Bug Tales: 1965 VW 1200 – I’ve Got a Bee In My Bonnet!

(ED: We’re having an old Beetle sub-theme this week, so this is the first of several “Bug Tales” you’ll be seeing)

A funny thing happened to me and my ’65 VW on the way to work one day. But first, how I got there.

Typical fate of an old Bug in the Northeast

These are not photos of my Bug, which is long gone.

I grew up and went to school in the Northeast, so my idea of normal was that cars rust out before they wear out, and there’s nothing on the road older than ten years that’s not either a total junker with holes in the floor or else a garage queen taken out only on warm summer days.

Then I moved to the Northwest and couldn’t believe my eyes. Old Car Heaven! Nash Airflytes getting groceries! So once we settled down in Oregon and I needed a commuter car, it was the Bug for me. They were everywhere! I learned to drive on my Dad’s ’61, and my first car was a red ’63 sunroof that I bought with summer job money.

So I hit the ads and there was just the thing, a red ’65 down in McMinnville. 100% rust free! And cheap! I drove it a little and bought it. Drove it home 20 miles to Forest Grove thinking about how I’d restore it someday. When I got there, sniff-sniff, what’s that burning smell? A front wheel bearing was cooking. Damn. Not having tools for that sort of work, I took it to the funky local VW shop, of which there were many back then.

They fixed the bearing, and while they were at it I had them replace some of the rubber bushings that were cracked and splitting. I picked it up and it drove horribly! Wouldn’t even track in a straight line. I took it right back, they put it up on the lift, and everything looked fine. Then someone noticed it had a 14″ bus wheel in the right front! 15″ bug wheels everywhere else. The bushings had been so shot it didn’t matter before. They found a 15″ wheel and tire from the junkyard out back and all was well with my rust-free bug. This was the first of many lessons to come, in the ways other than rust that cars get old and die.

Anyway, eventually the speedo quit. The cable was still turning, so I picked up another from the junkyard and stuck it in. Easy, since the back of the instrument panel is right behind a cardboard cover in the trunk. The dial glass is mounted into the dash, so it’s just the bare-faced gauge that comes out.

Early the next week I come out to the car, head to work, and the speedo needle stops at about 20. Why? There’s a bee in there! Buzzing around! When the needle came up it smacked this angry bee right in the ass and stuck there. Once I got out on the highway and up to about 60, the needle finally had enough force to snap past the bee. Then on the way down, same thing. In the meantime this bee is buzzing around in there, mad as hell. Kinda like one of those Ant Farms in the dash, only with an angry bee and the needle.

How the hell did it get in there? There’s an opening in the dial face for the turn signal bulb, and this one had lost its little green gel for some reason. Out in the junkyard this bee must have flown in through there and made itself at home.

Anyway this was quite entertaining for a few days, until finally the poor little bee gave up the ghost, stuck behind the needle pointing at 25.  Oh well, I’ll get him out of there this weekend.

Next day I get pulled over for speeding in Hillsboro, 45 in a 35 (it’s a state highway, just slow right there, you know).  I showed the officer the bee stuck in my speedometer, and promised I was going to get it fixed the next day. He said, “Well that’s a new one” and let me off with a warning.  Thanks Mr. Speedo Bee!