These photographs were taken by the Salt Lake City Sheriff before and after Ted Bundy’s VW Bug was seized and impounded in the fall of 1975. Bundy originally purchased the car from Mary Hess in Seattle in early 1973, for $650.

Police Photos Bundy VW
Bundy’s VW parked outside his apartment before seizure. His 1955 white Ford pickup truck is in the background.

In addition to the infamous beige VW in the foreground, a white 1955 Ford pickup truck is in the background of this photo, taken outside Bundy’s apartment at 565 First Avenue. This was another car Bundy owned and used to move from Seattle to Salt Lake City. It was sold by his Mormon friends after his arrest sometime in late 1975.

Photo courtesy Garfield County. Originally taken by Jerry Thompson, Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office, Utah.

A rear view image of the VW, taken in his apartment’s parking lot after his second arrest but before his third arrest for kidnapping Carol DaRonch. The license plate LJE-379 seen here on August 21, 1975 was the plate number issued to him the previous April after he falsely claimed losing the original Utah plates numbered LJB-088.

One can also easily observe the torn backseat. Salt Lake City girlfriend Margith Maughan reported to police: “…she had talked with Ted Bundy and they had conversed about the tear in the back seat of Ted’s Volkswagen. Ted stated ‘they can’t get me on that because a lot of Volkswagens have torn back seats.’ Margith stated to this officer that she noticed the tear in the back seat just before Ted sold the car and the stuffing was coming out of it.”

Police Photos of Bundy VW backseat tear
The backseat tear can clearly be seen.
Police Photos of Bundy VW backseat tear
Backseat tear as seen through the back window. Notice the reflections of the apartment building in the glass.
Police Photos of Bundy VW backseat
The repaired back seat upholstery, photographed after the car was impounded.

The torn backseat upholstery was a key feature of Carol DaRonch’s eyewitness testimony after her November 8, 1974 attack. She was able to recall specific unique details about the interior of the car which became vital evidence in his 1976 kidnapping trial. The photos taken after the car was seized show that the seat had since been fixed after it was originally searched by Jerry Thompson. It was observed as repaired on September 8, by Bountiful PD Detective Ira Beal and DaRonch.

Bundy VW interior photo
The front interior of the VW, taken after seizure.

A Bundy myth can readily be put to rest here- one can clearly see that the passenger side interior door handle is obviously present. A widespread rumor purports that Bundy had the handle removed so that the door could only be opened from the outside and his victims could not escape. Besides the fact that VW has confirmed that removing the door handle would render the door inoperable from the outside as well as inside, Carol DaRonch clearly used the door handle during her successful escape from his Bug. Her courageous escape and identification of him as her attacker would eventually lead to his arrest and conviction.

Excerpt from a Report by Detective Jerry Thompson:
By order of another search warrant signed before Judge Gowans, October 1, 1975, by this detective, for the search and seizure of a 1968 beige or light tan Volkswagen. This vehicle was seized by this detective and Detective Couch and Sgt. Paul Forbes of Murray Police Dept. on Oct. 3, 1975 at about 4:00pm from the driveway of Bryan Severson in Sandy, Utah. The serial number was checked on this Volkswagen. It was identical to the one on the search warrant. It now had license plates on it listed to the new owner. A copy of this search warrant was left with the individual, and he was informed that the disposition of the Volkswagen, etc. would be up to the County Attorney’s discretion… It should also be noted that the Volkswagen was taken by wrecker, placed in the Salt Lake County Jail tunnel in an evidence room locked up. The key to the evidence room is held by the evidence man and no one else. The search of this vehicle will be conducted at a different time.

Bundy VW

If you look very closely at the top of the hood beneath the windshield, you can see the windshield wiper fluid “spout” is painted hot pink in this photo. On September 19, 1975 Bundy sold the Bug to a local teenager Bryan Severson for $800. According to a 2015 Chris Mortensen interview with Severson, a female friend of the teen had playfully coated the spout in pink nail polish shortly before the car was seized as evidence by the Salt Lake County Sheriff.

Bundy VW photo interior
A view of the passenger seat.

This photo shows the passenger seat, which Maughan complained would “always rock back and forth” because it was loose- “when you rode in it you had to hang on.” It was loose because Bundy would often dislodge the seat from its track and place it in the backseat, which is where it was on the night Officer Bob Hayward arrested him for evasion and suspicious behavior in Granger, Utah on August 15,1975. Much later, Bundy would describe to the Pensacola police interrogators why “a person” would want to remove a passenger seat- it made transporting “cargo” much easier.

Volkswagen expert Melanie Englert had some interesting knowledge to share on the Hi I’m Ted Facebook page:

“He did a lot of work on that car. The first photo at the top of the page show the taillight was European-spec: It was amber on top as were the 73′ and up Beetles. Yet the other photos show US-spec all red lenses. I don’t know who did the interior work but where were they when I worked on Vee Dub’s 15 years ago. The front end had a respray and they didn’t reinstall the front bumper grommets when the bumper and brackets were put back on. The rim’s are proper 68-69 two-tone versions and while he installed the popular “beauty rings” for the later pics, it doesn’t explain why the rims are silver (sans beauty rings) in the famous photo of him and his car under the bridge. Silver rims were the norm from 1970 through 77. He also put in a set of popular “gravel guards” for the rear fenders that appear in the later pics. I’d love to figure out if it was he or the previous owner installed the 70-71 engine lid; 68 didn’t have vents (louvers in VW parlance). Working on that. The rear bumper reflectors weren’t 1968 spec either, just 1970 models had them. Overall his VW was very “busy” in the back, I wonder if that was on purpose.”

Excerpt from a Report by Detective Jerry Thompson:
On Oct. 15, 1975 Detective Paul Forbes of Murray PD and this detective went through subject’s Volkswagen at the County garage. All the flooring mats, etc. were taken from the vehicle and placed in plastic bags. The car was vacuumed with an evidence vacuum from the Division along with the trunk and everything else. The vehicle was put on a rack and checked over. There was a scraping taken from the right front seat towards the top, which was a dark red stain. All these items are being held in evidence and will be send back to the FBI Laboratory for analysis… On Oct. 21, 1975, Jerry Kinghorn of the County Attorney’s Office was contacted by this officer and asked what the latest disposition was going to be on the Volkswagen. He informed this officer that they had talked to an attorney for the Severson family, and he told them to write up a letter to them requesting the money for the car, that they were going to turn it into the commission, and it appears that they were going to purchase the vehicle, and at a later date if they so desired, they would sell it or auction it off. They were going to purchase it from the individual. I in turn called Mr. Severson and informed him of this situation.

Excerpt from a Report by Detective Jerry Thompson:
On Nov. 20, 1975 it was learned by Deputy County Attorney Dave Yocom that Mr. Bundy had two titles to his 1968 Volkswagen. One of them was given to Vince Walton, the bondsman, and the other one was given to the Severson boy whom he sold his Volkswagen to. He had applied for a duplicate title some time ago and had signed both of them over. In regards to this situation, a complaint was signed by Yocom for fraudulently obtaining a motor vehicle title.

After being searched for evidence and completely gutted in the process- seats, carpet and door handles gone- Bundy’s VW was purchased at a Salt Lake City Sheriff’s auction in 1977 by a former deputy named Lonnie Anderson for $925. He freely admitted to purchasing the vehicle as “an investment.” It sat for 20 years in a Salt Lake City storage yard beneath an overgrown tree, poorly protected and rusting, before Anderson listed it for sale in the New York Times classifieds for $25,000, complete with title and ownership papers bearing Bundy’s signature, in 1997. After public criticism by the parents of victims Janice Ott and Debi Kent, Anderson defended his decision in the Deseret News: “I know there are (victims’) families out there right now,” he said. “But I bought it for a purpose and I’ll take all the heat that comes as long as that money goes in the bank.”

Bundy VW Volkswagen gutted
The interior of the VW, taken some time after it was gutted by police for evidence.
Photo credit: Crime Museum (now closed), Washington DC.

The infamous vehicle passed through several hands in the following years, and at one point was owned by the rock group KORN’s frontman Jonathan Davis. In 2001, the car was purchased by crime memorabilia collector Arthur Nash. In 2010, Nash leased the car to the National Museum of Crime and Punishment in Washington, D.C. When the Museum closed in 2015, the car migrated over to the Alcatraz East Crime Museum in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, where it is currently on permanent exhibit.

The Bundy VW Beetle in a Salt Lake City storage yard, July 1997. Photo copyright Associated Press.

Thanks to Bountiful PD and Garfield County for releasing these amazing images. Many thanks as well to Chris Mortensen for his financial contribution towards purchasing copies of this archive, as well as to Rob Dielenberg for processing and enhancing several of these photographs. Thanks again to Melanie Englert for contributing her Volkswagen knowledge.

One thought on “Photos: The Bundy Volkswagen, 1975

  1. This was a fascinating read! It was interesting seeing all the new pictures. Christ Mortensen mentioned in one his videos that he’d love to track down the truck that Bundy had and I fully agree with that. I wonder if he ever approached anyone in the truck or if it was just the VW?

    Liked by 1 person

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