A classic VW Beetle is the one that got away
Over the years, we have owned and driven a wide variety of cars and trucks. A few had some grunt under the hood and consequently gravitated to the gas pumps more often while others were the embodiment of frugality and economy.
As I reflect back on about 60 years of car ownership, one car has carved out a special niche in my heart. That’s the Volkswagen “bug” and I dearly wish I still had the 1970-vintage car that my wife and I drove 44 years ago. A recent dinnertime conversation rekindled the good memories from those times and it would be great to have another one just like it back in our driveway.
Light beige in color and pretty presentable, our VW took us all over Merced, even to the Modesto shopping mall a time or two. The car originally belonged to my brother-in-law who drove it during his days in college, loud muffler and all. After he graduated and got a family of his own, the VW languished in Oklahoma for a while before it came to Merced behind a moving van along with all my future wife’s belongings.
It was the car in which I showed my bride-to-be some of the nicer housing areas in Merced, including the Ragsdale area and tree-lined Bear Creek Drive.
Our “bug” never gave us much trouble mechanically and I wish we had never sold it. Now I can’t recall the rationale that led to our car finding another owner.
Back about 1969 when I was about to graduate from college and forge out on my own, I vaguely remember visiting a VW dealership lot and checking a new bug out. I stuck with an American compact instead.
Our VW did get my then-girlfriend in a little trouble with the law way back when. It originally was equipped with a high-performance muffler and exhaust system and it popped and backfired right in front of the California Highway Patrol’s mobile noise control unit. A mechanical violation fix-it “ticket” ensued and our little car soon lost its sporty snarl.
The drama with the muffler doesn’t stop there. The garage where these exhaust maladies were remedied overcharged her for the smog test and ultimately they coughed up some of their overcharges when confronted by the gendarmes.
Our VW had enough pep to keep up with traffic and get my new wife to her places of employment. Some of my wife’s fondest memories are taking her aunt grocery shopping in that little Volkswagen. Our little dog loved to ride in that car too.
The Volkswagens are stylish-looking little cars in their simplistic ways and it’s too bad they eventually went out of production. VW later marketed a more modern clone of the bug, this time with a substantial number on the window sticker. But it’s just not the same. The newer VWs just don’t have the endearing and humble qualities of their ancestors.
In her teen years, my stepdaughter also had a VW bug, a metallic blue one, for a while.
Going even farther back, I can remember some out-of-state friends visiting me and we took their VW bus over to San Francisco and back. The car barely had enough oomph to get over the hilly grades on the way to SF.
My parents-in-law also owned a Volkswagen 23-window bus years ago. My mother-in-law would drive it to the farm fields where it made a perfect shelter from the dust and weather elements as she served lunch on a card table set inside. It was sort of a modern version of a chuckwagon. On at least one trip back to Oklahoma I drove my mother-in-law’s light blue bug all over the countryside.
We also did some bonding and babysitting with my brother-in-law’s VW Squareback station wagon. Ultimately we drove his powder-blue family hauler to Connecticut in the summer where he had resettled after attending Naval Postgraduate School n Monterey.
In the 1980s I spent a couple days in my co-worker’s VW bug with its bigger and more powerful engine as we pursued a hot news story in Ukiah.
The VW was kind on the wallet when it came to the gas pump or the garage. It was easy to park and held a fair amount of groceries or Christmas presents. While I don’t know of any car-collector friends here who own a Volkswagen bug now they still are a fairly commonplace sighting these days on the streets of Merced, sadly just not on our cul-de-sac.