Finding parts for your 411 or 412 can be quite a drag. The best searching strategy involves checking a variety of sources, some of them not very obvious.
My main source is salvage yards. If you need any Type 4 parts and know a couple junkyards in the area, you better get down and dirty and roam those places for a few hours. Bring a couple essential tools like screwdrivers, pliers, hammer and sharp knife. If you’re like me you’ll stay longer than expected and take more parts than you actually need, the thought being that you might not see another Type 4 to part out anytime soon. As a matter of fact, I knew of only two wagons which I parted out when I lived in Michigan. Most of my parts were taken off cars while vacationing in sunny California, especially around San Diego. If you know salvage yards with Type 4 parts cars on them please let me know so that I can include it in the salvage yard list.
One source that is generally underestimated is your trusty Volkswagen dealer. It pays to become friends with someone in the parts department! A lot of items are still available from the factory, but if you have an unfriendly parts guy or someone who doesn’t have a clue their answer will always be something like “We don’t have it and we can’t get it.” The older the person behind the counter the better, then they’ll actually know what you’re talking about when you mention “Type 4”. Of course you might get really friendly with the guy and get your hands on forgotten treasures like parts books or other articles deemed dispensable. You never know. Something along these lines happened to me during a two-month stay in lovely Skowhegan/Maine. All you need is to chat a little with someone like the guy I met at the dealership in Waterford, a real veteran who loved to talk old cars with me and later proceeded to give me (for a very modest amount of $$) a lighted “Genuine VW Parts”-sign from (I think) the sixties as well as some technical literature and a great VW Accessory catalog from the early seventies which yielded some of the pictures I included in my little gallery.
Kevin Crotts, who has worked at a dealership parts department before, reminded me that dealers can actually do parts searches through the computer. These searches can be done across the whole dealer network, too.
eBay and other online resources
Being persistent and returning on a regular basis to do some pointed searches can yield good results on eBay. It is mostly memorabilia like brochures or ads, but also really rare original accessories and parts. To find all of it you need to take into account that the 411 and 412 can be described in various ways, and you need to search for all of these varieties. I have a “Favorite Search” saved in my eBay account that searches for the following terms:
+(411, 412, "type 4", "type iv", "typ 4", typ4, type4) +(vw, volkswag*)
As you can see, it pays to look for misspellings as well. You can save these searches as “Favorite Searches” if you have a eBay account and are logged in and you can set it up so that these searches get executed automatically and email you with new results. eBay is a great tool for folks who can wait and who collect parts before jumping into a car purchase or a restoration project. To expand the search results (I don’t know yet how to “automate” it using the Favorite Searches) you can execute the search and then follow the “Refine Search” link next to the search input box on the left. If you look at the bottom you can expand searches to also cover other countries.
Bosch Parts Dealers
The fuel injection system can be another troublemaker when it comes to replacement parts. Those were made by Bosch, and the first place to ask for anything fuel-injection related is a Bosch-distributor. The main reason is that many items were used on various makes and models, which makes it more likely for Bosch to stock some instead of VW where they were used on few models only. A lot of independent foreign car repair places are Bosch distributors. Even though the same stuff might be available from VW it will be about 25-30% cheaper if you buy it from Bosch without the VW-logo on the box. Another benefit of a knowledgeable Bosch distributor can be the higher level of familiarity with complicated FI-systems, especially obscure technologies like the vacuum-controlled D-Jetronic put into Type 4s until the ‘73 model year. After August ‘73 the simpler, yet better, air-flow controlled Bosch L-Jetronic was used.
VW shows and swap meets
Obviously it is also possible to find a few items at VW-shows, of which there are a ton all over the world. Both spare parts and memorabilia can pop up sometimes, and since most sellers don’t consider the Type 4 a collectors’ car prices generally remain low. It is interesting to note that Type 4s have more of a utilitarian appeal, not a classic-car appeal. This helps keep prices down as well.
Parts from other VWs
When talking about engine parts it is useful to keep in mind that VW Buses used slightly modified Type 4-engines from the early seventies until the model change in 1979. It is not possible to simply swap the motor since the engine tin and exhaust systems are different, but parts are interchangeable to a large degree. This also means that replacements can be bought from places that sell Bus parts.
Engine parts can be taken from Porsche 914s as well. The 4-cylinder models used a pretty much identical powerplant with the vacuum-controlled Bosch D-Jetronic fuel injection system.
Type 4 motors are very popular with the dune buggy-crowd as well. Check with buggy parts vendors if in need, they usually sell whatever aftermarket companies provide for Type 4 engines.
This is the story of how I supplied my wagon with what it needs to keep running. The basic maintenance parts like gaskets and oil filters were easily obtainable from the VW dealer. They usually still have the microfilms so they can identify what you need. Personally, I don’t believe in attitudes like “Looks like it fits, let’s use it”, my car is more important than that. That’s why I suggest paying a few cents more to get original replacements.