The Volkswagen Beetle remained a strong seller in Mexico long after it was phased out across Europe and in the United States. Towards the end of its life a lot of its success was attributed to local taxi drivers who unanimously selected the Vocho, as it was called locally, as their car of choice.
Despite its success, by the early 2000s the Beetle was considered an antique at best and a bad hangover from a different era at worst. It was outgunned by more modern cars like the Nissan Tsuru (a first-generation Sentra) and its sales were quickly dropping. Volkswagen dealers in Mexico sold 41,620 of them in 2000, a number that went down to 22,986 in 2002.
The drop in sales was attributed to actions taken by the Mexican government. In 2002, lawmakers passed a bill that required all new taxi cabs to have four doors. This, plus stricter emission regulations that applied to Mexico’s Distrito Federal essentially signed the Beetle’s death warrant. Volkswagen announced plans to wind down production shortly after the four-door law came into effect.
The Beetle was a tough car to kill. It was indisputably one of the most important cars ever built so Volkswagen didn’t want to simply vaporize it without doing something to celebrate the occasion. Exectuives decided that the last Beetles built would all be part of a special edition called Última Edición, “last edition” in Spanish. This was roughly the same path that Renault took with the 4 a decade earlier; the last 1,000 cars built were part of a special edition called “Bye Bye.”
The Última Edición cars were only available in Blue Aquarius and Beige Harvest Moon. To celebrate the Beetle’s advanced age, they featured retro-inspired design cues such as chromed mirrors, chromed door handles, body-colored steel wheels fitted with chrome hubcaps and whitewall tires. The hood was adorned with a Wolfsburg emblem similar to the one found on Beetles in the 1960s.
Beige Última Edicións wore black upholstery; blue ones were upholstered in blue. The trim surrounding the speedometer was painted in the same color as the body, and the globebox door wore a commemorative metal plaque engraved with the car’s serial number. The Beetle had typically been a pretty spartan car but the Última Edicións came fairly well equipped from the factory in order to justify its higher price. The list of standard features included an AM/FM/CD stereo, full carpeting and better sound-proofing, which finally addressed one of the car’s biggest weak points.
Under the rear deck lid was the familiar 1,584cc air-cooled flat-four engine that sent 45 horsepower and about 72 lb-ft. of torque to the rear wheels via a four-speed manual transmission. The engine was fitted with fuel injection and the exhaust line gained a catalytic converter in order to meet ever-stricter emissions standards.
The Última Edición cost 84,000 pesos when new, a sum that converted to approximately $7,700 at the time. Officially the cars were only sold in Mexico but some were imported to the United States and to Europe by collectors. To complicate the matter, all Última Edicións were built in 2003 but reports indicate a small number of them were stashed away and sold for a premium several years later.
The 3,000 examples of the Última Edición sold out quickly, which helped make the car an instant classic. The last one (pictured above) was built in Puebla, Mexico, on July 30th, 2003, and was immediately shipped to Wolfsburg, Germany, to be displayed in the Volkswagen museum.