By Jeff Barnes
Dan Nedved’s Volkswagen Beetle is a little special, and then a little more special.
It’s a 1959 convertible, which starts out as being hard to find. His is a Karmann Cabriolet, which is a bit more than a Beetle with a folding top. And making it even more special, this is a bug not meant for America – this is the European version.
That means Nedved’s bug is one with differences that aren’t readily apparent. The biggest one is that it doesn’t indicate turns via the taillights but on the side with semaphores. A flip of the turn switch flips up a little lighted wing on the appropriate side, giving the bug just that much more charm.
“I’m a gadgets guy,” says Nedved. “This version would never have come to the states, so it’s really neat to have one.”
Developed by Wilhelm Karmann in 1948, the car compensates for the lack of a roof by strengthening the sills, the edge of the rear seat, and the side cowl-panels below the instrument panel. The canvas cover itself is of three layers including a mohair headliner, which conceals the folding mechanism and crossbars.
“It has as nice a top as you would have found on a Mercedes,” Nedved states. “To put one on is not for a novice.”
The Cabriolet got a lot more features than the typical sedan, including dual rear ashtrays, twin map pockets, a visor vanity mirror on the passenger side, and rear stone shields. Nedved says he’s a big fan of bells and buzzers, so this has all kinds of little tricks to it, like a locking glove box, a locking steering column, and a locking stick shift.
The restored ’59 just had its coming-out party last month’s World of Wheels. The restoration only has 13 miles on it and – meeting at Memorial Park for a photo shoot under drizzly skies – “it’s never had rain on it,” Nedved added.
Although he knows the date and place of manufacture, Nedved has no idea of how the European-market car made it stateside. He does know the previous owner in Denver spent about ten years trying to do a restoration for the project car but not quite to perfection. For example, using fenders from a ’67 Beetle instead of finding the correct ones.
Nedved – who’s owned two Beetles and seven VW buses – bought it in 2008 and then put a decade into it himself as he attempted to make it as stock as possible. He got the interior done via Lenny Copp in California, for period-correct seats and door panels and Chuck’s Convertibles for the unusual trim required for the top. Finally, the car’s been at Air-Cooled Express in Bennington for its 1300-cc engine and more for the last two years.
“It’s actually taken that long to repair it,” Nedved said. “Mike (at Air-Cooled Express) would get something done and find he needed a part, and then I’d have to track down the part.”
The car’s color – Stratus Silver – is period correct for the car but has a little metal flake to it. The wheels aren’t period correct and neither is the lowering of the front end,”but I thought it was a nice touch,” Nedved said.
The owner of Faces Day Spa in Omaha, Nedved said his Beetle is the automotive equivalent of what his shop does for people. “It’s aesthetics of taking care, and providing beauty and style… and that’s what this car is doing for me,” he said.
Originally published in the Omaha World-Herald, April 13, 2019