Why I Won’t Be Buying That VW Beetle: I Already Have One

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Yes, I really wanted that Beetle when I saw it the other night, in the glow of that sunset on Sunday evening. But in the light of day yesterday, I drove it, took a closer look at it, and debated the pros and cons. We had planned a hike on Labor Day, but all of that made it almost too late to go. Which was a portend of potential things to come. Do I want to spend my time dealing with rust and musty interiors, or be in the great outdoors? And when I finally slipped behind the wheel of my xB to head for the hike, I realized I already have a Beetle. Or two.

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To me, my xB is the modern incarnation of the Volkswagen; a simple, rugged, reliable, thrifty, go-anywhere car that’s also fun to drive. And I said just that in the finale of my Auto-Biography series at TTAC. But it drives a hell of a lot better than the real thing, which my drive in the real thing made all-too obvious. And it’s a lot safer; If I eventually slide off a gravel forest road, or meet another car on a blind curve, I know which car I’d rather be in.

Yes, the VW’s 1600cc engine pulled pretty strongly, despite its flat spot. But the gearing is too low for that engine, and it would undoubtedly be painfully loud at speed. Which is a big problem, as my acute and severe tinnitus is not getting any better. It’s becoming a problem in any car, never mind a VW without any sound insulation.

And there were a whole raft of issues that I saw in just a fairly brief look at it. The rust, although not as aggressive as salt-induced, has been working on this car slowly but steadily, including the interior. Things like the driver’s seat being practically rusted in place. And the upholstery and headliner are musty and shot. The moisture here is insidious. The heater didn’t work, and I was in no position to properly evaluate it if the ducts and such were solid or not.

I also began to have a few niggling doubts about the owner, who is clearly just flipping this to help fund his 912 project. The front suspension was dry as a bone; you didn’t give it a few shots of lube before putting this car back on the road (he’s driving it every day to work)? Were the engine parts used in the rebuild of good quality? The brakes, despite being “new”, felt pretty bad.

I could go on and on. The more I looked, the more I saw that needed doing. The reality is this: although this car has some good qualities, like no collision damage, it’s a project car. And I have absolutely zero time to give to another project right now. I’m struggling to manage all of the deferred ones, along with trying to find more time to get out into nature and such.

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The hike up Patterson Mountain cleared my head. I don’t need more “things” in my life; I’ve got more than enough. What I want is more experiences, and more time to enjoy the things I already have, like my Chinook. I’d rather take that on the road this fall than deal with a needy VW. My F100 badly needs some rust repair too. Piling on more things that need doing is not the solution.

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At the top, I saw clearly that I’d rather be looking out over the hills and smelling the fragrant woods than seeing rust and smelling headliner glue. Yes, I’d fallen in love with that VW, but then that’s hardly the first time. I fall in love with just about every car I stop to shoot; some a bit more so. I’m also in love with spending time with the loved ones in my family doing the things we all enjoy doing together.

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I found this crude Herbie under the front steps one of my rentals this summer. I put it in the dash cubbie of my xB, where it slides back and forth on its immobile wheels when I’m zipping up the curvy gravel roads to trailheads, to remind me both that I’m already driving a “Volkswagen” and that cars are a ultimately a vehicle to facilitate my other interests—which are many—and I simply don’t  have room for an interloper.

I was trying to relive a moment of time from my youth, when I had few to no responsibilities, and I could readily and happily spend half a day laying under my VW messing with the brake adjustments, to get them just right. That was then; today is now. Time to plan a fall trip to Eastern Oregon in the Chinook, which I just remembered needs a new heater fan. And door seals. And…

It’s time to make new memories, not try to relive the old ones.

Thanks for all of your thoughts in the comments. I’m sorry if I disappointed some of you. But as I’ve said before, it’s either CC or a project vintage car; not both. You really shouldn’t encourage me. Or maybe you’re trying to tell me something.

It’s a pretty nice little VW, and I’m sure it will find a loving home. Just not mine.