Saturday, July 13, 2019


Place: McDonald's
Lunch: 2 McDouble's, fries, Coke

It's National French Fry Day according to the social medias, so that made McDonald's lunch by default.  Unless I was in Wichita, then I would have gone to Freddy's, who has the best fries ever.  McDonald's has the second best fries ever.  The original beef tallow fries were probably REALLY the best fries ever, but who can remember for sure.

Volkswagen rolled the last Beetle off the assembly line in Puebla, Mexico last week.  This was a "Final Edition" of the newer water-cooled version based on the Golf platform.  The original air-cooled Beetle ended production in 2003 at that very same plant, 65 years after initial production and over 21,000,000 vehicles produced.  By that time the "New Beetle" was a few years into production and a phenomenon in its own right, though never even remotely at the level of the original.  The version ending production last week was the second generation of the water cooled version and never really caught on with consumers.

Still, the press found a suitable excuse to cover the event and be all melancholy, as am I, as I have a long history with the model.

My father was a VW service manager, and as such, we owned a few.  An old ivory 60's model that we watched "Herbie Rides Again" in at the Canyon Drive-In.  A '74 "Sun Bug" edition Super Beetle (gold with a sunroof), the only new car we ever owned.  He picked up and restored a second Sun Bug years later.

Dad and his '74 Sun Bug

My first two cars were '74 Super Beetles, a black one with red seats and a red one with white seats.  The black one was picked up for $150 and was tecbnically my third car.  My second intended car was a Subaru that he ended up selling to a family friend who really wanted it.  My first intended car was a late 60's Beetle he'd rebuilt from the ground up and was one of the most bizarre mutant car jobs you've ever seen.

When I first saw it, it was a powder blue Bug somebody had hand painted cute little designs all over in black.  Little "bugs" (flies) and such.  It was in the salvage lot behind the dealership.  He stripped it to the body and asked what color I wanted it to be.  I was reading a book at the time focused around a guy and his sapphire blue Triumph motorcycle, so I suggested "sapphire blue".  "I think I have a can of something like that," he said.  He pulled it into the paint shop and blasted it a haphazard metallic blue.  It looked like a matte finish.

From there, whatever happend to be on hand and available went into the car.  Blue Dasher seats (bolted in place, not adjustable at all).  Wheels and a bumper from a Scirocco, with the fenders flared out to accomodate the wider tires.  The bumper turn indicators even worked...he filled in the holes where the Beetle's old fender turn indicators would have been.  A gas tank from a VW Bus, installed where the back seat would normally be, with a filler drilled into the back side of the car.  He bolted in aluminum panels where a proper dashboard would be and used whatever dials and buttons were available in his spare parts collection for controls and instruments.  Think race car.  That's kind of what it looked like.

The thing was so light, you could lift up the front end and push the car around.  Ir was loud, and it didn't always make sense in the way he put it together.  The wiper motor was of the wrong voltage and the wipers operated at an insanely high speed.  One day, the entire wiper arm went flying off in traffic while he was driving it.

I'm still unclear on how this didn't end up becoming my first car.  It ended up being his daily driver.  My uncle years later told me Dad had told him I put my foot down one day and said I wasn't going to be seen in that thing, that it "just wasn't me".  I have no recollection of this whatsoever.

The black '74 wasn't exactly perfect.  The gas tank had a leak of some sort that made the entire car smell of gas fumes.  Nobody ever wanted to ride in it because of that.  Or because the floorboards had rusted through and splashing through a puddle soaked the inside of the car.  Dad eventually bolted some sheet metal where the floorboards used to be and I drove it until I bought the red Beetle from a former teacher of mine.  That one didn't have a working reverse gear, so I always had to be strategic in where I parked it to make sure I could drive out or at least coast out if backwards were absolutely necessary..

That was the end of my Beetles until I picked up my 2000 New Beetle GLX.  Dark blue with a black leather interior and the 1.8 turbo motor.  Those things had their faults, but it still ranks as one of my favorite cars ever.  It would also prove to be my last VW.  Dad, on one of his rare trips to civilization, got to see it once.

In memory of Richaard Graham 1936-2019
"Well I know they're really just a Golf with a Beetle-shaped body, but they're still pretty neat," he said.  "You've come full-circle."

Yes.  Yes I had.