While the SP is at the sharp end of Beetle power and sports all the go-faster goodies any aspiring boy-racer could want, it is by no means a super car. It does however climb up to legal road speeds reasonably well and makes for an ideal daily classic. The boot (in the front of course) is a decent size and there is also a fair bit of storage space on the sunken shelf behind the rear seat. The engine is surprisingly smooth and even the exhaust noise, which is a bit fruitier than most Bugs and encourages some spirited driving, is acceptable. Feedback from the steering is top notch and even with the fatter-than-normal rubber on the rims isn’t of a bicep-bulging weight – in fact one wonders why so many modern entry level vehicles feel the need to fit power-steering rather than just getting the geometry right.
Competition in the hotted-up humble saloon’s race was stiff at the time though with prospective buyers also able to go the Mini, Datsun and even Mazda route. The Mini to have was the 1275 GTS, which also came with bumble bee stripes and some go-faster equipment like 12-inch wheels, rev counter, disc brakes up front and twin SU carbs. Leyland trumped VW in the price department at R3 270 (against the R3 360 SP1600) and also in the power ranks with 74bhp on tap. And the way the Mini handled the corners is of course legendary.
Datsun had the 140Z coupé in the game but at R5 250 it was a level up on the price list. This makes sense when you see that it had the obligatory sticker kit as well as modern high-back seats in fashionable fabric, alloy wheels, twin Dellorto carbs, front disc and a rear spoiler. It churned out over 100bhp too, with a claimed figure at an impressive 114.
Mazda fans had the Capella rotary in the arsenal, and this got even better in 1977 with the arrival of what the marketing gurus tagged as ‘the lowest, meanest Mazda ever’ – the RS coupé. This limited edition machine featured a 128bhp twin rotor Wankel rotary, sat 2.5cm lower than a regular Capella, racy seat cloth inserts, Rostyle wheels and side stripes and sat between the SP and GTS at R4 739.