If you have driven or gone for a ride in an old classic VW, then you have experienced the smell. My wife thinks they stink. For me, it brings a flood of fond memories. A musty smell of old carpet, throw in some dampness and a bit of hot exhaust and you might start getting an idea. With the exception of a couple of restoration projects that included complete paint jobs and all new interior, every one of my VW’s have shared that distinct aroma.
The original designers of the VW engine decided to heat the car by pulling in “fresh” hot air from the oily engine compartment and then warm it even more by running it through heat exchangers wrapped around the cars exhaust system. Interestingly, this heat design actually worked pretty well, especially for anybody sitting in the back seat. (Unless you are driving on old VW bus, which is a different story altogether.)
I currently am experiencing one of those rare moments over the last 30 years where I actually do not own any Volkswagen’s. Just like those previous few times, I know it is just a matter of time until the right opportunity presents itself and I once again find myself enjoying that all too familiar smell.