The Vintage Volkswagen Beetle Crowd
New 1974 Beetle
When my son was a teen, we thought we would buy him a car as a surprise. My husband felt that owning a classic car would be just the thing for our son and promptly found him an old Chevy Camaro. Okay, that’s cool I thought. My son will love it and of course, he did. Soon after receiving it he joined a group of young men that also had some cool looking muscle cars. Before long he was hanging around with a bunch of wild and crazy people. I for one was not enthused about his new friendships, they did not seem to be the best sort of people for my teenage son to be spending time with.
Now before you want to get all up in my face about that statement let me just say, I am not labeling all owners of muscle cars and hot rods, but simply addressing the sort of people that came around from this group. They were a rougher crowd and not too keen on being honest.
The car itself was nice but needed work. The mechanics we used were scoundrels and did things to create new problems for the car and after a few expensive repair fiascos I will not go into here, we decided to get rid of it. Before it was even sold we began the hunt to replace the Camaro.
My husband and I had owned a couple Volkswagen (VW) Beetles in the past and thought my son might enjoy owning one as well. We found a very nice 1974 red Beetle online for a good price and showed it to our son. He got very excited after noting the condition and could not wait to talk to the seller. Unfortunately, the owner was not home so my son left a message – and then over the span of one evening, he left seven more. He is nothing if not persistent.
This brings me to my first encounter with someone in the vintage Beetle crowd. The seller was so impressed by my son’s yearning for the car, that after we looked at it, he told him he would hold it for him for the few days it would take us to pull the funds together to purchase it. Why is that impressive? Because, while we were standing there looking at the car he got a cash phone offer for triple the money he was originally asking, sight unseen. He told us later he also received many other calls for the car, but he stood by his promise to sell my son the car at the original price. That’s a stand-up kind of guy.
The car needed a bit of work due to sitting in storage but was in overall great condition. We did what needed to be done to get it running and by then my son had found a monthly car show at a shopping center not far from us and was off. While there he met other “bug” lovers and started building relationships with them. He found that VW Beetle lovers came from all walks of life and from every age group. Old and young alike would form bonds over their cars and would often gather just to spend time together. Some stuck to the classic look while others souped up their cars to more modern standards. He also found that they were a giving group of people. Someone was always willing to trade or donate needed parts to other fellow bug owners. They would offer advice and work together trying to repair or modify each other’s bugs. My son was building relationships with some very decent folks and learning a lot along the way.
There is also a hip culture that develops around classic cars. They love to meet locally, they click when meeting another no matter where they are, they go to car shows near and far, caravan together, and there are even special events surrounding the car. One such event near us for VWs is called Bugorama, which has had events since 1978. Bugorama keeps expanding and they now have events in four or more different cities in California and Arizona. It’s a family event with drag racing, display areas, and swap meet spaces. Some areas even allow camping. What is especially fun is seeing all the classic cars in the parking lot, it’s a show by itself.
There are other events across the country we hope to visit sometime in the future. Such as the Madera Spring Fling in California, the Bug-In in Fontana, California, the Bug-a-Paluza in East Ridge, Tennessee (which gives spectator proceeds to the Ronald McDonald House), and the Florida Bug Jam in Dade City. There are a lot more scattered around the country as well.
My son recently picked up another couple of bugs. One had a great engine, but not so great body. The other had a great body, but no engine. He took the motor out of one and put it in the other, which left the other one just a large ornament in our garage, so we had to figure out what to do with it. We decided to do some upgrades on my son’s original Beetle and offered the dead one to the mechanic. Since it still had a good transmission he took it off our hands in exchange for some of our costs. That’s another nice thing about bugs. Did you know there are mechanics that work on nothing but vintage Volkswagens? Well, there are and because of that they not only work with you on different things, sometimes they even get so excited about doing a big job for you that they add parts or do a little work for free just out of love of the bug. I would not count on that though, but it has happened to us a few times.
Of course, many people have the space and time to work on their own Beetles. My son does do some of the work on his as well, however, our homeowner's association frowns on such things and we just do not have enough space for major repairs or restoring. Working on one’s own vehicle is part of the charm of these little cars and the fact that you can lift the engine out without special equipment is especially handy too.
Our engineless Bug
When we have been at car shows you really see how a bug makes people feel. The car brings back memories for people. I do not know how many people have stopped at a show to tell us stories of when they had their own bug or what they did with a friend in theirs. It is so fun to listen to them and see the happiness just looking at a car can bring.
Another awesome thing that has happened to my son over the years is that he has received vintage bugs as gifts. Why? Because people see his enthusiasm for them and how much he cares for them once he gets them. They want to give him the bug that has been sitting around gathering dust, or that they have lost interest in working on. They know he will transform them for himself or get a new owner who will love them. There is no such thing as a completely junk bug in our world. Our family holds a special place in our hearts for our bugs and that is not likely to end any time soon.
© 2018 Lorelei Nettles