Monday, January 27, 2014

Volkswagen in Mexico

Before four Volkswagen Beetles arrived in Mexico in 1954 for an exhibition featuring German industry, Mexicans mostly owned big imported American cars that carried big price tags. The small and less expensive Beetles caused quite a stir in the Mexico City exhibition and by 1961 a few hundred Volkswagens a year were being assembled in Mexico from kits shipped in from Germany.

In 1967 Volkswagen opened an auto plant in Puebla and started cranking out the little cars. After Germany cancelled production of the Beetle in Europe in 1978, Mexico exported the car to a number of European countries.

When we started coming to Mexico in the 80's there were a lot of Beetles on the street. Let me correct that because there was not anywhere near the density of cars on the street as we have now but the Beetle was a high percentage of them. Mexico City's taxis were mostly Beetles or as the Mexicans lovingly call them Vochos.

But all good things come to an end. Production of the Mexican Vocho ceased in 2003. But that doesn't mean they are gone. There is a Vocho that lives on the street behind me and it is still a working car.

I think this Vocho that I photographed was a 1993-1995 model because of the shape of the vents on the rear "hood." I'm sure some of you car guys can identify the exact model and year. How do you guys do that?

At any rate, this particular Beetle has seen better days and since it survived San Miguel's cobblestone streets for almost 20 years, it explains why Mexicans loved them.


  1. Lovely photos, Billie! When we first visited Mexico in 1992, the Mexico City cab driver who took us to the train station for our San Miguel trip (yes, passenger trains once operated here) drove a Vocho with the front passenger seat removed for access and luggage space.

    1. I wish we would have taken the train before it stopped running.
      I understand that the last of the vocho taxis will soon be phased out due to pollution controls. I remember the missing front passenger seat. Still a challenge for a large man to get in and out of that taxi.

  2. They float or at least a new one will. We were in a tropical downpour in the city of Campeche, they still were using the surface streets in 1983 for their storm runoff-the street was pretty full. Our little rental bug started floating away sideways down the street headed to the Gulf of Campeche. At the Malecon, the water spread out a bit and our tires caught the pavement, off we went.

  3. Another reason the Mexicans liked their Vochos. Good story, Norm.

  4. Well, they are definitely dated technology now, but in their heyday, they were good cars for Mexico. Inexpensive to buy, run, and maintain, they also were easy to fix and very sturdy. My first car was a '65 Volcho, literally a basket case. When I bought it, the engine was in pieces in a basket and I had to reassemble it.

    It wasn't too many years ago that the taxis in DF were still Volchos, though they are now almost all Tzurus. However in Taxco, they are still used as Taxis, and they are quite popular amongst non-taxi drivers too.

    It is certainly an iconic car, but its day has come. There are much better, quieter, more economical machines out there now, though perhaps without so much character.

    Great photos!


    Kim G
    Boston, MA
    Where once in a great while we see a Volcho.

    1. I'm hoping to go to Taxco before too long. I'd love to see the Vochos still being used as Taxis. Can you imagine someone getting the engine of a modern car in a basket or box and being able to put it back together. They would need a degree in computer science.

      I can't think of any modern car that might become a classic. I thought that maybe the PT Cruiser might but it was short lived.

      Thanks for the comments about the photos.

  5. this reminded me of the Vocho taxi my daughter & i saw in september in D.F. it was in perfect condition.
    if you're on Facebook, you should be able to have a look at my Timeline to see the photo you inspired me to post. i'm Marilyn Lena James on FB

    1. Hi, I went over to FB to take a look at the vocho taxi. Love it. Unfortunately the Vocho taxis will be no more before too long because of pollution regulations. Glad you shared the photo with me.

    2. so glad you liked the photo.
      maybe that vocho will be in a museo someday.
      & thank you for your blog I've been reading & enjoying it for many years. Lena (my name when in SMA)

  6. (oh - guess i had to choose "comment as" first. but, sorry if you get this twice)
    your blog inspired me to post a photo, on FB, of a vocho taxi i saw on the way to the airport in D.F. in october '13. if you would like to see the photo i'm on Facebook as Marilyn Lena James. it looked perfect & was moving well with traffic.