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Classic Velocity Blog

VW Notchback

Classic Velocity

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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.

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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.

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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.

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vwtype3and4club.org.ukAlthough 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.