VW Sapphire Radio History: Sapphire I -VI

Rich Langenwalter, October 10, 2010



This article documents Sapphire I thru VI radios manufactured between 1960 and 1967.  I’ve gathered Sapphire information over the past ten years collecting and repairing VW radios.  Much of this history was learned from Sam’s Photofact Auto Radio Series publications.  Sam’s AR has a multiple page description including electronic schematic, part numbers, alignment instructions and a B/W radio picture.  The series is a valuable source for radio model numbers, manufacturing dates, original knobs, face plates and installation parts for these radios.

‘60/61 Model Years; Early Sapphire I AM 6 volt:

The “early” Sapphire I was the first Sapphire model by Bendix made in ‘60 and ’61 (model numbers 0BV and 1BV).  These radios are identified by their distinctive vertical push buttons.  The radio’s tone knobs and Bug face plate (part# 2091206) are specific to this model.  The picture below is taken with the Bug face plate.

The “early” face plate installs the radio in the bug’s approximate 1 ¾ by 7 inch dash opening found between ‘58 and ‘67.   The faceplate is larger (taller) than later versions and uses four screws to clamp to the dash (doesn’t use the front mounting plate found in later models).

The early Sapphire I radio (without Bug faceplate) installs in many VW models and years having a “three-hole” radio dash.  The three-hole dash is found in Buses though ’66, Ghia’s through ’65 and in Oval windows through ‘57.  The radio pictured below is from a ’57 Oval window Bug.  The approximate dimensions of the three-hole dash opening are given below.

‘62/65 Model Year; Sapphire I AM 6 volt:

The next Sapphire model, also called Sapphire I, was manufactured from ’62 thru ’65 model years.  These radios have updated tone knobs, horizontal push buttons and a new Bug face plate (part# 2092234).   Bendix produced the Sapphire I during all four production years with model numbers 2BV, 3TBV, 4TBV & 5BV.  The first number indicates the model year. 

Many subtle changes occur during the four years of production.  In ’62, all radios had Ivory colored knobs and push buttons.  In ’63 and ’64, there was a mixture of Ivory and Gray colors.  In ’65, I have only seen radios with Gray knobs and buttons.  I assume the color of the dash knobs also transitioned during the ’63/64 years.  Tone knobs transitioned from metal to plastic construction during this time.  I’m not sure of the year for this change or possibly manufacture.


In late ’64 the dial signature changed from “Sapphire I by Bendix” to simply “Sapphire I”.  The Civil Defense CONELRAD icons were also removed (triangles at 640 and 1240 KHz).  The signature on Motorola radios was “Sapphire I”.


Motorola produced Sapphire I radios in ’64 and ’65 with model numbers 4TMV and 5TMV.  Interestingly, all of these radios were gray in color.  Motorola’s knobs were hollow and float in water (Bendix knobs are solid plastic).  Their radios have a slightly heavier and boxy frame which helps identify this radio manufacturer.

The Bug face plate (part# 2092234) shown below was used from ’62 to ‘65.  This plate has a fine grained texture in the recessed background that’s similar to 320 grit sandpaper.  An 1/8” foam rubber gasket seals the radio’s dial to help minimize air (gas fume) circulation. 

Bug installations use a front and rear mounting plate shown below.  The face and front mounting plates “sandwich” and tightly clamp to he dash using the radio’s two mounting screws located on the volume and tuning posts.  The installation is designed to slope the radio down slightly to make room for the wiper motor.  Notice the front plate’s thicker edge located on top of the plate.  The face plate is also made to this angle.  The rear bracket supports the back of the radio and connects to the wiper motor mount.

The 3-hole “bezel” (part# 2092236) installs Sapphire radios in the 3-hole dash opening found in Bus, Ghia’s and Oval models.  The bezel, pictured below, adds a chrome “surround” to the dial.  It works with late Sapphire I, II, III, IV and VI models.  It is highly sought and usually expensive.   I’m not sure how long the 3-hole configuration is found in Busses and Ghia’s but think it is ’66 and ’65 respectively.  If anyone has information on the transition dates, please let me know.  The white Bus dash pictured below is a ’66.


‘62/65 Model Year; Sapphire II AM/FM 6 volt:

Bendix produced the Sapphire II AM/FM 6 volt radio from ’62 through ’65 with model numbers 2FMB, 3FMB, 4FMB and 5FMB.  These highly sought radios have three FM and two AM push buttons.  It uses the same knobs and face plate as the Sapphire I.  Motorola did not produce an AM/FM Sapphire II radio.  Pictured below is a 5FMB with Gray knobs and push buttons.


’66 Model Year; Sapphire III AM 6 volt:

The Sapphire III was manufactured in ’66 only by Bendix and Motorola.  The III has redesigned chrome (plastic) knobs and push buttons.  The new dial has an “All Transistor” signature with “Sapphire III” on the chrome escutcheon.  A new face plate for ’66 (no part number) has black paint and coarser grained texture than previous years.  This texture can be seen on the Motorola (lower) radio that has the black paint removed.  The chrome plastic knobs and push buttons are especially difficult to find in good condition since they have a tendency to ding, bubble or peal.  The same problem is prevalent with the chrome plastic tone knobs. 


’66 Model Year; Sapphire IV AM/FM 6 volt:

The Sapphire IV is an AM/FM 6 volt radio produced by Bendix in ’66 only.  The radio has the same knobs and push buttons as the Sapphire III, however, the “Sapphire IV” escutcheon slides horizontally to switch between AM and FM. 

’67 Model Year; Sapphire V AM 12 volt:

The Sapphire V was produced by Bendix and Motorola in the ’67 model year.  The radios are 12V to accommodate the model year’s voltage change to 12V.  This one year only radio has similar accessories as ’66.  Pictures of the early Sapphire V radios show the ’66 chrome knob.  Pictures of later radios show the ‘67 black rubber knobs…advertised as a safety feature to lessen injury when hitting the dash.

Bendix produced two models during the ’67 year…7BV and 7BVX.  The later is an electronic change to a small, blue NPN output transistor.  This radio has propensity to intermittent failure due to this output transistor, but it can be replaced easily with a more reliable transistor.


The Motorola Sapphire V (not pictured) has a redesigned and smaller case than previous Motorola Sapphire III model.  This radio is very reliable, however, relatively difficult to find with good chrome knobs and push buttons.


‘67 Model Year; Sapphire VI AM/FM 12 volt:

The Sapphire VI is the ’67 only AM/FM counterpart to the Sapphire V.  This 12 volt radio was produced by Bendix only in 7FBV and 7FBVX models (NPN transistors).  It is the most highly sought Sapphire radio due to its FM reception and the popularity of 12 volt conversions.  The Sapphire VI has identical appearance to the Sapphire IV with the exception of the Sapphire VI escutcheon (AM/FM switch).

The ‘66/67 Bug face plate with coarser leather texture and black paint is shown below.  The size is the same as the previous ‘62/65 version.  The black paint has pealed or chipped on nearly all plates and is very difficult to repaint.  I prefer the chrome look to scruffy black and commonly remove the black with paint stripper.  There is no part number on this casting.

The face plate below is very similar to the ‘66/67 Bug except it doesn’t have the right/left trim “ears”.  I understand the ’66 Ghia’s and ’67 Buses went to the ~1 ¾ by 7” dash opening found in Bugs.  This faceplate used in the ‘66/67 Buses and Ghia’s since there isn’t need for the trim extensions…again I would like help with the origin of this faceplate, if anyone knows.  The picture below is from a ’67 Bus.



The pictured radio knobs are from Sapphire I through Sapphire VI radios (‘60/’67). 

·        The60/61 Early Tone knobs are from “early” Sapphire I radios with the vertical push buttons.  All early Sapphires had Ivory colored knobs and push buttons.

·        The ‘62/67 Tone knob originate from late Sapphire I and all Sapphire II, III, IV, V and VI models.  The earlier knobs were metal construction followed by chromed plastic construction.

·        The ‘60/64 Ivory knob was used thru ’64.  ‘63/64 appear to be transition years with both Ivory and Gray knobs available.  I have only seen ’65 radios with Gray knobs.

·        ‘63/65 Gray knob comes in solid and hollow construction.  Experience indicates solid knobs came with Bendix radios and Motorola radios came with the hollow construction knobs.

·        ’66 Chrome plastic knobs were found on ‘66 Sapphire III (AM) and Sapphire IV (AM/FM) radios.

·        ’67 Rubber knobs were found on ’67 Sapphire V (AM) and Sapphire VI (AM/FM) radios.  They were advertised as a safety feature to lessen damage when impacting the dash…


Speakers and Brackets:

There are two notable speaker brackets for the Bug and Bus (not pictured).  The Bug bracket (shown below) mounts to the dash opening left of the speedometer with the four inside screws.  A 6” speaker mounts to the outside screws and is offset back from the dash approximately ¾ inch.  Alternatively, a 5” speaker can be mounted directly the bug dash when the mounting bracket isn’t available.


The Bus bracket is square and installs 6” speaker under the dash to the right of the radio.

Shown below is a 5” speaker installed in a ’65 Bug.  The installation was performed by removing the grill and using machine screws with the head located inside the car.  The heads of the screws were ground slightly to clear the grill.  In this case, small holes were drilled in the grill tabs and the grill was installed using rubber washers and small nails.  The rubber washers were cut them from vacuum hose about 3/16” thick.  In this case, the grill tabs were beginning to break and this method used to avoid re-twisting the tabs. 

Below is an original Bendix 5” speaker from a ’62 Bug.  The original speakers had 1/4” connectors; one male and one female.  It’s fairly common to find radios with original speaker wires with the two ends.  Replacements speakers usually have two male connecters.