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One in 15 Million Barn Find

Mike Yager

I’m a sucker for a barn find! So when my good friend and fellow Air Cooled VW enthusiast, Darby Milnor, called with a story about a 1972 Beetle that sounded too good to be true, we were both intrigued.

In 2011, Darby welcomed a fellow into his shop, Midwest AutoSavers, to check out the 1953 Split Window Beetle outside. While there, the visitor noted that a friend of his had a low mileage Beetle for sale that Darby may be interested in. Never one to turn down an offer to check out a Beetle, Darby called the gentleman and heard a story that any die-hard car enthusiast only dreams of.

It seems that back in 1972, three members of Management in Volkswagen of America’s MIDVO distribution center in Dublin, OH decided that they’d each buy one of VW’s first official Special Edition Beetles and put it away for their first grandchildren. The car that Darby called about was one of these three vehicles, a 1972 Super Beetle with the Baja Special Limited Edition Package.

Most of these cars were marketed worldwide to celebrate the Beetle’s total production number, which had reached 15,007,034 cars by 1972, overtaking the Model T Ford as the world’s most produced vehicle. While to the rest of the world, these Marathon Blue Metallic Beetles with special Lemmertz sport wheels were called the Marathon or World Champion Special Edition, here in the USA - for whatever reason - they were called the “Baja Special Edition” and marketed to celebrate VW’s victories in the Baja 1000 races from 1967 to 1971. There was no mention of Ford or the Model T in any advertisements for the car in the United States.

Darby was told the car had lived all of its life in a climate controlled warehouse in Michigan, but unlike most cars stored and forgotten about for decades, this one had a maintenance schedule and was a running, driving car. That’s about the time my phone started ringing. Darby filled me in on the details and we were both a little skeptical of the car and story. We knew what needed to be done. Darby drove the 60 minutes from his shop to the Goose Island area of Chicago. I’m sure he was thinking the same things as I was: “The car could be poorly maintained and junk mechanically; maybe it was rusted. Having VW’s earliest base coat/ clear coat type paint, the clear was not durable. Maybe the paint was shot.”

I was anxiously awaiting Darby’s second phone call and we both breathed a sigh of relief when he told me his fears were put to rest as soon as the heavy doors of the warehouse were pulled open. The car was nearly perfect with an excellent finish, no dirt of any kind underneath, inside or out and was as described: “A brand new 1972 VW.” It‘s only non-factory installed option is the ubiquitous port installed Sapphire AM/FM radio that still functions perfectly, but interestingly gets the best reception on the 1970s station.

I knew I needed to buy that car. I worked with the seller, who was representing the original purchaser’s granddaughter, and Darby picked up the car a few days later. Other than a few minor fixes, the car is 100% original. The undercarriage is just as perfect as the top side, with all factory installed parts intact. All aluminum and cadium plated parts still shine and all the inspector markings look like they were applied yesterday. As a final touch, VW’s MIDVO stock number and VWAG’s factory transport tags are still on the front windshield. The original window sticker that was still with the car shows a list price of $2,159.00 and the ‘Special Limited Edition Package” includes: Leatherette, Sport Wheels and Marathon Blue Metallic paint adds a whopping $65.00 to the car for a total price of $2,224.00. We unveiled the 15 Millionth Marathon Beetle to the public during our Funfest for Air-Cooled VW event in 2012. It was a great moment, sharing this piece of history with my family, as well as my extended VW family! When you’ve been an enthusiast your whole life, you start to think the special finds have all been found. But keep looking – the treasures are still out there!

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