E1.5 – SE Beetle Paint Colours Europe 1970-1979

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Information on SEB paint colours has become one of the key resource features of SEBeetles.com. In this section we provide authoritative information that is not published in such an extensive and complete form anywhere else on the internet – or in printed literature.

It is a very relevant point that whilst Volkswagen was traditionally very thorough in the information (paint and upholstery availability included) provided in each model year’s sales literature for the standard series Beetle model ranges very little similar official information exists for most of the SEB Editions.

Aware of this lack of officially published information our research on the subject of SEB paint and upholstery combinations started in late 2013 and after 18months resulted in our publishing the first tables of information on this subject in the summer of 2015. Our research and updating of our published information is ongoing: work continuously supported by input of information from SEB fans worldwide.

Initially our research resulted in three tables of information: this has now been expanded to comprise of the set of six mutually cross referencing tables E1.5.1 –  E1.5.6.

Consistent themes

Irrespective of the motivation behind each SEB package – Celebratory or Sales Campaign they all had a consistent theme: a distinctive paintwork/trim combination enhanced by additional “M” package items and sometimes also with aftermarket accessories all at an effectively discounted total “package” price.

The most visible regular feature though of most of the SEB editions were those distinctive paint colours that they were finished in. Most of them were not shades from the normal model year colour chart for the saloon (sedan) Beetles but from other sources within the Volkswagen production base.

These non-standard colours used for the SEBs can be divided into three groups:

The first being from the palette of colours used at the Karmann factory in Osnabrück on the Beetle Cabriolet, Karmann Ghias and VW Porsche 914s. This source provided many of the brightest shades. Some, like L21E Blutorange, L32K Phoenixrot and L65K Ravennagrün, were not only popular colours on the Karmann production models but also on SEB production. L13K Sonnengelb on the other had was only seen on one SEB – a rarer Edition for the UK market – despite being a popular colour on Karmann production models notably for the Beetle Cabriolet and VW Porsche 914s.

The second group being a range of colours whose origins are not readily attributable to an obvious source as the Karmann colours are. Some were used elsewhere in the Volkswagen-Audi Group whilst others appear to have been unique to the SEB models. Included in this second  group are some rare colours used either in a very limited time period an/or on a very limited number of SEBs. Particularly noteworthy are two of the “fruit” colours  L30M  Tomatenrot/Tomato Red and L64M  Apfelgrün/Apple Green for example being not only colours unique to SEB production but also for the fact that they were “one year only” finishes.

The third group is that of colours that appear to have been mixed especially for SEB production in much the same way that other special paint finishes for emergency and public service vehicle were used to finish Beetles in to special order.

One of the rarest of all the colours used though has, interestingly, become one of the most familiar and instantly synonymous SEB colours – that of L16M  Tunisgelb/Tunis Yellow used on the Jeans Beetles.

Even a brief review of the non-standard VW paint colours used for SEB production would be incomplete however without mention of the vibrant “pop” colours L40M Poplila/Pop Lilac,  L51M Beatblau/Beat Blue and L63M Hippigrün/HippyGreen used on the very first special production run in the Spring of 1970. The extent of the use of those colours remains, even now, comparatively unknown and very much illustrative of the challenges of ongoing research into SEB production history.

The six tables  E1.5.1 – E1.5.6  illustrate the paint colours indicatively, the SEBs on which they were used and the frequency of their use.

An annotation key is used in table E1.5.6  to show where the colours were sourced from as follows:

K= paint colours applied by Wilhelm Karmann GmbH to Beetle Cabriolets, Karmann Ghias and VW Porsche 914s

n1 = standard European Volkswagen paint colour for Beetle and other air-cooled passenger car models

n2 = standard European Volkswagen – Audi paint colour used within the VAG Group on passenger car models

s = special order paint colours applied in European Volkswagen factories of which other uses within the Volkswagen Group are not known.

Information from the Glasurit website suggests that some paint colours had a much longer period of use within Volkswagen-Audi Group than we had realised before undertaking the research behind these tables – L15M Zitronengelb being a particularly good example.

One area of particular frustration is that of the coding used both in European  Volkswagen European factory production and sales literature. This is a two character code comprising of two numbers or a letter and number which can be found on a Beetle’s production plate (link) and on computer print out tags and labels such as those affixed to the car’s Service book  and Diagnostic wallet

The frustration arrises because it appears that there were inconsistencies in the use of production codes between the respective Volkswagen factories in Europe. Some paint “L” colours therefore can be found to have varying production/brochure codes depending on the source factory. The best example of this is L32K Phoenixrot/Phoenix Red which we have, so far, found identified by the following production/brochure codes –  39, 59, G5, H7, and H8. This confusing  situation is not helped by the fact that Phoenixrot  was initially one of the Karmann palette colours and then briefly, for one year only, a standard Beetle salon (sedan) model year colour also.

The situation is exacerbated by the fact that L30M Tomatenrot/Tomato Red also shares the production/brochure code of 59.  This becomes particularly relevant in connection with the Volkswagen Birth Certificate initiative which appears to identify the built attributes of a car from production code information. As a result we are aware of Birth Certificates containing errors in respect of paint colour – something we have been glad to have been able to provide clarification and correction to Certificate purchaser’s over based on our research.

Standard European production Beetle saloons (sedans) had the plastic seal/beading strip between the wings and body panels finished in colours to match the body paintwork. Most SEBs on the other hand are distinctive in that they had black plastic seal/beading strips. Presumably this was a logical rationalisation to ease production complexities and relieve the need of having to manufacture short runs of colour matched strips. The detail does however lend a very distinctive small detailing touch to the SEB models and seems to “lift” the visual impact of the paintwork.



Copyright Stephen Paul Hardy

This page last modified: 2018-03-18