Tuesday, October 14, 2014

1k: Horrorod Season Opens: 1974 Volkswagen Beetle Autostick

The Volkswagen Beetle is an abominably slow car in any configuration, but nothing lifts the hairs on your arms like the Ebola contaminated Q-tip that is the Beetle Autostick.  Nothing is slower or more miserable to drive than the Beetle with a semi-automatic transmission as it combines the need to use both of your hands with acceleration of a donkey pulling a boat anchor...uphill...and the donkey is dead.  Find this 1974 Volkswagen Beetle Autostick offered for $1200 in Albany, NY via craigslist.  Tip from Jdah.  Halloween approaches and we are looking for horrorods -- send in your best tips!.

On the scale of Beetle love/hate from Jeremy Clarkson to Raphael Orlove, the staff at DT is spread across the spectrum, but personally I find the breetle-tweedle-frapt exhaust note to be the second most annoying sound in the world.   Additionally, without significant modification the Beetle is slower than just about anything on the road that isn't on fire.  The Autoshift (aka manu-matic) adds a pneumatic operated clutch and a torque convertor to a simple 3-speed manual making it slower than the things on fire.  The torque convertor allows the car to come to a complete stop without stalling and the clutch allows the operator to shift gears but nothing can describe how poorly the entire setup works.  Avoid it like you would a bathtub full of scorpions.

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  1. A bathtub full of scorpions sounds terrible. Avoid this I shall!

    1. VW successfully created the least enjoyable way to drive a car when they came up with their oxymoronic Automatic Stickshift. It required 95% of the inputs normally associated with driving a manual transmission, while removing 100% of the pleasure. No matter how lightly one touched the shifter in preparation for an upshift or downshift, the clutch would instantly be engaged. For 'jackrabbit' starts, one would place their hand on the shifter with first gear selected, rev the engine and then remove their offending hand from the shifter, which would yield the type of blistering acceleration and wonderful exhaust note one might normally associate with a yard tractor or mini-bike equipped with nearly worn out belt driven cvt.

  2. I made many an autostick customers happy!

    In the mid through late 70's I had a VW repair shop.
    Customers would have their autostick car towed in saying the transmission was grinding when they tried to shift in gear. They thought for sure they needed a transmission.
    Turns out it was just a broken wire for the crazy shift points located inside the shifter. The shift points activated the solenoid to allow vacuum to the clutch diaphragm for the disengagement of the clutch.
    Change the shifter points and splice in the wire and they were out the door in half an hour with huge smile.

    The absolutely worse beetle was an autostick with air conditioning!
    Especially since the local dealer used to teach frustrated owners that couldn't figure out the shifting to just leave it in 2nd gear unless they got on the freeway. Whoa was that sloooow!
    Yeah, and in no time ithey was ready for a valve job and reseal.

    1. Rene- Wasn't there also another solenoid or relay under the hood (top left corner) which, if unplugged would cause the same thing? I found it easier to describe to an owner calling in with a broken clutch cable how to drive the car back to the dealership without a clutch, than it was to try to teach someone how to drive an Autostick.

    2. I can't remember where the relay was. I think it was out back on the transmission somewhere near the vacuum solenoid valve.

      Some other cool things about the autostick...

      You could use the automatic starter to eliminate having to change the starter bushing in the stickshift transmission. It was also great for 6V to 12V conversions since you did not need an adapter bushing to fit the different starter nose shaft diameters.

      The engine oil pump had a second oil pump on the outside that was the transmission pump.
      Remember people adding that big ole oil cooler to their bug? That doesn't work so well when the oil was cold. Also people did not think through to get enough air flow through the cooler. So for that hot running big bore summer buggy we would run a super beetle fan shroud with a stock oil cooler. Then add the extra sump kit with tapped pipe threads in two places and use the transmission side of that dual oil pump to add an oil filter and a big ole oil cooler.

  3. The Beetle with manual transmission is very good at going slow. I would think that by being made to go even more slowly, it would get even better.

  4. The history of the automatic transmission in Germany has been a woeful one, accompanied (except, maybe at Daimler-Benz) by vast engineering resistance. And nowhere was that more apparent than at VW.

    "Ja, Fritz, ze only ones who need ze selb-shift thing ist ze cripples, so ve'll make it run like a wheelchair!"

    "Sehr Gut, Hans!"

    While the Japanese were working their way out of antique British Borg-Warner designs and into the first modern electronically-controlled four-speed boxes, and Detroit was reluctantly doing the same, VW was working their way from this into three-speed slushboxes that pulled the engine idle down into the mirror-blurring vibration range.

    The single biggest factor in VW's loss of US market share from the '70s into the '80s was, as far as I can tell, their failure to recognize how important slushboxes were in the US market and to come up with a proper answer instead of just accepting whatever junk ZF could give them.

  5. In 1985 my friend Tom R. had a red auto stick just like this one in Wisconsin. He beat that thing to death banging it through the gears. It seemed decently fast to me (I had an MG Midget). Maybe all the rust had lightened it by a couple hundred pounds! No heat in winter. He would use a rag to wipe the windshield, which is conveniently located right in front of your face.

    1. It was probably not slow because your friend knew how to shift the 3 speed transmission properly.
      Most people just left it in 2nd gear all the time around town.


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