A few months back, I mentioned that my girlfriend and I had planned to drive a 1962 Volkswagen cross-country after the 12 Hours of Sebring. Lizett wanted to do a tour of the Delta and hit the major haunts of the Blues culture. Helena, Clarksdale, go stand at the crossroads and look for a man of wealth and taste, then Highway 61 to Memphis before heading west. We did all those things, only it was in a Euro-spec Audi Q7 TDI. So what happened to the '62 Bug? Since when did a 46-year-old car become considered in too good a condition to put 3,000 miles on it?
On July 5, 1962, a gentleman and resident of Herington, Kansas, ventured over to the town of Salina and the local Volkswagen agency, Holiday Motors, to pick up a new VW Type 113. The window sticker shows a price of $1,595 with a trucking charge of $85 from the port of entry (New Orleans). There were no options other than a dealer-installed antenna-but no radio.
In 2008, this Bug still lacks a radio and the green dash cover plate is just as green as the day it left Wolfsburg. It also has the original interior, engine, gearbox and an odometer that shows a few miles over 21,000 on it. Other than serviceable items such as tires, exhaust and the belt, the only non-original parts are two fenders that were repainted years ago and don't quite match the factory color. And the original tires are still on it.
This was no barn find, though. The original owner drove it locally until he passed away in 1987. It then found its way to nearby Lawrence and a new, sympathetic owner who maintained it with care. The supplied service booklet shows the VW dealer carried out the 15,000-mile service in August 1995. I wonder which mechanic got tagged with that job and if he had ever seen a stale-air, 40-hp Bug, let alone worked on one. Did the parts person have to find the oil gasket set in a book or on the computer? It must have looked like some artifact from a museum.
There has usually been at least one VW in the family and, after having parted with my Oval a few years ago, I wanted another Bug. Not a restoration project or one already restored, just a good solid driver. Maybe put the set of Porsche 4.5-inch alloys I've been saving and relive my old Cal Look days. A recent trip to Bug-In 35 was a surprise in that I only recognized a few people from previous meets, some of them single-digit events. The whole air-cooled culture has not only survived but prospered in numbers that a few years ago would have seemed impossible.
I didn't set out to find this car (since nicknamed Gumby). I got a call from Kevin Jeannette of Gunnar Porsche Racing telling me he had the perfect old VW. To me, an Oval or Split Window qualifies as old. Then Lizett brings up the idea of doing the cross-country gig in the Bug, because that's the way it was done. Jeannette did a service-axle boots, new tires-and then called a week before Sebring to talk me out of making the drive. I assumed the car was not ready to go and, while pondering what to do with two one-way tickets at the el cheapo rate, Audi called.
It turned out for the best, as the Q7 made the trip just as much an adventure as the Bug would have done. And with the mileage on yours truly, a whole lot more comfortable (neither does Lizett pack light). The TDI invited many questions from people across the country, mainly when they'd be on sale over here.
As for Gumby: one morning, the phone rang and a voice with a deep Southern accent asked me where he should unload the Bug. A block away, a transporter (also hauling a new Aston Martin and a 1974 Porsche 3.0 RSR) was parked. On the lift, being lowered gently, was the Bug. I got in and turned the key. The six-volt system responded and it was dj vu. There was a large envelope on the back seat with receipts, the window sticker from Holiday Motors and several photos of the original owner taken with the Bug years ago. Damn. If he could leave this VW in its original form, I'll have to continue the legacy. I drove Gumby down to the usual Saturday morning Cars & Coffee gathering and parked between a Daytona coupe and an R Gruppe 911. I taped the window sticker inside the left rear window for all to see. Guess which car had people around it constantly that morning?