Wednesday, June 2, 2010


Fahrvergnügen: to push one's car. Especially a Volkswagen.

This is an entirely different post than I had planned for today. I was pulling out the subject for my post and found these old pictures. I've been looking for the pictures for a while and was so happy to find them. Because this is a story about me that needs to be told.

In September of 1991 I bought my very own car. It was a tomato soup colored Volkswagen Beetle, vintage 1968. I took out an 18-month loan (which I paid back in 12) for $1800, started to pay my own car insurance and buy my own gasoline. I also bought some primer, two gallons of auto paint and my dad painted my little Volkswagen for me. He used to paint diesel rigs in a factory, so he did a pretty good job of it.

Oh, I loved that little Bug. I loved everything about it; the lumpy, springy, dirty white vinyl seats, the necessity to double-clutch to get to second gear, the reliability of it breaking down every third pay check, the wing-vent windows that were a necessity for keeping cool in summer and fog off the windows in winter, the VW symbol on the hood, the Wolfsburg castle on the gear-shift knob, the fancy rims (can you see them? Those aren't just any VW rims -- those are fancy and my dad painted them to match), the awesome way it drove in the snow, the chirp it made when you accelerated, the amazing gas mileage (even on unleaded fuel), the trunk under the deck (in the front) and the engine in the back. Yes. I loved everything about this car.

The heating system in this car was ingenious. Hot air off the engine was filtered in through the vents and kept you really warm all summer long. I kept a little tied lap quilt in the car for winter. It folded into a little pocket that was sewn on, where I had machine stitched the outline of the VW insignia (without a walking foot). The door locks froze in the winter, so we put graphite in them to keep them from sticking when it was cold. It leaked oil like any number of jokes I could make about recent disasters. The motor was designed for leaded gasoline but by 1991 it was pretty hard to come by. So my dad rigged up a double-filter system (the filters were these little plastic bulbs that ran along the fuel line to the engine) to help the engine from getting gummed up by the super unleaded I put in it. He was a great mechanic, my dad, and never charged me for labor so it was really nice to have him around for big break-downs like a clutch replacement and a new head. The starter went out and so for a few days until my dad could get to fixing it, I had to park on a hill or get someone to help me push it so I could get a combustion start by popping the clutch. For the little things, I had a special screw driver I kept in the car, a nice big one with a sturdy handle in case the car wouldn't start. My dad instructed me to bang on the crank case with the handle of the screw driver and then try again. That usually seemed to do the trick.

In the fall of 1993 I sold my Volkswagen for $1900 (a net loss of $672.14) to help pay for an upcoming service mission for the LDS Church. On the day I handed it over I cried a little. And I've never been as attached or in love with a car since. I reminisce about it with pride, remembering the really snowy day I passed every other car on the road because they had all slid off, and made it up a very steep hill before the snow plows had come through without even breaking a sweat. Of course, with the wing vents open to keep the windows from fogging over, any possibility of sweating was virtually eliminated, even with my cozy lap quilt. Those were the days. I often wonder what happened to my bug after I sold it. I sometimes even dream about having it back -- literally. The clutch was really stiff, even after my dad replaced it. So, when I dream about this car, I dream I can't get the clutch in to shift gears. And then I decide that I definitely don't want it back.

This is Fahrvergnügen, baby!

Today's post is brought to you by the letters 'V' and 'W' and the number 68.


Shay said...

I LOVED this post. I really did.
I can tell how much you loved that car just by the way you wrote.

And the car I learned to drive in was a banana yellow 1965 VW Beetle. That my sister then inherited. So I'm kind of nostalgic reading your post too.

This really touched me Elizabeth.

Vicki said...

Sweet car! Your post reminds me how I loved my first car. I had a 91 Honda Civic it in 1995 when I was single and working for the forest service near Cedar City and had it until 2003 when my husband, oldest child and I all moved out to Kansas City. Good times. :)

coley said...

I hope you get the new one someday!

Lane said...

Mine was a beige '68 that we bought in about 1976 for $500. When we bought it, it had no brakes and my Dad drove it about 400 miles home for me with my Mom following, pulling a travel trailer. I loved mine too and have often thought of getting another, just for the gas mileage to drive to and from work. Lane

Jennifer Lovell said...

The funny thing about you and me, Elizabeth, is that in some ways you and I are so alike. In other ways, we couldn't be more different. I have never been attached to any cars I've driven, and I almost can't even remember what color they were, let alone what year they were made, ha ha!

I love how you were able to remember this car so well though to remember all of the details about your adventures together. That's a super cute picture of you with the car! I love the way your dad painted it : ).