Any car which sits for a period of time becomes prime real estate for a wide variety of small critters. Rodents, snakes, birds, lizards, toads, bees, the list is endless and, in some cases, dangerous. Of course, VWs are no exception to this rule and I have run into all kinds of nests over the years, especially at junk yards (because of this I prefer to visit the yards during the winter). This thread on The Samba reminded me of my first encounter with mouse nests in a VW.
While rebuilding my 73 beetle engine, I removed five nests: two from above the cylinders, one located above the transmission, and two under the back seat. Fortunately, the mice did no damage to the interior components, such as the headliner or carpets. During this project, I also found one nest tucked into a box of engine parts. That particular nest was still in use and I left the three baby mice and nest to themselves (the box was in a shed near a patch of woods and I did not worry that the mice would get into the garage up by the house).
The nest that this particular thread reminded me of escaped my detection throughout the rebuild and cleaning project and became obvious only after the beetle was rolled out on to the driveway for her start-up debut. I had the honor of turning the key and, therefore, positioned myself comfortably behind the wheel with the driver’s door open. My father situated himself behind the beetle so he could access the distributor and carburetor to assist in starting the engine. Starting your own engine rebuild is, at least for me, a fairly exhilarating experience; one in which the adrenaline elevates a bit and the butterflies dance whilst you close your eyes and envision a nice purring engine. To this day, that initial moment before turning the key is a nerve wracking yet thrilling time! Remember that this beetle was my first car, my first engine rebuild, and my first start-up; my excitement was over the top!
The key goes in, turns, dash warnings all come on? Check. Turn key to start position, engine turns over, oil pressure builds, oil pressure light goes out. Double check. Call back to my father and ask that he reconnect the ignition system. Engine is ready to go. Turn key again, whrrr whrrr whrr, no unusual sounds, no grinding. Whrrrr, whrrrr, cough, cough, whrrrr, cough, sputter, cough, sputter, sputter, varoooom……BAM!!……purrrrr.
BAM????? What was that??? I immediately turned off the key and went through everything I did in my mind. I did not doing anything I should not and the engine sounded fine right after the heart-stopping bam noise. What could have possibly gone wrong? I jumped out of the car and turned around to address the issue with my father, my mind racing with ideas of horrific, catastrophic failures that require dismantling the engine. Upon rounding the corner I saw my father, now standing and chuckling (chuckling?), while watching me rush towards him. Upon seeing him I immediately knew why the engine had made such a horribly loud noise. Wrapped around his knees and scattered around the driveway where pieces of beetle seat cushions, chair stuffing, and grass. Turns out a mouse built a nest inside the muffler and when the engine finally caught, it blew out of the tailpipes with a voracious noise. My father caught most of it in the shins since he was kneeling right behind the car. We both had a pretty good laugh over what happened. Oddly enough, I did not learn from my mistake and years later, after failing to check the muffler on the newly rebuilt engine in the red 71, blew a mouse nest all over the garage.