1974 Sun Bug

Country and/or Category: Canada, USA | VIN range: 114 2423 796 - 114 2999 000 | S-code(s): S736 |
Extras/Options M-code(s): M108, M110

Given that, in common with other SEBs for the North American market, the Sun Bugs were well documented from the point of sales literature it is perhaps surprising that there appears to be some lack of clarity and some uncertainty still about the production details of them.

The Volkswagen “S” list (“Sonderverkaufsaktion” or “Sonderaktion” meaning , literally, “Special sales deal” and “Promotions” respectively) includes the Sun Bug Sales Campaign as S 736: Sonderaktion *Sonnenkäfer* for the USA and Canada. There is a possibility also that some of the vehicles delivered within the overall Sun Bug Sales Campaign may have been drawn from S 723: Sonderaktion für USA.

Although covered in the text of the very attractive Sun Bug brochure what is not immediately clear from the photographs in it is that the Edition comprised of three models: “The Sun Bug Beetle”, “The Sun Bug Super Beetle” and “The Sun Bug Convertible” each based on the contemporary 1974 North American market specification base vehicles.

These were, respectively, the:

VW typ.117 Export (Delux) Saloon (Sedan) Beetle (flat windscreen) with steel sliding roof, torsion bar/CV-joint suspension, LHD,

VW typ.133 Saloon (Sedan) Super Beetle (curved windscreen) with steel sliding roof, McPherson strut suspension, LHD,

VW typ.153 Karmann Beetle Cabriolet LHD which, for the 1974 model year, was based on the typ.135 Super Beetle.

The first two of these – the Saloon (Sedan) models – were manufactured at Volkswagen’s European factory dedicated to supplying North America since December 1964 located in the port town of Emden. The third model was manufactured at the Wilhelm Karmann plant in Osnabruck.

All these Sun Bugs were finished in metallic gold paintwork and interiors that included rosewood dash panels (on the Super Beetle versions), simulated leather padded four spoke sports steering wheel, adjustable sports seats with special Nut Brown leatherette and corduroy upholstery, matching door and side panels and loop pile carpets. They were also fitted with the familiar SEB finishing touch of Lemmerz “GT” sports wheels which in all cases were 4½J x 15. Some wheels were finished in gold colour to match the vehicle bodywork paint whilst others were in standard aluminium-silver finish.

Between arrival in North America and delivery to customers these Sun Bugs were dealer prepared with additional trim items including Kamei tunnel console, special logo gear knob, black body side stripes with “Sun Bug” logo and engine cover  “Sun Bug” badging. Quality control at this stage has led to issues surrounding the authenticity of some Sun Bugs. Statistically highly probable is the fact that some cars never received these post factory additional details whilst, conversely, some standard model cars may well have done. The authentication of Sun Bugs therefore lies with their factory manufactured finishes and fittings.

There is a further twist that clouds the authentication of genuine Sun Bugs and that is a fundamental one: the paint colour. It was originally understood that all Sun Bugs, from both Emden and Osnabruck, were painted Hellas-metallic. A colour spanning the three Volkswagen model years 1973-75 as L98C.

However cars that can be authenticated as genuine Sun Bugs also exist painted in L99B. Some paint manufactures list this also as Hellas metallic whilst others list it as Harvest Gold. In both case it appears to be a 1974 only paint shade. Verification of the later has also been found by way of an example of the factory paint code label fixed to a Sun Bug during manufacture bearing the text “L99B Harvestgold.”

Reference back to German home market  (“inland”) sales brochures for the 1974 model year brochure shows that Hellas metallic (production/brochure codeW4) was a standard model range paint colour for both the 1300 (flat screen, torsion bar) and 1303 (curved screen, McPherson strut) Beetles. And was combined with Mocca (Mocha) interior trim in both needlecord and leatherette (production/brochure codes 04 and 68 respectively) Hellas was not a standard model range colour however for the 1303 Cabriolet. The standard paint colour range for North America in 1974 however comprised of bright solid colours only. Adding these facts together Hellas was a special paint finish for North American bound Beetle Saloons (Sedans) and a totally special paint finish for the Cabrio.sunbig

Anecdotal evidence exists about the poor durability record of some L98C production batches combined with supported conjecture about the use of L99B as a replacement. What is not certain at the present time is which of the three Volkswagen model types used for the Sun Bug Campaign were painted in L98C and which were painted in L99C – and in both cases during what periods. Evidence suggests that the permutation may have been L98C Hellas on the Karmann produced typ.153 Super Beetle convertibles and on the typ.117 torsion bar Beetle sedans with L99B Harvestgold only on typ.135 McPherson strut Super Beetle sedans. At the current time however more evidence is needed to prove (or disprove) this conjecture.

One way of deciphering this conundrum on other SEB Editions has been to analyse the codes given on the vehicles “production plate”. The brochure code W4 should appear for Hellas L98C or anther code for L99B. Yet again though research in this respect on the Sun Bugs has been thwarted by production plates appearing to have become obsolete on at least the 1303 (Super) Beetle by the time the Edition went into production. This raises yet another question in that we still seek evidence from the typ.117 flat screen Sun Bug as to whether they were still being issued with production plates and if so what paint code was stamped into them. Examples exist of Cabrio Sun Bugs being marked with paint colour information in a way unique to production practices in the Karmann plant – that of hand writing the information on a “hidden” painted panel. Examples of this practice have been seen not only on Beetles but also contemporary Karmann Ghias and 914s.

Hellas-metallic L98C is also sometimes referred to as Sun Gold Light Metallic.

Hellas-metallic/Harvestgold L99B is also sometimes referred to as Sun Gold Metallic.

Given the degree of uncertainty over the issue of Sun Bug paint colours Tables P-E.1 – P-E.7  “Articles” / SEB Production/ Paint Tables have been laid out so as to be as helpful as possible within the constraints of the ongoing research as to which of the two colours were used on which of the three body versions that the Sun Bugs were produced in.

Evidence of Sun Bug paint colours:

Karmann Emden Emden
karmann-hellas emden-hellas emden-harvest
Example of production record applied in the Karmann factory to Sun Bug Cabriolets (with thanks to Charlie White). Emden factory applied paint sticker to Sun Bug Saloons/Sedans – in this case the more common L98C Hellas Metallic. Emden factory applied paint sticker to Sun Bug Saloons/Sedans – the elusive L99B also listed as Hellas and as proved here alternatively called Harvest Gold (with thanks to Justin Wilt).

This page last modified: 2018-06-28