1973 VW bug safety

My son needs transportation for a summer internship in the DC area. His 1973 VW Bug has been used little since he started college at that technology school in Cambridge, he thinks it will be a good time to use the car. What do you think of using the Bug vs the purchase of something for the summer? We do not need another car.

Have it checked out and make sure they check the brake lines for possible rust. Other than that, I would think it should be fine. It may not prove to be exceptionally reliable but with a copy of How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive and a few simple tools, it should be a good experience.

A 1973 VW Bug and the word safety do not go together. These cars are death traps if you are ever involved in a accident. You surely could find a safer car in regards to occupant protection. VW recieved it’s reliabilty gold stars because there was nothing better for the money at the time. Does your son want to concetrate on his internship or his VW?

A '73 VW Bug at is best is ancient technology, especially as it relates to safety. Having said that my daughter had a '74 Microbus at college in the early '90’s. She survived, but I won’t recommend it. Since then car safety has leaped forward, 18 wheelers have gotten bigger and faster, and there are more SUV’s on the road than cars.

Perhaps the VW will be OK for short city commuting. If he is getting on the I-95’s and area freeways to commute I’d suggest getting something safer. Is there a possible long term rental for the summer?

I have to agree with oldschool and Uncle Turbo. Even the cheapest car of recent vintage is light years ahead of a VW bug in terms of safety. In addition to the obvious lack of air bags, those old VWs do not have any side impact protection and do not have modern advances in chassis design that allow for “crumple zones” to absorb impact.

Additionally, the ability to get out of the way of danger is an important safety factor, and these old VWs have so little power that they can hardly get out of their own way. Just merging onto a highway is a potentially dangerous experience, due to their meager engine power. Even the brakes on these cars are not exactly great. Truthfully, I would not put a loved one of mine in one of these cars.

I would lose the bug and get something more modern with an airbag. In just about any type of collsion (front end especially) the Beetle is a death trap. Your son’s legs are more or less the first line of defense. And then there’s the issue of the Bug’s lack of power compared with anything else on the road, around DC surface streets it might be ok, but he’ll get eaten alive on the beltway and the mixing bowl.

While I agree that newer cars may be safer than that 1973 Bug, but many of us survived with them.

I had a 1970 bug.  I put almost 200,000 miles on it and had several accidents.  The only injury was to my daughter when someone ran a red light and hit me broadside.  Luckily it was a minor injury, the insurance wanted to total it, but I asked to have it repaired.  That was at about 100,000 miles.  

I do like the newer cars and their increased safety.  They are safer, but a good driver is by far the most important safety factor and you should not reject the Bug out of hand. 

Small car vs big car.  I got hit on the interstate by a greyhound bus one night.  Scared me, but I survived without injury, but the bus driver who was on his first run had fallen asleep at the wheel and I had a number of bus riders save me from a ticket.  That time I had a 1965 Sunbeam Imp, a smaller lighter older rear engine car than my Bug.  

#1 factor is driver.

Is it standard or a super? It’s important because I think in '73 the standards had 4 drums but the supers had front disc brakes, which improved the braking immensely. The supers also had a more “modern” suspension which improved their handling immensely.

Reliability-wise, air-cooled VW’s are definitely high-maintenance, but if you do the maintenance they can actually be pretty reliable. If the owner has an understanding of basic physics and a basic mechanical aptitude (as your son going to “that technology school” probably has) he should be able to foresee any potential problems before they leave him by the side of the road.

As for the safety aspect, a lot of the reputation the old beetles have for being death traps is simply due to the fact that they were the first small cars sold in the land of huge sedans. In fact, their construction was actually a lot more solid than small cars sold all the way up to the 80’s at least-- for example when VW did the crash tests on the water-cooled Rabbits that replaced the beetles, the beetles fared far better. They were also especially good in rollovers. I’m not saying they’re up to modern standards, but most people don’t fret about driving a 15 year old Geo Metro of Honda Civic, and realistically the bug is not any worse than those.

I say go for it!

The Super’s never came with disc brakes and the Mcpherson strut suspension on the supers was not so good. Problems with control arm bushings,not really “robust”

The VW line of those years is a line like no other. They had problems that you just would not know about unless you put your time in at a VW shop. Make a domestic car mechanic cry and turn a non-VW guy loose on one of those and you are just asking for trouble.

Is a '73 Bug safe? Not compared to any modern car. Is it fast enough for modern freeway traffic? No. Of course, many people survived their use. Those that didn’t aren’t posting here…

Here are a few more details of the VW. This was a HS senior project. This Super Beetle has digital dash/read out, new seats, front disc brakes, anti-sway bars, an over-hauled engine and slide back rag top sun roof. He worked on it for months then worked in a service station for the summer; learned a lot about working on cars. Guess the question is, will it be reliable as well as safe.

The bug has been restored. Now has front disc brakes, anti-sway bars, over-hauled engine, digital dashboard readout, new interior and retrofit rag top sun roof. How reliable would this be in the summer heat of DC?

Bugs like yours were made in Mexico until a few years ago. They have as good a safety record as any other car. Sure, if you have a head-on with a F-350, you lose. But if you are in a Volvo, you STILL lose…The idea is not to have an “accident” not survive one…

If you have gone this far in your work on this car me saying it it not a safe car means nothing to you,your decision has already been made.