the interior including the classy red vinyl seats and door cards with ivory piping. Mr. LT did a thorough cleaning of the upholstery and had a few seam splits sewn up by a professional – again, not replacing anything unnecessarily, just repairing the solid original stuff.

The ivory colored “bat wing” steering wheel, spindly shifter with mushroomy knob, black rubber floormats, seats, carpet, door cards…everything you see here is as it left the VW factory in Wolfsburg in 1957. This is nothing short of a miracle for a Beetle, most of which have had their interiors replaced several times by now…and that’s just the common ’60s and ’70s models. Odds are that any remaining ’57 barn find you are likely to encounter now is merely Porsche-shaped pile of iron oxide, with a big lump of magnesium oxide in the rear, and a decades-old rat kingdom where the interior once was.

Even though this Oval was wonderfully complete and original, it was not without its flaws. An old school skilled metalworker was enlisted to bump out a few moderate dents and bruises in the “wings” (aka fenders). No original paint was removed but the scrapes were touched up with matching single-stage Agave to protect the few spots of bare metal. This is a great way to improve the appearance of an original paint car without sacrificing anything, really.

The results of all of these efforts is a car that looks like it could be 5 or 6 years old, certainly not 10 times that age.

Just under 60,000 kilometers on that simplistic but classy original gauge – the only one a Beetle came fitted with in 1957.


Mechanically, LT did even more work than on the cosmetic side. The engine, transaxle, front & rear suspension, brake system, and wiring were all rebuilt and refreshed as needed – again with an obsessive eye towards originality and preservation. All of the underbody sheetmetal and the full “pan” chassis was cleaned and coated with the Brits’ favorite rust preventive substance, Waxoyl. This is a slightly gooey semiliquid that flows into voids and acts as an undercoating, while being self healing, semi transparent and completely removable should the next owner desire. Unless this car is permanently installed in a museum and never driven again – which it shouldn’t be – we would suggest leaving the waxy oil in place. Old Beetles have a way of rusting like it’s their job.

The 36hp iteration of Volkswagen’s 1200cc air-cooled flat four was known for its reliability and long service life, likely due to its incredibly low specific power output. Understressed and overengineered is a great recipe for immortality, don’t you think? Especially after being rebuilt with only NOS (new old stock) parts by an utter detail freak. The valves were stuck in its as-found condition from over 17 years of stasis, but were replaced with NOS OE Volkswagen parts. The bottom end of the engine was carefully inspected and found to be in almost perfect condition. It was reassembled with new / NOS ignition components, a thorough cleaning, and rebuilt fuel pump and single carburetor.

One of the only modifications made from stock was the (reversible) installation of modern LED assemblies to replace the dim original 6V incandescent single filament bulbs in the taillights. This is a great cheap insurance policy and the best way to deal with the unpleasant thought of this car being damaged on the road – just avoid any incidents altogether. Like motorcyclists, air cooled VW drivers need to be seen to be safe!

It seems this Agave ’57 has seen light use since its revival, being driven and shown occasionally by Mr. LT before being sold on to the current owner. It looks great with its light patina amongst these restored and repainted examples.

If you have several days worth of free time to kill, we highly recommend reading through LT’s extensive thread on The Samba. The dry British humor combined with fascinating pictures of the whole process makes it a worthwhile read – and we have been drooling over this car for almost three years now. If you have an extra $18k laying around and a desire to own one of the best survivor oval bugs in the world…then we envy you…so get to it!

Find a better Beetle (as if that’s even believable)? Email us here: tips@dailyturismo.com