Playful, Pius or Remembered Stuff

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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Volkswagen memories

Our kids grumbled when we finally traded in the old VW bug.  It was a favorite in our family for several years.  It is a lot of fun to whip through traffic with those four on the floor.  I forget what year was our beetle, but earlier, when driving my father's bug, I had the fun of learning how to kick in the extra tank when I ran out of gas.  They had no gas gauge, and when the engine began to sputter you had to reach your foot down and find the lever to kick 90 degrees to open the extra tank.  Then it would work as good as new.  Actually it was not an extra tank, but the final quart or so of the regular tank.  But that was how you were informed that you needed to fill up with gas.  It was all so simple then.

There was a time when we lost the clutch, and it required a little finesse to discern, from the whine of the engine, just when I could shift from low to second gear.  But it was something you could do with a bug that you wouldn't think of doing in another car.

They make "bugs" today, but they are only remotely similar to the automobile I'm talking about.  The vintage Volkswagen bug had an air cooled engine with four horizontal cylinders mounted in the rear.  Hitler had determined to manufacture a car that could be afforded by the common people, hence it's name "people's wagon".  But the project was detoured by WWII.  And when they made the bus model, hippies took to the hills with them.

We bought ours from an ad in the newspaper, thinking it was a good buy from a private party, but later found it had a dark secret.  When we submitted the car for the inspection station to check it out, we discovered there was an original owner's manual in the pocket on the door.  In it were recorded dates for maintenance that showed more mileage than the odometer showed.  We thought we were victims of odometer roll back, but the plot was thicker than that.  An "expert" at the inspection station showed us where this car had been pieced together from two separate automobiles.  We had the front of a model that was less traveled than the rear half.  It was so professionally done that there were no outer marks for anyone to detect.

You might think we would have returned the car and demanded our money back, but in fact we already had fallen in love with this bug, and only called for a restraining order against the shop for what they had done.  Pieced together or not, this was already a favorite of all the drivers in the Keller family.  It was this favorite that transported all eight of us from Modesto to the San Francisco bay area for a holiday get together with Barbara's brother and his family.  But I told that story in an earlier blog post.

When we moved from Wilmington, DE to Modesto, CA, instead of selling the bug, we had a friend drive it out west for us.

Once when our Bobby was late for church, he drove the VW only to have it catch fire a couple blocks from home.  When he opened the engine compartment, flames licked out, and a quick thinking neighbor tossed a shovel full of dirt into our engine to snuff the flames.  Fortunately, the insurance adjuster experienced the same thing and authorized the money to rebuild the tubing and wiring.

But most of the time it was an economical, fun and dependable piece of cute transportation.

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