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Life Is Less Complicated In A VW

Allan Duarte

It all started for me before my first car. My Dad was a Chevy guy and back in the 60s, cars were far more than simple ways to get around. They were fins and chrome and flash and excessive power and useless metal nonfunctional pieces. Or at least, that's how I saw it.

My first time sitting in a Volkswagen Beetle was a 1959 Bug that belonged to my friend’s brother. He had parked it in the driveway where we played basketball almost every day. When his brother was away at school, we would push it out to the street so we could play ball. I had the pleasure to steer it and that's when fell in love. Learning to drive dad's Chevy was a clumsy, silly time, but this felt like it would be fun.

I bought my first ride from a friend's sister who retired her 1960 Dodge Lancer to me for $10.00 for her new 1970 Bug. I wanted that Beetle. A year later, I made payments on a 1960 Bug for a total of $300. It had a whinny 1st gear chattering clutch and a rotted floor. My Dad didn't want me in it, but I loved it. Dad said it was a death trap. I felt the opposite, fearing that his 1961 Impala was more unsafe in handling and lack of roof structure. In fact, he borrowed my VW it one day to drive 100mi round trip to Boston and actually enjoyed it. His only complaint was the lack of heat.

Driving it was great. I had to buy a blanket to cover my mom's feet, but it was great! My first crash was into a turning big Mercury. The Merc kept going and my fender was crushed. I followed that car to his stop and the man said, "I thought I ran over the curb!" I got $225 for damages. At this time in the late 1960s, Beetles were everywhere.

My first big job afforded me a shiny dark blue 1971 Super Beetle.I felt I could drive around the world if I had the time. The best story I have from that car was when I gave a fellow a ride from work in the pouring rain. He asked when was I going to buy a real car, so I let him out in the pouring rain right then.

Then came a 1973 411 4 speed 2door, unique but not all that popular, it was smooth and fast. Then along came the 1976 Rabbit. Great performer and a design everyone copied. After my wife and I had a new son came a 1971 Kombi that rescued us after breaking down with my friends good-for-nothing Bonneville. The guy gave us a ride and then sold me the Kombi for $600. We loaded that thing up and our family went everywhere we could. 6 years and one motor later we sold her for $1,700 bucks, which my mechanic said was a good deal.

Next I bought a big Econoline van, fearing the VW couldn’t pull our pop up camper. That proved to be a mistake. My wife wanted another VW, so we found the jewel: a 1983 Vanagon wasserboxer automatic with a sunroof. Sweet! There was nothing we couldn’t or didn't do with this beauty. It had velour seats and armrest, and it was our favorite VW for 13 years.

For a time we even had two Vanagons. I traded my SUV for a used 1989 Syncro Camper; to me the best vehicle in the world. I could never get stuck and it did everything I ever wanted. We did a fishing trip with a group and pulled a pop up trailer to the mountains, fully loaded. The other guys had a V6 Chevy pickup with a glass boat. They were surprised to see me pass them on 95 in Maine on a steep grade holding 65mph while they were pedal to the metal. "What do you have in that thing?!" I said, “VW driving know-how.” I actually cried when I sold that Syncro.

Now I own a MGB kit car on a 1967 VW platform and recently traded a 1973 Restrod Beetle. I’m sorry I did. There will definitely be more!

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