Is a 1974 superbeetle a gross polluter?



I’ve been driving a 1974 superbeetle since 1977. Last year it was leaking oil and I had the engine rebuilt. I have the oil changed and valves adjusted every 3000 miles.

The body also is in excellent shape, despite our (the car and I) having lived in Massachusetts and in Minnesota. I’ve sunk a fair amount of money keeping it up and I think it could easily last me many more years.

I worry, though, that it might be a “gross polluter” and that in not having it scrapped I’m a negligent citizen. Given the history above (i.e., assuming emissions within guidelines for this make & model & year), is my worry well founded?


Yes indeed, your no catalytic converter Beetle produces 500 times more pollution than a new car, maybe a 1000 times more…But so what?? If you scrap your car, do you think it will make even the tiniest difference in air quality?? That big diesel truck sitting next to you at the stop-light pollutes even more than you do… Drive on…


Oh my yes it is a gross polluter. Yet, there are so few of them on the road in the grand scheme of things you didn’t create the global warming problem all by yourself. All cars from that era are gross polluters by modern standards so all the old classic cars enjoyed by car enthusiasts are polluting right along with you.

To do your part you need to keep it tuned up and try to keep oil leaks to a minimum. In these regards you are acting very responsibly. Since you are likely only driving a few miles per year, just keep the car maintained and drive on.

At the age of your VW pay some attention to the rubber fuel and brake lines. You don’t want to have gas leaking somewhere. Rotted brake lines could be a safety issue. Have someone give these items a good inspection and replace them before leaks occur.


I remember reading an artic le back in the early 1970’s at the time of the first “oil shortage” that had we all been driving VW Beetles there would have been no oil shortage and fewer wealthy Arabians. I figured that if we used less oil we would have less pollution. I am certain that a modern car with an engine of equivalent displacement does not pollute the environment as much as your VW. Thekey here is the size of the engine. You and your VW have done your part for the environment over the years. Keep you vehicle serviced and keep driving it.


A while back I recieved some flack on this Forum when I labled some guys 1955 whatever (can’t remember the car) a “gross polluter”, now you guys know what I ment.


“Man’s best friend could be one of the environment’s worst enemies, according to a new study which says the carbon pawprint of a pet dog is more than double that of a gas-guzzling sports utility vehicle”

After going through the global cooling terrors of the 70’s and the global warming terrors of the 2000’s I gave up eggs, ate eggs, gave up Mayonnaise ate mayonnaise, didn’t let kid sleep on stomach, didn’t let kid sleep on back, Live on and offset global warming with your global cooling particulate matter.


Should I fit my dog with a catalytic converter?


There are a lot of old cars that pollute a lot more than yours. At 37 MPG, I wouldn’t worry too much about it. Your PPM readings may seem high but your car is putting out less P, as in “parts” per million. Or is that less M? Whatever.

Some states don’t require emissions testing and the “better” cars are really doing the most harm. Don’t carry the burden by yourself if entire states won’t carry their share. My state cares more about windshield damage than it cares about the environment.


My dog is worth it for the joy she brings to our lives, but I’m not so sure about Robert and Brenda Vale.


When emission school (the State mandated cert. schools) first started the animal to blame was the cow and its methane “discharges”.


If you keep the vehicle in good tune and safe operation, you are doing your bit for your country. The US consumes 20 million barrels of oil per day, of which 13 million is imported!

The frugal use of gas of your car makes you a good citizen, while some holier-than-thou folks down the street with their 300 HP Detroit gas guzzlers are a constant drain on the US trade balance and undermine the value of the US currency.

Keep driving your bug and a Happy New Year!


They never made a Bug that got 37 mpg…Most are lucky to get 25…

Vehicle pollution is measured in grams per mile and without a converter, there is going to be LOTS of grams per mile…


The cascading pollution from the production of a new car is far more than you can do for the rest of your life in a Beetle. The new car employs so many people and enables their consumption …which includes more pollution.

Does anyone here really think that CAFE has anything to do with fuel economy? Nope. It makes producing more units a requirement to allow people to get what they want with their wallet being the limit on how big. More units buying more steel …rubber …plastic …gas tanks …engines …glass …and more assembly jobs …foreign aid that is earned in offshore parts.

…and all of it enabling EVEN MORE consumption …and more pollution.

Nope. Keep your Beetle and be a champion of the environment. I don’t care if you challenge a 1969 426 Hemi for emissions output.


I would not worry one whit about your Beetle due to the simple fact there are very few cars like this on the road (comparatively speaking) and affect the big picture very little.

What’s worse? Your well-maintained Beetle or the thousand late model, OBD II cars in close proximity to you that are running around neglected with the Check Engine Light on for an eternity?

(As to your valve adjustments, kudos to you for having this performed but it does not have to be done at 3k miles intervals. Six thousand is fine.)


As an interesting side note, the later air-cooled beetles that were made in Mexico (until 2004) were mostly used as taxis in Mexico City where the emissions regulations are actually more stringent than the US ones. The engine used in the mexi-Beetles is a fuel-injected, fully pollution controlled version of the old 1600 engine used in your Super.


Never been to Mexico City (plenty of times Nogales) but I hear Mexico City pretty much sits in a bowl that traps the atmoshphere (smog) and it is terrible in Mexico City (think birds dying in flight bad). If the Mexico City people keep their cars up like the people in Nogales all that good emission equipment you speak of is long gone.


Chances are than the " holier-than-thou folks’s" 300HP gas guzzler pumps out about 95% fewer greenhouse gasses that the Superbettle does.


You might also consider a posting on this board from several months back to put it in perspective.

A poster stated their Check Engine Light had been on for several years, problems had now magnified to the serious stage, and (not a direct quote), “all of my friends have been driving around like forever with the Check Engine Lights on”.

While they’re a bit anemic power-wise, I wished that I had a couple of my old Bugs back. (40 horse) Both of those cars got 40-42 MPG on the road while being flogged and I enjoyed driving them; other than the uphill part.


Let’s distinguish between greenhouse gasses (mostly CO2) and pollution gasses. I agree that a clean running late model 300 hp gas guzzler POLLUTES less than the old beetle; it puts out less VOCs, CO and NOX. However, CO2 is the direct result of gasoline combustion, and directly related to miles per gallon.

So a 17 mpg SUV puts out 37/17x100, or 217.6% of the greenhouse gasses or 117.6% MORE greenhouse gasses than the 37 mpg Beetle.

It’s unfortunate that the EPA has now classified CO2 as a pollutant, since it causes considerable confusion in the public’s mind.

My high efficiency furnace puts out very little pollution, but still emits 55% of the CO2 of the old furnace.


Thanks, everyone. This has been informative and fun. FYI, I get about 19 mpg in the city and 25 on the highway and average 2800 miles per year.

Happy new year!