Roswell, NM. It seemed a natural. On the 20th Anniversary of R2R (Return to Roswell), which also is the final year for the beloved VW Beetle, we took a Final Edition convertible to the event. The first year I brought our pre-owned ’02 Double Yellow Color Concept (DBCC in VW speak), which was a Christmas present in 2003 for my spouse. Shortly thereafter, in February, we joined the local DFW New Beetle club. All the members were already talking up Roswell.
We had no idea until seeing firsthand what all the hubbub was all about. The event began in 1999 after the debut of the 1998 New Beetle. By that time participation had reached 300+ water-cooled Beetles (no air-cooled allowed), and 2004 was the event’s fifth year where Dean Jones (of Herbie fame) was the MC. I had just purchased a 1:18 diecast scale model of Herbie, so it was a natural that I got Jones to autograph the sunroof.
Part of the fun is caravanning with other Beetle people to Roswell. Our first trip, back in 2004, we hooked up with 14 others, in which the caravan started in Boston with each major stop acquiring others along the way. Think about it, a choochoo train of multi-colored Beetles, sort of like a caterpillar staying together making tracks. Today, with the participation down from the 300+, our caravan has dwindled mostly to the DFW contingent, with stragglers from Waco and other surrounding areas. But back in the day, it was a coin toss who came the furthest, a woman (by herself) who came from Fairbanks, Alaska, or a dude from Nova Scotia.
Roswell became the center point, mainly because it’s almost dead center of the United States (without taking into account that it’s a far piece from any interstate). Not only that, there was an initial TV commercial that showed “the Mother Ship” with the “Pods” (New Beetles) returning, hence the alien theme. It still plays a vital role even after 20-years.
Of course, since it was 2004, the New Beetle was still relatively new, there were a lot of untouched New Beetles, but there were also several modified models as well. There was even a guy from Long Beach, California that had a brand new 2003 convertible. It was rumored he dropped an additional $75k in the build. It was quite a showpiece.
Being a chick-oriented vehicle, Beetles have been dressed out in flower prints and daisy wheel covers; the first-gen New Beetle even had a flower vase. On the flipside, male owners made their cars to fit their testosterone personalities (read: performance, beefy looking, etc.).
One could imagine that 300+ New Beetles congregating in Roswell would make a statement, as well as a scene. There were even contests with alien costume themes as well as decorative Barbie Beetles. The local DQ even gave you a sundae if you requested a “Herbie Goes Bananas Split”.
In its heyday the car show was held during the day at the Roswell Convention center parking lot, then afterward a police-escorted cruise down Main St. As the show got smaller, it was changed to evening, when the sun wasn’t as brutal. There it’s been held in the Roswell Alien Museum’s parking lot. The coolest part was where we decorated our Beetles in lights and light sticks and do our cruise down Main St. during later evening, usually congregating at a drive-in.
When the event dwindled from 300 down to 30, it was decided that the meet would be bi-annual, following on odd years. There were moments that we thought the event would die a slow death. But, with the advent of the second-gen Beetle, a renewed interest occurred. I brought a 2013 TDI vert that year. This year, for whatever reason, 50 cars made the show, although some of the regular members where no-shows.
The Beetle faithful don’t drive their Bugs just as daily drivers, it’s more a lifestyle, where they are extremely proud owners, attending events and car shows, and most, if not all, have names which fit the car’s personality. Such as Marvin, a ’02 TDI, owned since new by Antoine De Hon of Dallas. Marvin is just what you’d think of “Marvin the Martian,” in its Saber Green Metallic, with the brushed helmet mounted on the instrument pod and plenty of black accenting. Marvin now lives in the garage, but is still driven every so often, and of course, makes it to major events.
The Beetle has never lost popularity with its base, although the model, which included the New Beetle (1998-2010) and Beetle (2012-2019), has lost its edge over more mainstream crossovers and trucks. But there’s defiantly a passion for the car, and owners will spend countless hours and moola making their Bug their own. Several people have traded up, where others have kept the ones they had. One owner in particular still has his original ’03 Color Concept, as well as a Fender Edition, and now a Dune (in white).
The original Type II air-cooled Beetle was sold in North America until 1977, with the remaining, the cabriolet, sold as 1978-’79 models. In other parts of the world, such as Mexico, it was sold until 2004, built in the same Pueblo, Mexico plant as the New Beetle. So, with the absence of the air-cooler Beetle, to the 1994 Concept 1, will there ever be another? One can only hope. With Volkswagen dropping the Beetle there’s anticipation that existing models will hold their own, even with the hope of older water-cooled models appreciating.
2019 Final Edition Details
The 2019 Beetle Final Edition comes as a coupe or convertible, in SE or SEL trim levels, and is available in Stonewashed Blue Metallic or Safari Uni. The interior is embossed in white leather seat inserts and matching applique. Of course, the SEL is loaded with more amenities, making it MSRP $31,685 price justifiable over the $28,190 of the SE.
Our tester was a SE in the Stonewashed Blue. All models come with a standard 1.8T with either a 6-speed manual or 8-speed DSG automatic. While ours had XM/Sirrus satellite radio it was not equipped with navigation. However, it’s my understanding you can Bluetooth your Smart Phone’s navigation to remedy that. Trying to find the Final Edition on dealer’s lots is still not difficult. However, I wouldn’t let grass grow under your feet. A few dealers are offering a slight discount, but many are selling for at least list.
Cruising down Interstate 20 to the Snyder cutoff, the car performed admirably, averaging approximately 32 mpg. The 1.8T, the only engine available, performs as well or better than the base Mini Cooper, Cooper S, or JCW (John Cooper Works). The Beetle feels much larger than its size would indicate. On our return trip we hit a gully washer of a rainstorm, yet I was still able to maintain speed and handling.