Background

Removing the entire back half of the Beetle’s body opens up options for rear lighting — license plate illumination, reverse, running, brake, and turn signal lights — as well as tailgate embellishments.

Classic Ford F-100 pickup

Vintage pickups, like the Ford F-100, handled the back end with simple economy.

The tailgate skin displayed logo lettering of the manufacturer while lighting, placed outside the busy work area of the tailgate itself, favored small round tail lamps fixed to the rear fender/end pillar or suspended out from the rear of the body.

Early Ford F-series rear design (1948-52)

Fourth generation F-100 circa 1962

Logo treatment remained subdued — a small script in the middle indented F-100 panel for example — until the late 1950s when embossed lettering splashed across the entire width of the tailgate.

By the 1960s, back end designs evolved with less curves that suggested a utilitarian work use, adding more robust rear lighting that was embedded into sheet metal end pillars. Since then, the American pickup hasn’t changed much.

Pickups today are typically fitted with large rectangular rear lamp assemblies with integrated reverse, turn signal, running, and brake lights. An additional brake/running light is common above the rear cab window. Embossed logo lettering remains on the tailgate for many models.

Ford F-150 in model year 2019

Rather than mimic modern truck designs, the curvy Beetle suggests a more vintage 1950s-1960s back end treatment.

Lighting

1940s simple round

Small circular taillight with side marker

The pointed end of the Beetle Ute rear body shell is well adapted to a small circular tail light. Round tail lights are included in the Smyth Performance kit. Small LED running markers can also be added on the fender side.

1960s Beetle classic

1962-67 Beetle taillight

An alternative approach links back to the iconic “old” Beetle. The 1962-67 lamp assembly could be adapted to fit on the Ute’s fender creating a sort of New/Old Beetle hybrid.

Empi 98-2023 (left) and Empi 98-2024 (right) includes Euro style lens (the turn signal is amber colored) with a chrome trim ring.

1962-67 taillight fitted to the Ute fender

When mounted at the end of the fender slope, the old Beetle lamp assembly positions lights much like they were on classic trucks. One advantage of the Beetle assembly is better visibility than the smaller round lamp in the Smyth kit. The Smyth round lamp is an LED; converting the old Beetle assembly to an LED is also possible.

Fender lights

Large round lamps can be fitted directly into the fender area on the lower fiberglass panel. A disadvantage is that the light shines down due to the curve of the bumper while visibility is reduced since as a result of low positioning on the body.

Fender lighting using large round lamps

LED rear strip

The gap between the bottom of the tailgate and the rear bumper could house a long vertical LED strip programmed as a running or reverse light.

LED strip tucked into the bottom of the tailgate gap

Tailgate

The fiberglass skin, left “raw” as part of the Smyth kit, can be customized in a number of ways including:

  • emblems and logos
  • open/close handles
  • lighting

VW hood emblem (1964-79)

The vintage 1964-79 VW hood emblem can be affixed to the tailgate in a manner similar to the way Ford brands many pickups now (using a small oval Ford logo).

A decklid VW script emblem from the 1950-64 Beetle might also work as well as any number of other VW logos from the 1960-80 era.

Round VW logo treatment on ute tailgate

VW decklid script emblem from the 1950-64 Beetle

A more involved approach would be to affix embossed lettering on the fiberglass itself that, when painted, would appear much like the vintage truck tailgates of the 1960s.

Embossed “VOLKSWAGEN” on Ute tailgate