Just saw this on the Jalopnik website and finally understand what my 1969 donor VW heater controls near the handbrake did. Bear in mind that the only VW sedan I ever drove as a, um, complete sedan was my ‘57 Oval window and it had the star wheel Heater control on the central tunnel, same as my friend John’s ‘54 with the semaphore directional wings that popped out of the side of the central pillar. Having the “heater” controls behind the e-brake was a totally modern and cultural shift for me and I never really experienced them as I should have. Besides, I had moved on to cars with hot water heat and never looked back by the time the Super Beetles came out, so I never experienced the “heater control spotlight” mentioned below. Up until 1994 when I bought my (ever un-named) Speedstah donor, which didn’t have a heater control spotlight, anyway.
With my star wheel “heater” control you had to twist the wheel clockwise for more heat. The idea of actual heat coming into the car was more of a suggestion or maybe a cruel joke. To get defroster heat you turned the wheel and then closed the little door down by the floor with your foot, hopefully on a back road with no traffic because you also had to lean way over and down below the dash to reach the passenger side little door down by the floor and close it, too, or the pretend defrosters didn’t work.
Once you started beating on the little doors by the floors, you soon found them corroded in place from last winter’s salt on your boots so you ended up kicking the $#!+ out of it and breaking off the little knob that was supposed to move the sliding door.
THAT required you to head for the umpteenth time to the junk yard for another pair of little doors by the floors, which, if you were smart, you would clean up and grease the $#!+ out of before installing them so that maybe, just maybe, they would slide back and forth the next time you tried to move them. Actually, that never happened. Having them move as intended was just a cruel myth from the Sainted German Engineers.
I always thought that my sedan had something wrong with it’s lack of heat/defrost capabilities, only to find, years after my Dune Buggy era, that everyone driving aircooled VWs back then had the same issues. That’s what’cha get when you drive “basic transportation”, right? After all, Dodge Neons weren’t a whole helluva lot better (but they had actual heat).
So here’s the Jalopnik article, explaining not only what those central tunnel levers do (I still have mine from the donor but they only have a ball at the top, not lettered caps - I may make them into a wall trophy/ornament after this) but also what the Sainted German Engineers did in the face of a round of ridiculous US Gum-Mint regulations in the 1970’s, the same group (on both sides) that brought us those Clunky-looking and hideously heavy 5-mph “crash bumpers” and “heater control spot lights”.
Enjoy the ARTICLE: