My First VW

I was just out of college and starting my first job, as a field-service technician.   The job involved lots of travel and I needed a reliable, inexpensive car.  

The choice of a VW was not pure accident.    When I was 16, I had a summer job some distance from home.  One of the supervisors gave me a ride to work every his VW.

Arnold was quite a character; he became my mentor during the long rides to work every day. He was also a fastidious mechanic and race driver.  He taught me most of what I know about VW's and driving...and a bit about life.

One day, Arnold let me drive the little car (it was a '51 sedan);  I had been transported to heaven!   Then and there I resolved that some day...

(Fast-Forward to my first job.)   The car I eventually wound up with was a '59.   And the year was 1959 !   At that time, the waiting list was so long for VW's that it was virtually impossible to obtain one through a dealership.   "Gray-market" dealers sprang up to fill the void.  The buyer plunked his cash down and didn't ask too many questions.   I got mine through such a dealer outside New York City.    

If I recall, it cost me $1500.

The next day I was headed back out to Kansas City in the new toy. I got there just in time for the start of a brutal midwest winter. The little car proved its mettle in the deep snows.   The heater, of course, left a little to be desired.

Around 80,000 miles, the poor engine was beginning to limp.  I took it to the VW dealership.  Hans, the amiable mechanic, called me later to give the bad news.  It needed a valve job.  I agreed to that.  Then he said that it would be wise to have the rings replaced at the same time. I balked at the additional work but he was persistent.  Hesitantly, I went to pick the car up.  The total bill for valves and rings - $68 !

Ralph Nader was still in knee-pants at this time so the world hadn't been alerted to the Beetle's uncharming rollover characteristics (nor the Corvair's for that matter).    

With about 90,000 miles on the car, I was forced one day to make an evasive maneuver on wet pavement.   Before I knew what was happening, the car rolled over 3 times!   I was one of the few people then who had installed seat belts.   The car landed up-right and I simply walked away from it.



This event left me with a crucial decision.  What should I do for another car? After some months, I broke down and went to the VW dealership.  There was still a waiting list but if you didn't care what color you got, you could get a car in less than a month!   I wanted another Black sedan but had to settle for White. was a '63.   And, since it was early in the model year, I was still stuck with the old "stale-air" heater boxes!  But we had moved all the way up to 40 horses.


Since that time I've owned numerous sedans, Ghias, even a THING, and several Buses.   At last count, there have been over 40 VW's.   In fact, since that first car, I've never owned anything but air-cooled VW's!