My Beetle was a Super Beetle.
One of my most vivid memories of owning a Volkswagen Beetle was nearly losing the feeling in my fingers during a long cold-weather drive.
But, that memory was from winter, and the Volkswagen Beetle was not a cold-weather car. During the three other seasons, when the heater in the "Bug" didn't need to be working well, or, more honestly, at all, my recollections are far more fond. And that's why I'm mourning this death of an auto icon. The last of Volkswagen's small and rounded style of motor vehicles — both sedan and convertible — will roll off the automaker's production line this year. So, those of us who owned one decades ago will be left to merely remember our long-gone cars, taking rides in on only with the help of our recollections.
I remember folding down into mine, even though there is more room in a Bug than you might think for a 6-foot-2 frame. Granted, it was a Super Beetle, but that only gives you a couple of extra inches. It was full-size only in the sense that there was a car there between the bumpers, which looked as though they were in the right spots, from all I could see. So, it apparently was the full size that it was supposed to be.
I shifted through the gears to get it going, and it traveled fairly fast relatively comfortably, if you didn't let yourself realize that you were traveling lickety-split down the highway with just the lap part of a seat belt to protect you, in a car that was barely bigger than you.
But, it seemed large to me. I bought mine after a VW Bug turned into my lane and totaled the Fiat Spider — an even smaller car — that I was driving at the time. The collision taught me a lesson. When I bought a new car I simply went with the winner.
Since it was used, I believe I paid only a few hundred dollars for it, a sticker cost well below the more than $20,000 manufacturer's suggested retail price the Bug carries today. But, isn't everything more expensive now?
Late in the 1970s, I often towed a sailboat with mine — a 16-foot catamaran. The car was less than 14 feet long. It must have been a sight on the open road. Was the car pulling the boat or the boat pushing the car?
During winter, I attached a ski rack to the back of the car, above the motor so the snow melted from the heat when I was stopped. It's too bad that the inside of the car was seldom as warm during that season.
In spring the trunk in the front of my Bug was filled with softball equipment. Bats, balls, spikes, score books, ball caps, and uniform jerseys all kind of kept each other from rolling around during turns. And VW Bugs turned quickly. You probably could have driven the bases in one without losing much ground turning wide in the infield.
I drove my Super Beetle long distances in all directions. I went north in it, back home to western New York. I traveled in it to the beaches of the east coast. I headed south a time or two in my Bug and made my way west in it when I returned to my college for reunions and homecomings.
The roughest drives always were to the north, in winter. Yet, they were simultaneously the easiest, in one sense. VW Bugs go in the snow.
The weight of the engine positioned over the rear wheels, but the car remaining relatively light, you drive above snow, it seems, in a Beetle.
One of my favorite commercials is for the VW Bug. The screen shows the bottom two-thirds snowy white and the top third snowy blue, like a winter sky. The background sounds are of a radio announcer giving a dire winter forecast for a snowstorm. Words come onto the screen about the same time that a Volkswagen begins puttering across atop the deep white.
"Ever wonder," I recall the words asking, "how the guy who gives you the weather gets to his job in the morning?"
I experienced this "go in any weather" attitude on one memorable winter day, as cars were stopped at the bottom of a hill that was difficult for most motor vehicles to scale while traveling over a snow-covered road. They were getting stuck halfway up the hill or sliding to the side. I pulled my VW around the line of waiting vehicles during a moment when all other drivers had decided no longer to try. I would have stopped, gotten out, and waved at them from the top when I easily reached it, but that would have seemed haughty.
Arrogance is for the drivers of sports cars or luxury vehicles. I drove a Bug. It's difficult to feel superior in one, even if it's a Super Beetle. But I'm proud to this day of once owning one.