Playful, Pius or Remembered Stuff

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Monday, March 14, 2011


I'm not into the naming of cars. We usually have a simple utilitarian attitude about cars. It's great to have a piece of transportation that gets us from here to there. That's it. The tube throws advertising at me suggesting that I should have some sort of love affair with the car they want to sell me.

If I did have a sentimental attitude, I probably would have had to name our 69 beetle "Fritz" or something German. It was the best thing Hitler ever gave us. Like the time we drove from Modesto to San Francisco with 8 people stuffed into the bug. Or the time we impulsively bought a 6 foot ladder only to realize we had the bug in the parking lot. We got home with the ladder, but at this moment I'm not sure how we did it. I think it had to stick out the front passenger side window. When we finally had to get rid of the VW (it was mortally crippled), our children never forgave us. All of them drove it one time or another, except for Phil (who never drives) and Jonathan (who was too young when we owned Fritz).

We found the bug in an ad in the paper for a reasonable price. Sometime after we bought it, during an inspection (they do that routinely in the east), we were informed that there was something bogus about the machine. The original owner's manual was in the door pocket, and it indicated more miles than what shown on the odometer. The inspectors knew what to look for, and discovered that someone had taken two VWs, cut them in half, and welded them together. One was wrecked in the front and the other was wrecked in the rear, so some enterprising shop put them together. The bogus part was that they never told us about it. Now even though we felt cheated, we were happy enough with the car that we kept it. The law put a restraining order of some sort on the shop, forbidding them to ever do this again.

When we moved from Wilmington, Delaware to Modesto, California, we had a church acquaintance drive it across country for us. We all used Fritz while we lived in Modesto. We moved it to Carson, and didn't junk it until a few years after that. That is a span well over 10 years.

Of course it was a four-on-the-floor stick shift. And when the clutch went out, we just had to push it a little and drop it in first. We were familiar enough with the whine of the engine to know just when we could slip it to second gear etc. Once when Bobby was late getting to church we found that he had a fire in the engine compartment of the bug. He was just a block away from home, and some guy digging in his yard threw a couple shovels of dirt to douse the flames. The insurance adjuster wrote us a check for the repairs, saying, "I had the same thing happen to my VW. There is a manufacturing flaw in the gas line." We got enough from the insurance company to replace all the burnt lines, and even enough to repair some other parts. The bug came out of it in better shape than it was before the fire. We need to thank God for all small blessings.

We had a Pontiac station wagon for family travels, but there was a holiday when the wagon was not working. (I had recently replaced the gas pump, and when I corked the gas line to prevent leakage during the repair, I forgot to remove the cork.) On this given day--when we had not yet discovered my embarrassing mistake--we gave the family the choice of staying home from uncle Jack's house or traveling in the VW. The bug got a unanimous vote, so we piled in like circus clowns. Phil found a space behind the back seat, somehow four kids sat on the back seat, and Jonathan sat on his mother's lap. We found it necessary to stop for stretching only once. Can you imagine doing such a thing now with the seat belt law?


  1. I have had nothing but VW's since 1969. Two Karmann Ghias (a '57 & a '71), a Rabbit, several Jettas and Golfs, and a Cabrio. I had my 71 Ghia for 8 years and 200,000 miles - and I have had as many as four people in it, although a Ghia is smaller than a Bug. We had an '82 diesel Jetta for 18 years and a total of 240,000 miles. The body got beyond repair, or who knows how much longer we would have kept it. They have all had names, too!

  2. Charlie, you're just another hopeless romantic!