I don’t see many Volkswagen Beetles on the road these days. I’m not talking about the modern version of the Beetle, I’m talking about the good old Beetles from the ’50s, '60s, and '70s. The Love Bugs!
I had a '67” Beetle, my wife had a '74 Sun Bug. They were great little cars. They weren’t the fastest on the road or the biggest, but they sure were fun to drive. Both our Beetles had manual transmissions, and manual everything else, with no power features to be found. They were a far cry from the cars of today with all the fancy computer gadgets.
For no extra charge, let me throw in a Sunday morning history lesson. The Volkswagen Beetle story begins in the 1930s in Nazi Germany. The German government was looking for a car that was affordable, reliable, could be mass-produced, and available to the general public. The car was to be called the "people's car," or "Volkswagen" in German. Ferdinand Porsche, the founder of the Porsche car company, was hired to design the car, and he came up with the original design for the Beetle.
After World War II the British Army took over the Volkswagen factory and began producing the car, but they soon realized it was too small for British roads. The car was then marketed in other countries, and it quickly became a hit in the United States, Canada, and around the world.
In the 1950s and 1960s, the Beetle became a cultural icon in North America. It was affordable, reliable, and quirky. By the 1970s, the Beetle had become the best-selling car of all time, with over 15 million units sold worldwide. In the 1980s Volkswagen began to phase out the Beetle, and by the end of the decade, it was no longer being produced. I think Mexico was the last country producing the Beetle and you can still see a number of Beetles on the streets of Mexico. I ran across one in Huatulco Mexico, and it brought back great memories of my little Beetle. Volkswagen abandoned the Beetle for a number of years, but in the late 1990’s started to produce a modern version. It was bigger, more powerful, and more expensive than the original. It was the same shape and had all the modern bells and whistles but for me, it just didn’t have the charm of my little ‘67.
That charm included riding around in the summer with the windows rolled down, and the no draft windows open and pointed into the car because of course there was no air conditioning. And if we got snow in the winter my little Beetle was almost unstoppable. I don’t mean a lack of brakes, I mean it was great to drive in the snow. It was rear-wheel drive, and had the engine in the back, providing a lot of weight in the rear end over the wheels helping with traction. There was a classic Volkswagen commercial that simply asked the question, “Have you ever wondered how the man who drives a snowplow, drives to the snowplow? The snowplow driver is driving a Beetle.” Brilliant!
The reason I’m taking this trip down memory lane is that my oldest granddaughter, Lily, just got her driver’s license and had been shopping around for a car. She had her eyes on, and heart set on, a restored 1972 Beetle convertible! It’s a beauty. A California car with a new paint job, a new and improved motor, and everything replaced and ready to roll.
I talked to her father about her looking at the Beetle, and he said she has been smitten by the “Love Bug.” She thinks it’s a cool car, which it is, but as her father cautions, there’s a price to pay for cool and not just the sticker price.
If you ever owned one of the old Beetles, I’m sure what he told her will ring a few bells for you.
1. There isn’t “power” anything. No power steering, no power brakes, and no power windows or power door locks.
2. In the older models, the air-cooled engine would often overheat, especially on a hot summer day.
3. On those hot summer days, the air conditioning system was both windows rolled down.
4. The suspension and electrical systems had their faults, not to mention the braking system. The emergency brake didn’t always hold, making it especially exciting parking on a steep hill.
5. And don’t get me started on the defrosting system. When you needed to defog the windshield, you didn’t flick a switch, you reached for a rag between the seats and gave the window a good wipe! In the winter you used an ice scraper for both the inside and outside of the window!
He did warn her, there’s a big price to pay for cool, and for a restored Volkswagen Beetle, there’s a big sticker price to match.
Well, I guess it’s true. When it comes to a Love Bug, “Love Conquers All.” Lily is now behind the wheel of her little white Beetle.
Isn’t it amazing that 2 generations later my granddaughter has fallen in love with a little car that I loved so much, so many years ago.
Till Next Week...
Left // Classic ‘67 VW Beetle “Love Bug”
Right // Wayne & Jeri Cox cruising with proud new Love Bug owner, granddaughter Lily.
The classic Volkswagen “Snowplow” commercial
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1328 Johnston Road
White Rock, BC • Canada V4B 3Z2
White Rock, BC • Canada V4B 3Z2