956 Volkswagen Type 1 from the John Moir collection. Photos by Darin Schnabel, courtesy RM Auctions.
John Moir has been described as a “towering figure in the AACA world,” but the amiable New Hampshire collector is perhaps best known for his assemblage of automobiles representing each letter in the alphabet. Most are in pristine condition, but one model, a 1956 Volkswagen Type 1, is in a clear state of disrepair, covered in decades of barn dirt. When the John Moir collection crosses the stage next month in Hershey, Pennsylvania, other automobiles from his inventory will have greater historical significance (and higher selling prices), but few will have the sentimental value of the tired VW Beetle.
Purchased new in 1956 by Moir’s father, the Volkswagen served as frugal commuter transportation, used primarily to carry the elder Moir to the train station in inclement weather. Finished in a shade that Moir described as “VW Grey,” it was indistinguishable from the other similarly hued Beetles in the lot, a problem John’s father solved by hanging a fox tail from the car’s rearview mirror. When visiting friends or family needed transportation, more often than not they were given the keys to the Volkswagen, which would prove to be the last new car purchased by John Moir’s father.
Eventually, the car was given to John’s brother, who later passed it down to his own son. Somewhere along the line, the car suffered body damage, as seen in the misshapen fenders and broken headlight cover on the passenger side. Eventually the car, now a family heirloom, found its way back to John, by then an established collector of vintage automobiles. Stored in his barn, the Volkswagen marked the passage of time by accumulating layers of dust, but its 36-horsepower, 1.2-liter air-cooled flat-four remained largely silent. Perhaps for practical reasons, or more likely for sentimental ones, John never had the Volkswagen restored.
When the “barn fresh” Volkswagen crosses the Hershey stage, its sale will represent the first time that the car has ever been offered to the public, and the first time that the title has ever belonged to someone without the last name of Moir. In its current condition, RM predicts a selling price between $5,000 and $10,000 (making it the least expensive offering in the Moir collection, aside from the quirky, moped-engined Zoe Zipper), which reflect the fact that a thorough restoration will be required.
Per RM, the Volkswagen is one of the final Beetles built with the transitional small rear window, which spanned the gap between the original two-window design and the later large rear window that remained throughout Beetle production. At the very least, it’s a rare example of a Type 1 export model from Volkswagen’s first decade of commercial production, with clear ties to a significant automobile collection.
RM’s Hershey sale will take place from October 9-10 at the Hersey Lodge in Hershey, Pennsylvania. For additional information, visit RMAuctions.com.