Surrounded by Volkswagens growing up, I have never really been sure if it was a predetermined path or freewill that led me to drive a VW for my first car (as well as all subsequent cars). Certainly the smells, sights, sounds, and persona of each VW with which I grew up was permanently etched in my memory. As a youngster, I spent a fair amount of time smelling the oil impregnated vinyl, polishing various bits of chrome, and getting greasy while play driving VW wrecks in our yard. This exposure, combined with experiences as a passenger in working VWs, formed a standard for my future automobiles. Craving the freedom offered by the open road, I never imagined myself behind the wheel of anything but a classic Volkswagen. When the time for acquiring my license drew near, I was presented with three options: no car, sharing my mother’s 1985 Jetta with my sister, or putting the 1973 beetle in the back of the garage back into service.
As I said, I am not sure I ever really had a choice. The first option was, as you might expect from any 16 year old, DOA. The second, while inexpensive and reliable, depended entirely too much on brother-sister cooperation; an iffy prospect at best. Option number three was the obvious choice and fit with my idea of a perfect driving experience. The ground rules were laid down:
- I was financially responsible for getting the beetle back up and running, maintenance, gas, insurance, and anything else that required money
- I could not pay to have the beetle rebuilt (one must learn about one’s car!)
- If and when we sold the beetle, I would get my investment in parts back and the profits shared equally
Even back then I knew it was a really sweet deal and now I know it was one that gave me many experiences from which to grow and benefit. Of course, it also led to my “little” obsession, but not everything can be perfect! The most important benefit for me, though I am not sure I knew the full value at the time, was the time spent with my father rebuilding the engine. For my father, it was an opportunity to transfer ownership of all the VW parts and tools, and occasionally laugh after causing an avalanche of rust and dirt to rain down on his son below.