The Type 4 was the largest air-cooled car that Volkswagen made. It started life as the 411 with a 1700cc carburettor engine, became fuel-injected, a restyled body earned the renaming to the 412, this in turn acquired an 1800cc twin-carburettor engine for the final year of production, which ceased in the autumn of 1974. Interpretation of the date codes shown on the identification plates here is not straightforward but it appears that mine was built on Friday, 21st September 1973. This would be when the bodywork was started because the Zertifikat I received from the Stiftung AutoMuseam Volkswagen gives a build completion date of 24th September 1973 and it left the factory on 26th September 1973 bound for Ramsgate, England. The car’s Registration Certificate gives the date of first registration in the UK as 1st September 1974, the first day of the “N” year plates, so the car seems to have sat in a showroom somewhere for 11 months before being sold. There is more information, including a link on how to decipher the codes, on my history & links page.
VW made a 2-door and a 4-door Fastback, and a 3-door Variant (estate) version of this wonderful motor car. They apparently designed a 5-door Variant but it was never built. I acquired my first 412, a 4-door Fastback, in 1982 whilst in Scotland, which I ran for about three years before the ravages of the copious amounts of salt used to treat the roads up there became too much to keep up with. I then reverted to driving my Beetle for a while before coming across a Variant in 1986. That kept me going for several years until I began to spend more and more time overseas. I thoroughly enjoyed driving them both, they never left my ownership, although they have languished in the corner of a field on a certain farm in Kent for a few years now!
Then I came across another 412 which was up for sale in 2000 and couldn’t resist buying her. You can read more about her if you follow the links from my car index page. There is a link to this at the bottom of the topics list on the left.
I had oft entertained the idea of building a 5-door Variant and wondered why VW hadn’t ever built one. I started thinking about how it might be done and, when I mentioned it to Bryan and Jane Terry, they told me they had thought about the idea too. So we decided to give it a go – we would build the car VW should have built 40 years ago.
I was told that VW had actually designed a 5-door Variant but had no real information about it. Then in March 2008 I heard from Fokko Haanstra who lives in The Netherlands and who had read my site. He has accumulated a lot of information on the development of the Type 4 and you can read about it here.
I wanted to use the original VW body pressings wherever I could to keep it as authentic as possible. I considered various alternatives and eventually decided to transplant the doors from a 4-door Fastback into the sides of a Variant. Easier said than done, but a challenge that had to be met!
I started work on the project in October 1999 and, although the overall plan was clear, I had to work out the finer details as I went along. Nobody has ever done this before! However, the conversion work was substantially complete by May 2000 when I started a new job and was unable to work on the car for a while. When I was able to restart in 2003, my attention turned to general patching to repair the ravages of the tin-worm. The car went into the paintshop in 2005 and re-emerged (another long story) in 2007, whereupon I started to put everything back together again.
The photographs tell the story. I bought a new digital camera when I restarted work in 2003 and the quality is much better than the one I originally started this record with.
And finally, I have been asked a number of times if I plan to sell the car when it is finished. The answer is definitely not – I shall enjoy driving it and my son will inherit it in due time!