Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Graduation Gift? The VW Beetle Saga

A few weeks ago I got on a kick about finding a classic VW Beetle. Why? Well, that requires some back story. When I was almost 16, I wanted a convertible Beetle so badly. Despite the fact that my parents kept telling me I wasn't going to have a car for my 16th birthday, I was convinced they were trying to keep it a secret and had actually bought me the turquoise convertible I'd been eyeing. My birthday came and went, and I didn't have the convertible. Determined to get my way, I decided that I would get that Beetle, regardless. A couple of months later my parents decided they'd go in "halvsies" with me so that I could buy a regular sedan Beetle, but they weren't going to go for the convertible. Bummer.

Never in my life have I had so much fun (at least in a car) as I had in that vehicle. I had more adventures than I can count, and always remember it fondly as my first car. As I was preparing to go away to college, my parents thought it was best that I sell it and get something more appropriate for long-distance driving. I remember protesting vehemently and all but begging to keep it...even as a stored car, but I didn't have the funds to own two cars and it seemed ridiculous to everyone for me to store a vehicle indefinitely. I literally cried the day I watched her drive away with her new owner. It was far too emotional for me, especially for something that I logically shouldn't have been so attached to.

Several years ago, I bought a new Beetle. It was a few years old, but it reminded me of the fun I once had as a teenager - you know, getting into trouble wherever I went. It wasn't quite the same though as that old VW - and how could it be? The new one had modern "conveniences" like operational windshield wipers, a warm heater (it even had heated seats), and the like. For anyone who's owned a classic Beetle, I'm sure you have similar stories, but I always remember some piece of it being inoperable - yet, I still loved having and driving it. The new Beetle just wasn't the same as the hunk of metal that I used to roll around in. I enjoyed it, but eventually it was sold and life moved forward.

On a whim a few weeks ago, I started looking at old VW's on Craigslist. Of course, I naturally went right to the convertibles; but I learned quickly that all of the old Beetles - whether convertible or not - have become quite pricey. I found several needing major repairs, an engine, body work, etc, and the owners wanted in the thousands (sometimes in the 10's of thousands) for these cars. Has everyone gone insane? Wasn't this the "car of the people?" The affordable option? Apparently, not any longer.

As I kept checking out ads and sending links to Sam with titles such as "the perfect graduation/Christmas gift," I couldn't help but giggle knowing full well that we can't afford this sort of thing with my school loan payments beginning the day after I finish classes (in just a couple of days - yay!). No amount of pleading or wishing was going to make money suddenly appear.

A few days later, Sam came home from work and paid me a visit out in the studio. He asks what I'm working on, I ask him how the day went at work, and he responds with a half-hearted, inaudible response. He then informs me that he left work early in the morning, and then hands me a piece of paper. I ask what it is that he's handing me, and he tells me it's the title to my new car. Huh? I look at it - it says it's a VW Beetle. As I'm perplexed by all of this, Sam proceeds to fill in the blanks telling me that he left work this morning to go and check out this Beetle and that it's now sitting at his dad's house. The next piece of paper handed to me helped me understand why it wasn't sitting out in front of the house with a shiny new bow.
My "graduation gift" - a lovely, rusty, hunk of metal
Yeah. Um, I don't think that's exactly drive-able, is it? I see the photo and am informed soon thereafter that it's going to be a project for us to work on together. Scratching my head, I can't help but wonder what would possess my husband of nearly ten years to suddenly think I have some sort of mechanical/automotive aptitude or capability. I can barely handle changing the tube on my bike tire - what would make him think I'd want to engage in such a project?

But alas, I knew that this was the only type of car we can afford for the time being... and during the winter months, there are days (sometimes weeks) when having transportation other than a bicycle is going to be an imperative (for me - as I'm not skilled in the winter commute by bike). We have actually set about work on the beast. This past weekend we spent a good 8-10 hours sanding and grinding, trying to get the pieces to a point that they can be prepped for painting. Who knew so much work went in to a paint job, let alone all the mechanical work that still needs to be completed?
The weekend past was absolutely freezing, so I had about four layers on as Sam's dad "instructs"
me on how to remove paint from the car parts that still had some small bit of paint left on them.
We've also started sourcing parts for the project. An engine was secured (running even, surprisingly) and various other parts are slowly being picked up as we find the right pieces to the puzzle. As odd as it sounds, I'm actually excited about this project (more excited about it being over, but excited nonetheless) and I'm anxious to see what it will end up being. I'm supposed to be picking a paint color, but my chosen color seems to change on a near-hourly basis. Because I didn't get the convertible I wanted, I still think we need to install a ragtop as well... but, fighting with the "boys" about this will be my biggest battle, I'm sure.

In the end, I'm excited to be re-living a bit of my own personal history, and having the opportunity to work on a project from the ground up. Perhaps it will help increase my confidence when it comes to mechanical projects? Or, it will turn into a giant disaster and a year from now I'll be wondering why we even started this endeavor in the first place. Until then, I'm trying to just live in the moment and get as much done as possible.


  1. Hahaha! Be careful what you wish for huh? Best of luck in fixing up your fun little car! =)

    And not to worry... the new Beetles still have parts that don't work. The 2012 release (and some of the 2013s) had window motors that wouldn't roll the windows back up. VW finally came up with a fix in September; I think my windows got fixed in mid October. I shrugged to my friends and said, "It's a VW: something is going to be broken." :)

    (BTW -- I wanted a Cabrio SO BAD. SO BAD. I won't let myself have a convertible until I have a garage to store it in, though.)

    1. Thanks, Melanie! We shall see how this goes. :0)

  2. Welcome to the jungle....

    In some ways, this project is bittersweet for me. The year before I turned 16, I spent all of my holidays building a 1961 beetle, and it was my first car when I obtained my licence.

    The work quality will be better this time, and I have learned my lessons from all those years ago (no junkyard engines, solved!). Plus I have the driver to help me...

    Back then, I was in High School, and I lived about 100 miles from my dad's place. Now, we live 40 miles from my dad, and I work, primary differences, experience and $$$$.

    I'm glad you are going to be able to have this car again, and this time it will be yours, "down to the metal", literally!


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