I always wanted a Volkswagen Beetle.
From the day I got my driver’s license on my 16th birthday, I wanted a “Bug.” Unfortunately, my two older brothers had already picked out a used yellow Opel Kadett (What was this? And has anyone else had one of these?) and bought it as a present for me. So no Beetle in the driveway.
But my fondness for the Beetle has never waned. And when I read Friday that Volkswagen would stop worldwide production of the iconic little car, I admit to a nostalgic sadness.
I wondered if others had similar thoughts and memories of the Beetle, so I asked on Facebook. From the quick responses I got, people have a soft spot for the Bug.
Cathy Armstrong of Redlands says that “anyone who ever owned a Bug or its relatives was used to vapor lock, failed clutches, bump starts, broken fan belts, crappy heaters, fogged windows, window cranks that fell off in your hand and, not least, blown engines. And we still loved them.”
Armstrong says that she and her husband, Dean, have owned “several oil-cooled VWs – a 63 Notchback, 66 bus, two 66 Bugs, 69 Bug, 72 bus and 74 Thing. Number of engine failures that required rebuilds: eight. If we still had all those cars, we would be rich!”
Paula N. Farris of Fresno has a lot of memories about the Beetle, and shares this: “One of my boyfriends took me out on dates in his Beetle. Sad they are retiring it.”
Dale Musgrave of Dale’s Automotive in Fresno has worked on Beetles for 50 years, and during a telephone chat, he shared memories of the Beetle. He started working on Volkswagens on June 1, 1968. He remembers the day because it was right after the Indianapolis 500 that year and he got a job working at an auto repair shop on Blackstone between Olive and McKinley avenues.
Musgrave, 73, who opened his repair shop in 1977, says there’s a reason the Bug became such a popular car. “It was cheap and it wasn’t hard to work on.” He says the Beetle was a pretty dependable car, “but you could not hold it to the floor and run it to LA. It would burn up.”
He had a 1961 VW bus that he wishes he still owned. “One sold, I believe, for $125,000 at auction,” he says. He restored the bus in 1969 and drove it to Columbus, Ohio. “The only problem I had was the voltage regulator stuck and I just got out and hit it with a screwdriver and it was fine.”
Mike Riedelsheimer, 57, has owned dozens of Beetles, and worked on hundreds at Siegfried’s Motors, Inc. on North Blackstone Avenue, which he’s owned since 1988. His father, Siegfried Riedelsheimer, opened the shop in 1969.
Mike Riedelsheimer said during a telephone call that his memories of the Bug go back to age 16 and his first car, a canary-yellow Beetle. The car took him to the Central Coast, all over Fresno – and to the mountains to ski. With the engine in the rear, “it dug well into the snow,” he says. “All the weight was in the back.
He’s not convinced this will be the end of the Beetle. It will depend on demand, he says. “It’s like a nostalgia thing. I got a feeling you might see another go-round with them in five or 10 years.”