This week’s announcement of the end of the eighty year production run of the VW Beetle caught me at a vulnerable moment, recovering from a humiliating fall on a mountain hike that starkly, and painfully drove home the point that I’m not as young as I think I am.
The demise of the Beetle makes me feel very very old, but has also sparked a huge bout of nostalgia for the days of my youth. The VW Beetle, you see, was my very first car.
The Bug was the perfect car for a young lad about town, finally freed from parental constraints and with a whole continent to explore. It was cheap, reliable, easy to maintain, plowed through snow drifts , and was generally an adventure to drive. No better car than the Bug to putter into the age of Aquarius in!
For its time, it was an engineering marvel- its tiny aluminum engine block was light enough that 2 law students, armed with only a socket set and a crate of beer, could easily lift it from the engine compartment after it seized solid. (go ahead, ask me how I know this !)
To this day, tucked away in a dusty corner of my work shop is a dog eared, greasy copy of a spiral bound counter-culture publication called “Volkswagen Mechanics for the Compleat Idiot”, a tome that walked me step by step through two complete DYI engine re-builds, at a time when the services of an actual mechanic were far too expensive for a student to even contemplate.
I probably skipped a few pages, because after each re-build I was left with a few errant parts left over, which I tossed into the trunk, ( just in case they actually served a purpose). It is a testament to the durability of the VW Bug that it survived my ministrations, and the missing engine parts and still carried me across Canada, with all my worldly goods stuffed in the back seat, to begin my career as a lawyer.
That trunk full of spare parts came in handy within a very few weeks, when I encountered a very cute damsel in distress in the office parking lot gazing forlornly at her unresponsive VW Beetle. ( I ask you, how often does it happen that a knight in shining armour can save the day, by simply popping his trunk and producing, with a flourish, the needed part?)
Said damsel was duly impressed, and, in due course, consented to become my wife , living happily ever after as a two Volkswagen family.
It’s sad that the Beetle will be no more, and sadder still that we are no longer young.