|Robert Couse-Baker Photo CC|
So with that in mind...
My first automotive conveyance was a used 1968 white Volkswagen Beetle. (The Bug in the photo is a '66 for those who must know, the '68 had a different bumper. Very similar though. The car, not the bumper.) Can't remember how much I paid for it, probably around a thousand bucks. He was in pretty good shape and ran like a top. (Not sure how a top is an apt comparison but I use the tools the English language provides. I didn't invent that metaphor, I just use it.)
Warning! Digression... You may notice that I referred to that car as "he." The car also had a name, Hans as I recall. When I drove VWs, I always referred to them using male pronouns, much like the Russians refer to ships as "he" (at least according to Captain Marko Ramius in the novel Hunt for Red October). And so it remained until about five years ago when The Nuke gave me her 2005 Honda Element. I had always referred to her car as Big Girl. So now my vehicle is a she. So to speak.
Slightly off topic... The Germans call it "der Käfer" which literally means, "the beetle." Volkswagen is pronounced "folks vagon" not "volks wagon." Yes, I am picky about that. Don't get me started on Porsche. (Who just so happens to be the guy who designed the Beetle. And helped out on the Tiger tank, among other things.)
Over time Hans started to experience various malfunctions. The first occurred one morning when I was headed out the door to go to work. At the time I lived in a marvelous little place out in the country, known (even to this very day) as Buckingham Palace. The place got the name from the property owners. (Buckingham was their family name, just so we're clear.)
|The sign out front says so!|
(Google Street View)
|The "palace" proper is to the right. Where I lived is pretty much center stage. As it were.|
(Google Street View)
Normally I parked the car nose towards the house, in the morning I would back up, executing such maneuvers as were necessary to point the nose towards the main road. On one particular morning, putting the stick into reverse did nothing. No gears were engaged. no rearward motion occurred.
Why that is most odd, I remarked calmly to myself. (Those who know me are even now scoffing at that remark.)
So rather than back up, I just drove around in a circle (on the lawn, don't tell the Buckinghams) and headed to work. At work I made sure to park in such a way as to not have to back up at quitting time.
At work I mentioned my automotive dilemma to a colleague who recommended that I take my car to Wolfgang, a guy trained in the mysteries of the VW. So I did.
Upon arrival at Wolfgang's place (out in the woods, but then again, it's Vermont, what isn't in the woods?) I note a rather large canine on a dog run (think overhead wire with a sliding leash thingee attachment). Said canine appears to be a German shepherd. A German shepherd from the Ice Age. He's freaking huge and very shaggy.
He is also attached to the overhead "wire" (it actually looks like a cable on a suspension bridge) by what appears to be a battleship's anchor chain. I mean this is a really, really big dog. He is also apparently unimpressed with my desire to get my vehicle repaired and is baying and snarling as if he wishes to rip me into my component parts and perhaps even devour said parts.
Just as Wolfgang dashes out to see what all the commotion is, I turn to the dog and in my very best "command" voice bellow, "Halt die Klappe du Hund!" (Shut your mouth dog!)
Immediately Hasso, for that is the dog's name, sits down and goes quiet.
Wolfgang: "You speak German?"
Me: "No, I speak dog, it sounds like German."
Wolfgang got all silent for a moment, then proceeded to have a look at my car. He indicated that I would probably need a new transmission. I said I'd like a second opinion.
"And you're ugly..."
So I drove off, resolved to never back-up ever again.
A different work colleague suggested I pick up a copy of this...
Which I did, this book taught me that there was a cable running from the
I found the cable, I tightened the wing nut and BINGO, I could reverse once more. Without needing to purchase a new transmission.
I was still ugly.
At any rate, it was a fairly simple vehicle to maintain. And yes, I did consider buying Wolfgang a copy of that manual. Apparently he wasn't as much of an expert as he claimed to be. Apparently being an actual German isn't really sufficient to fix German cars. For that you need training. Or a really good manual.
Eventually a hole developed in the floor board, just to the left of my left foot. The foot which controlled the clutch.
Said hole in the floor board became large and noticeable during a major snowstorm. It was also a period of extremely cold weather. Not too much of a problem until I got a phone call which necessitated me driving from my domicile to the farthest reaches of northern Vermont.
The snowstorm didn't dissuade me. The Beetle is very good in snow. (As long as the tires can reach the roadway. Don't ask me how I know that little tidbit.)
It was the hole in the floorboard which had the unfortunate effect of letting cold air into the cabin. Right by my left foot.
So, in order to make the trip I had to dress something like this...
Well, something like that. Without the helmet and without the massive backpack. Though Vermont was somewhat rural in those days, and it was shortly after the Earth had cooled, the atmosphere was breathable.
I suppose I was dressed more like this...
|Public Domain Photo|
But without the big furry gloves. I think I had better boots too.
Okay, so neither of those photos is a totally accurate picture of how I was dressed. But I was bundled up pretty good. It was really cold in my car, what with the draft and all coming up from the floor.
Oh yeah, the heat didn't work either.
An odd "feature" about the old Beetle was the two levers between the front seats. One for the left side of the car, one for the right. These levers controlled the heat. Pulling the lever up would pull on a cable running back to the engine compartment which would allow engine heat into the cabin. (No, not the exhaust silly, that would be dangerous!)
If you didn't exercise those cables periodically, they would rust and stick in the channels running back to the engine compartment. The end result being no heat in the cabin.
I had forgotten to exercise those cables for a couple of months.
Hence, no heat, hole in the floor board, long trip during a snow storm.
The drive was epic.
Cold but epic.
Soon after that adventure I bought a new Beetle, a brand new 1974 Super Beetle. (No, it didn't have a cape.) Rest assured, I made sure that I exercised those heat levers often. I actually did it whenever I got in the car.
I miss the Beetle. Good in snow, great gas mileage.
Of course back then gasoline was only about 33 cents a gallon.
Yes, it was a long, long time ago.