Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Volkswagen Bug

I paid $450 for my first car in 1978 before I headed off to college.  It was a 1968 beige Volkswagen Bug with a 4-speed manual transmission and no air conditioning.  A few small holes had rusted through the floorboard, but after covering the floors with some leftover green shag carpet from the house, the holes weren’t visible.  I ordered some vinyl seat covers from the Sears catalogue and installed Pioneer stereo speakers in the doors and behind the back seat.  After installing an external 8-track tape player below the dashboard, I was all set to hit the road for my freshman year of college in Pensacola.

I learned on my way down to Pensacola that Volkswagen designed the windows to be airtight.  I locked my keys in the car at a gas station, and had a heck of a time getting a coat hanger through the window seal to unlock the door.  I bet the car would have floated, except for the rusted out holes in the floorboard.

The car was heated by two pipes that ran from the engine compartment to vents in the floor in the front of the car.  If the vent pipes were connected, the hot air from the engine would heat the car.  The summers in Memphis are hot and humid, so I disconnected the pipes except in the dead of winter.  I remember driving in the summer rain in Memphis and hitting a deep puddle of water, instantly filling the car with a cloud of steam so thick I had to pull over and roll the windows down before I could see outside.

I burned out a couple of clutches, but they only cost $30 to replace.  I could fill the gas tank for less than $10, and one tank seemed to last forever.  The top speed was about 80 mph with the accelerator to the floor.  I actually managed to get a speeding ticket on I-55 in Mississippi as I was driving home from Pensacola one rainy night.  The state trooper tried to hide the smirk on his face when he told me I was driving too fast for the road conditions.  I didn’t know that was possible in a VW Bug.

I was driving in the rain in Memphis when the brake system failed.  I ran into the back of a car, causing no damage to the other car.  The trunk of the VW was in the front, so there wasn’t much resistance upon impact.  The VW had a dent in the front of the hood, but after pulling out the dent with a toilet plunger and a little work with a rubber hammer, it didn’t look too bad.

I drove it until the spring of 1980, and traded it to the manager of the pizza joint where I worked for his 1976 Mustang Cobra II.  He chopped it up, painted it red, and then totaled it a few weeks later.

I saw a newly painted VW Bug in Roswell a few weeks ago.  It appeared to be completely refurbished, and it brought back memories as I watched it drive away.  It would be fun to have another one from that era.  I wonder if I could find one for $450!

No comments:

Post a Comment