14 October 2012

Bill's Beetle

YrHmblHst has recently had the privilege of becoming acquainted with Bill from over at 'Then and  Now' due to a shared interest in Airships. Bill was looking into the visit[s] of the Los Angeles to Tulsa and we happened to end up in the same cyber place at the same time. Soon found out that he was originally from Enid, and naturally, the subject of automobiles came up. He has been kind enough to share his 'First Car' story, and will hopefully follow it up with his favourite car tale soon.
Hafta disagree with him on the 8 tracks though...I still have mine.

My First Car
I have always been a very conservative fellow, and my first car was a 1965 Volkswagen Beetle!
I was almost 16, and had been working in a department store in Enid, OK for about 6 months (started when I was 15 1/2), and though the store was within easy walking distance to my home, turning 16, driving age at the time, of course, I wanted my own car!  

My dad, an insurance salesman, “knew a guy” out on the east side of town who dealt in used Volkswagens and repairs, and in July, 1969, for $225, I was able to buy a wrecked 1965 VW Bug, and for another $200 get it completely fixed up and painted to my liking!  Now I know a VW Bug is not a very “macho” car, but I was not (and I am still not) a very “macho” guy, and it suited me perfectly!  It was solid transportation to get me from Point A to Point B very inexpensively (important in my world at the time), and I could do almost all repairs on it myself!
It was Metallic Green, and 3 years newer than my sister’s Bug which was a ’62, if I remember correctly. (Hey, back then my sister and I were two peas in a pod!) I loved my bug and I drove it for two years till I wrecked it in Oct, 1971! (Looking back, it’s hard to believe I only had that car for 2 years!  Indeed, if I had not kept records of all my cars, I would have assumed I had it much longer!) The wreck was stupid, completely “operator error”, resulted in a rollover – and I didn’t have my seat belt on!  But I survived with only a bruised ego, and I don’t care to reminisce here about the stupid cause of that wreck!  What memories I prefer to resurrect are those of the freedom that Bug gave me, and its involvement with letting me express myself!
Here she is, my beloved 1965 VW Beetle, via a “fish-eye” lens, next to my sister’s blue ’62:

You see, I worked in that department store in the “Camera Department”  – and I had the “freedom” do “borrow” the merchandise!  So borrowing a fish-eye lens, meant it was natural to want to capture the curves of my precious Bug!   Just barely visible in the background on the driveway are the rags, wax, and spray bottle that I obviously had just used to polish her up!  
During the little-over-two-years I owned her, I made many trips between my home town of Enid, OK, and Moore, OK, a suburb of Oklahoma City to which my best friend had moved during our High School years.  To this day, I would NEVER let my kids do what I did!  For it was on those short trips that I discovered and exploited the art of “drafting” – getting close to the back of a semi, and establishing the VW into the draft behind the truck to be “pulled” along in its wake – thus able to maintain a speed greater than the VW itself could attain on the open road!  Whoah!  Today, I would NEVER advise my kids to do such a stunt!  
Anyway, in addition to the short trips to the Oklahoma City area, my best friend and I took her to Houston, Texas in 1970 or 71 to visit the Lyndon Johnson Space Center!   We camped all the way!  Imagine that! Carrying enough gear in the back seat and trunk of a VW Beetle for TWO to be able to CAMP along the way!  Indescribable, but we did it!
Well, other than being a completely naïve driver and pulling such a stunt as “wafting” behind semis
on Interstate 35, at 70mph, I did “practical” expressions of my intellect as well!  I figured out how I could secretly start my VW Bug without keys, by secretly installing a “reed switch”, such that only by carefully placing a magnet in the proper spot, would the reed switch “close” and allow the key to make the circuit and start he car!  I was a pioneer in auto security!  
Though being a total geek, and not “into” the music of the time, I was not completely lost in the world of audio either!  I took a desktop 8-track cartridge player, removed its case, installed “brackets” and mounted it under the dash of my VW!   So I had the latest and greatest stereo system of the day – the “8-track”!  Never mind that the “cassette” was the up-and-coming thing, and that I was in no way on the “cutting-edge” of technology – I had an 8-track player in my car! I was a Chick magnet! (At least in my mind!  It did not matter to me that it looked like some “erector set” contrivance from the future – I had 8-track and that’s all that mattered! I made a cover for the mechanical parts out of cork-board, and that took care of the “exposed” parts!)  Anyway, it was with my home-made 8-track that I discovered independently the worthlessness of the 8-track cartridge!  You can check this out for yourself!  The 8-track tape was prone to rapidly failing due to dirt and exposure to the heat of the interior of a car!   It was technology destined for complete failure!
Chick magnet or not (O.K. , I admit, “not”), I remember one day my WV Bug saved my life!  I remember one summer afternoon while at the department store a vicious storm was brewing.  I remember going outside and looking to the North and seeing a “wall” of dark clouds along the
horizon during what was otherwise a beautiful sunny day.  Within 5 minutes (I kid you not), the storm, wind, and rain was raging so violently that the store decided to CLOSE! I left my post, got into my Bug, and proceeded to drive home.
So much water was flooding the streets that upon reaching the intersection of Van Buren and Moore Ave, my bug FLOATED!  Seemed to me like an eternity though I am sure it was only a second or two, momentarily all 4 wheels were off the ground as the undercarriage of my bug allowed me to float in the new river which had just formed!  Nevertheless one or more of the rear wheels regained grip on the surface of the road, probably because of the rear engine, and I crossed the highway reaching higher ground, and made my way home in the blinding rain and storm.   Fortunately, my home was not far away.  As I said, I could easily walk to work from my home, but perhaps this day it was better that I had driven in my VW Bug which, after all, could float!
Anyway, let me close with this fond memory:  Remember how I said I could make most repairs myself?  Well it was a fact!  I remember replacing wheel bearings, points, condenser, fuel filters, air filters, tires, batteries, and on and on – and writing this has made me come to grips with the fact that I only owned this car for TWO years!!!    In retrospect, I was stuck with a lemon!   But, lemon or not, she was my first, and the first is always the most memorable!  Right?  



  1. Nah, wasn't a lemon. That's typical for all those old Bugs.
    GREAT photo btw

  2. Well, calling it a "lemon" is just prose, I guess, from thinking about all the work I did on that Bug in those 2 short years, compared to today how little work is needed on our Toyotas, just made me realize how much work it took to keep that Bug running!

    Truth be had, I owned another Bug in the early 1980's and one day my clutch cable broke on it one morning on the way to work. I limped it home, took our other car to a parts store, and got a new cable AND CLUTCH PLATE, went back home, dropped the motor (4 bolts!) by myself, installed the clutch plate and cable, and by noon, was on my way back to work in the Bug I repaired myself!

    What I would give for a car today that is as reliable as those of today, with the ease of repair of my beloved Bug of 1969-1970/71!

    Thanks for the compliment about the photo!