1974 Typ 147 Volkswagen Fridolin: Reader ride
John Weninger's 1974 Typ 147 Volkswagen Fridolin...
1974 Typ 147 Volkswagen Fridolin
I’ve always been a Volkswagen tragic and apart from the Fridolin I currently have a ’56 single-cab ute and a ’54 ‘barn door’ Microbus. My first car was a ’76 Golf and I’ve had VWs my whole life. I don’t know why, I just love them.
A guy called Graham Lees bought the car from the Swiss Post service where it had been in service since 1974 and imported it in ’89. Only 1201 were made and there are only two in Australia. I believe mine’s the only one on the road.
I first saw it at a show in Sydney and fell in love with it. Graham put it up for sale 15 years ago and I really wanted it but it was out of my price league and a friend of mine, Andrew Dodd, bought it. About three years later, Andrew was at my place and wanted to buy my three-wheeled Messerschmitt. It wasn’t for sale but I said I’d be prepared to swap it and rattled off a list of cars I wanted but he couldn’t help me. The next day, at a car show in Echuca, he said he needed to cull his collection and he was going to sell the Fridolin. So I swapped the Messerschmitt for the Fridolin.
It was stock, with standard ride height and steel wheels and hubcaps, and it looked and felt like an old man’s car. It was cool and I liked it but it didn’t have the wow factor. So a couple of mates and I fitted dropped spindles and alloy wheels one night and that changed the personality of the car. The Swiss Fridolin runs a 1300c engine but the German version got a 1200cc. The Swiss car also got rear quarter windows and a much larger rear window compared to the German car. They’re based on a Karmann Ghia chassis and the body panels were also made by Karmann; they were assembled by German coach builder Westfalia Werke.
It’s pretty basic inside and all I’ve changed is the gear shift. The original one was very low so I replaced it with a Kombi shifter with a gear knob I found online.
The car only weighs 975kg but it still manages to feel underpowered and I’d hate to drive it with a full load of mail. It has a low-ratio gearbox, which is ideal for driving around and dropping off the mail but at 100km/h the engine is screaming for mercy. I plan to fit a bigger engine and late-model Type 3 gearbox with longer legs. I used to cop a lot of ‘Postman Pat’ jokes, but since I lowered it and fitted alloys, people love it.
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