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The Story of Cloudy

Once upon a time….. Okay, fine, it wasn't once and there was lots of time.

Cloudy is a Marina blue 1971 Super Beetle. Not sure where her beginnings are, I think in Texas, probably somewhere before that but where I knew her from was when she was owned by a musician. Apparently, they had lots of adventures, including a slide down a mountain side. She donated her engine to another little Super Beetle, he was Clementine orange and his name was Sonny Reign. For years after that, she sat in the field by the bug-barn at the farm.

Her owner passed away, it was after that when she came to me. Cloudy was quite the mess. Despite the obvious absence of an engine, she was in dire need of some TLC. First, though, she needed to be brought in out of the pasture. All four tires had been flat for years but a little air made them round again. A strap was attached to the rear bumper and a lawn tractor was commandeered to drag her out of her slumber. "Ugh! Won't budge", "okay, let's get a big stick and pry her out of the indentions in the ground from the tires…. Little more little more! Whew!" "Okay, get back on the tractor, pull!!!! Yay!!" "Okay, let's hook up to the front bumper now."

"You want me to pull it through where??? Will we fit? Okay, here goes…… success!" "Now you want to go where?" "Seriously?" "What about that fence?" "And that other car!" "Eesh!" "Okay, I'll try." "Yay! I didn't wreck anything!" "Whew! Glad that is over!" And after much grunting, groaning and sweat, Cloudy was out of the pasture and in front of the shed where she would receive her new engine. The game plan was to go to the farm and put the engine in with the help of Pop. (Pop was my adopted dad) He and I worked on Sonny so I had no doubt that we could put Cloudy together. But something got in the way… the sudden decline of his health. So, Cloudy continued to sit in front of the shed several more months.

Eventually it was decided that a relative, who knew of a mechanic in another town, over a hundred miles away, I might add, would put the engine in. So, the day finally came when this relative went out and put Cloudy on a trailer and took her there. I was told that one of the tires was flat. How can that be? They are brand new!
So, Cloudy was at the shop. But suddenly there was a problem. The mechanic wouldn't commit to a time, wouldn't commit to a cost, wouldn't even return a call!! After much stressing and fretting, I, along with a couple friends, drove 5 1/2 hours to rescue Cloudy. When we arrived, she was sitting behind a fence, one (new) tire flat. With the help of the non-committal mechanic, we got her loaded onto the trailer, strapped the engine on the front of the trailer and off we went.

We had to stop at the local MVD to title this car. The law in this state only gives you 90 days from the date on the sale papers to get it transferred over to the new owner's name. I had already attempted to do that but didn't have the car to show the MVD in the original town. Anyway, it was decided that since it was "sorta" along the way, we'd stop and get it done. The MVD agent came out to inspect the VIN, then, in the end, I was given a title. Okay, that dilemma is fixed. We then stopped at the local Discount Tire company and got the tire fixed. I think what happened was when the relative went to load the car onto the trailer, he accidently kicked the valve stem and broke it thereby creating the flat. We got some real nice service and a little "bug" conversation with the store manager. After the repair, we were jettin' down the highway with Cloudy on the trailer. "Bet she hasn't flown that fast in a while!"

The mechanic that I located, with a little help from my friends, to help me get this little car back together, was north of one of the biggest cities in the state and we hit that city at rush hour. Holy Moley! Bumper to bumper, three, four, five lanes of traffic!! I think I lost 10 years off my life. But we made it. This mechanic was the "man of my dreams". He was a certified mechanic but more importantly, he was a Volkswagen mechanic from decades ago. Yay! We unloaded Cloudy and the engine in the dark, visited with the Mechanic for a couple minutes then hit the road again to go home. Talk about tired! Over 11 hours on this little venture and I was ready to call it a day!

In the meantime, the Mechanic put the engine on the bench and began the process of cleaning out the cooling tin and other things. He found the belt on the pulley was extremely tight, not a good sign. The plugs were fouled. He found what it appeared as some sort of STP-like fluid was in the crankcase. "Bet that's been in there a while". He used starting fluid to start the engine then, after getting things connected, he checked the compression. The engine that Pop was sold as a "slightly" used engine was apparently an engine that someone else had turned in as a core.

After much discussion, it was sadly decided that I was in over my head and it would be best to cut my losses and bail on the project. It was agreed upon that the Mechanic would put things together so as to get the best money back out of it and I would make it worth his time. I made a trip to the city to have further discussions and to see the progress. The Mechanic had the engine in the car. When I arrived, the deck lid was off and work was being done.Then I learned the one thing no Volkswagen owner ever wants to hear- there was a fire. The day before, after putting in a new fuel pump, he started it up and the hoses blew off then it caught fire. For some reason, the car rolled out of the shop, the Mechanic had a starter button connected to the car and was holding onto it like a dog on a leash as the car began rolling out of the shop. He could just imagine it rolling into the property across the street and burning the place down. He had a fire extinguisher and quickly put it out. No damage, believe it or not, unless you consider the fuel line and filter that melted.

The Mechanic did a lot of little things to Cloudy and when I saw it, I was amazed at the improvement in appearance. The Mechanic started it up and oh, my goodness, it sounded sooooo good! The throaty muffler gave it a very beefy sound. He said he has driven it around the block and it drives and shifts good. The Mechanic replaced the master cylinder and the wheel cylinders so the brake system worked great. The Mechanic pointed out a glaring problem: The VIN on the title didn't match the VIN on the car. The first digit had been left off. Oh, that is just great. I called my local MVD office after going home to see what I needed to do. A month later I returned to the city to take care of the problem. We put the tow-bar on the car and dragged Cloudy down to the local MVD. The place was packed. We had to go around the parking lot twice to try to find some place to park! Finally, found a spot on the street. We took a number and waited well over an hour before it was our turn. My number was called so walked over to the window and a young girl asked how she could assist me. I told her the problem and she looked like a deer in the headlights. Then she went for the supervisor.

The manager at the MVD was real nice, shockingly enough. These places are known for their lack of, how should I say, manners, tact and/or competency. She inspected the VIN, then went into their database and found out who made the error. (An employee with little experience although she'd received training) The manager fills out all the paperwork, takes my title and says it will be 6-8 weeks. Terrific! We've already had it on the market and even had someone interested in it!! Talk about Murphy's Law being in effect from the get-go!

We drag Cloudy back to the Mechanic's place, unhook from my bumper, took the tongue off and then he backed it into the backyard where it would be out of sight of "larcenous" eyes. It was a real tight fit so the Mechanic was inching it in, back and forth back and forth into the corner of the yard, when we both heard a metallic thunk. Oh no. We check the clutch cable, that wasn't it. The throw-out bearing went out. Oh, that is just great. Now the engine has to be pulled to replace it! I've already dumped over a grand in this project. I can't believe this! Well, I'm running out of daylight and I have to head back north. We'll have to figure this out later.

A week or so later, I get a call from the Mechanic. He pulled the engine and found that the clutch that I had purchased new wasn't the right one. It didn't fit right with the pressure plate and throw out bearing. I did some research and learned that there was a little difference between the parts of the early 1971 and the late 1971. (sigh) The Mechanic got it all put back together and running again. I was dreading the inevitable news of the new bill. I was just happy that it was up and running again. Then we got a call from the guy that had test drove it right after we put it on the market. He wants the car.

We had to explain the situation with the title. Surprisingly, he was cool with that. He made an offer on the car. The Mechanic called me with the information. The interested party said he wanted to look at the pan under the battery. When he saw the small hole, he almost bailed on the deal. After the Mechanic soothed the interested man's concern by lowering the price by 100 dollars, the man gave a deposit to hold the car, showing earnest in the deal. Now we need to get that blasted title!!

I was talking to the Mechanic on the phone and told him that I had some more parts to include with the sale of the car. This included some maintenance books. As we spoke, I mentioned one of the books was the "How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive"- Idiot's guide. Come to find out, this mechanic actually had a part in writing this book!! He was consulted in the chapter on high performance. The author included an illustration (later polished by the publishers) that the Mechanic drew of the ring function as well as mentioning his name specifically. Well, how cool is that!

Time continues to go by and the title has not arrived. I get a call from the manager at the motor vehicle department and there's a problem. The VIN on the original title is WRONG. Really!!! C'mon! Murphy's Law continues to Rule. Now we need a "level 3" inspection which translates to "need a law enforcement officer to read the VIN in all three places on the car". Man, you have got to be kidding. So, I get on the horn and make phone calls to the places the MVD Manager tells me to call. The first one, I get voicemail, still waiting for a call-back. Called the second and they don't do them anymore. Called state police and they don't accept phone requests, you have to have MVD do a digital request. Really??!

I called the MVD Manager again and explained what had transpired. She knew the one inspector and said she would put in a call, text and email to him to motivate him to call me. And he did! He sounded really cranky and skeptical. I explained where the car was and when he asked why I wasn't bringing it to him and I told him that it was in the process of being put together. I told him I would drive down there then would have the mechanic tow it to him. He said since I was going to drive down then he would save me a tow bill and go to where the car was. Then he dropped a bomb……. "make sure you have all the documentation, proof of ownership and title". What???!

I explained to him that the MVD had the title and other documentation. He said that he can't do the inspection unless I have the documents. I told him I would get the documents and we set the appointment for 2 weeks from the next day. Great. (sigh) I called the manager at MVD and told her what happened. She said don't worry, she would call the guy up and explain things to him. She calls me back a bit later and said all is well, he agreed to accept the scanned documents from MVD and will complete the VIN inspection as scheduled. (whew!)

The day came to meet with the police to inspect the car VIN. I arrived an hour early (I hate being late) so I was able to do some things, including start vacuuming it out. The officer was late and I was beginning to get worried "did he forget?" Then just as I was calling the MVD manager, he showed up. I was expecting a very gruff individual looking for any discrepancy possible but he turned out to be pretty accommodating. It took about 45 minutes or so for him to do his inspection. (Part of that was making sure the car wasn't stolen and that I didn't have any warrants.) Finally, he was on his way.

Now let me back up a little. The day that I traveled to have this VIN inspection meeting, I checked the email one last time on my way out the door. Remember the guy that wanted the car? He bailed on the deal. (sigh) Okay, back to square one. Now the waiting begins for the corrected title. A week has come and gone but no word on the title. I called up the MVD manager and she checks on it and said it will be issued on Friday, two days from now. That's great because now we have another person interested in Cloudy and he has put down a small payment to hold it. Yay! Another week has come and gone and still no title. I called the MVD manager, left a message. The next day, when once again, the title wasn't in the mail, I called her and she actually answered. And guess what? A new title has NOT been issued!!! ARRRGGHH!!

I checked in with the Mechanic, told him what was going on. He hadn't heard from the new potential buyer. (uh oh) But the guy had put a deposit on it in cash so, maybe he's just busy. When I talked to the MVD Manager, I asked her if perhaps I would be allowed to go to the capital city and pick up the title in person. She said she would send another email and see if that's possible and then get with me by the end of that day. End of day came and went with no call. (sigh) I wish Murphy's Law would go live with someone else.

This afternoon I got a text from the Mechanic. The potential buyer contacted him and guess what?, he wants to pay for and pick up the car! Tonight! And the title can be sent to him once it comes in! Oh WOW! That's the best news I've had since, well, since a year ago! I see light at the end of the tunnel! Still Dark! More time goes by. I called the MVD Manager to see what was going on. She said that it seems to be time to become the squeaky wheel. She commended me for being so patient through all this nonsense and told me I need to call the governor's office and talk to the director of the motor vehicle division. And if not him, the deputy director. She gives me the number and tells me to let her know what transpires. Great. Mousy me is going to call the governor's office and pitch a fit. Um hm.

I put on my most stern voice and dialed the number. Someone finally answers and I tell them I want to talk to the director of the vehicle department. She patches me through to a line where a woman says she's not in and to leave a voice mail. Uh, NO. I dialed right back and a different person answers. Very sternly I tell her I want to talk to the director! She said he wasn't in but would put me through to the deputy director (but not of the vehicle department but the licensing department). He gets on the line and I tell him I want to know what is going on and I explained the situation from the time I got the title in Roswell to this point and expressed to him that I wanted some answers. He asked when I had the VIN inspected. I told him January. He apologized then told me the woman who was supposed to be working on my case up and quit with no notice and a stack of paperwork remained on her desk! He said he would look into it and be back to me by the end of the day. An hour later I get a call from another lady who explained she would be handling my case. She asked me some questions about emails and such between the MVD in Rio Rancho and the Santa Fe office. (yeah, all this is happening in New Mexico) She also mentioned that they were waiting for TEXAS to respond to them admitting to their error all those years ago. (Yeah, like that's gonna happen.) Two weeks came and went since all that and still nothing. But my buyer took the car. And he's not going to chop it up but make it into a nice little car! That made me smile.

I decided to contact the lady at the state department to see what the status was on the title. She calls back and tells me that either I or the MVD Manager has to contact the state of Texas to get this "acknowledgement letter" that New Mexico wants in order to reissue the title with the corrected VIN! "What??! Seriously!". I said to the lady "who am I to the state of Texas? Why would they even talk to me ???" She told me that the previous lady working on this case had sent an email to the MVD Manager stating that she or I had to contact Texas and that there was no reply to this email. I told her that it we were told that it was not necessary that Texas be involved, that it was only a matter of reissuing the title. I asked the lady if she would resend that email to the MVD Manager and she said "No, I'm sorry, my email is full and I can't send or receive or forward emails" Excuse me? LIAR!!!! (okay, so I didn't say it out loud but I didn't fall off a turnip truck this morning either!)

I then politely told her that I was now getting unhappy and would call the MVD Manager regarding this email. Next, I went online and sent the state of Texas an email with a brief description of what I needed. The automated screen said I would be contacted by phone to resolve this issue or receive an email within 3 days. Really? Grrrrrrr! I hate Murphy!!!

I get a call back from the MVD manger and she is ticked! After some discussion with her, I get the number to the director over the director of MVD and I pitched a fit. I told her what I thought of her "person" who said she can't send or receive email because it's full. I also told her that I don't work for the state and that I shouldn't have to do the work of the Error Resolution Department! This was at 2 minutes before 5 PM. She said she would be back in touch with me in the morning.

I sit back in my chair, drawing a deep breath and wonder what's next. Then I think "oh crud! I need to call the man that bought Cloudy! He may think I forgot!" So, I find his number in my file and call him up. What a nice man! Very patient. He said he'd rather go to the dentist than to deal with the motor vehicle department. (Personally, I think I'd rather take a beating than to go through this.) I assured him I would keep him posted and he assured me of his trust in what I was trying to get done.

The morning and afternoon came and went. A bit before 3PM, I called the woman who was supposed to call first thing in the morning aaaaaand- I got her voice mail. Okay, let's climb the ladder a little higher. I called the MVD Manger again and she gave me the number to the Cabinet Secretary.

The secretary to the Cabinet Secretary said that he wasn't answering and offered to send me to someone else (who, incidentally, I've already gone over their head) and I told her no, that I need to talk to the Cabinet Secretary. She asked what it was concerning. I already figured out that if you didn't tell them the whole story, they aren't going to understand and I will end up in file 13. So, I explained it to her. I told her all of whom I had contacted and that I was running out of time according to what the law stipulates. She said she would send a note to the Cabinet Secretary, the MVD Director and the head of the department (I assumed the person under the secretary of the deputy director) She said I would be contacted by morning.

A little after 8:30 the next morning I got a call. They will have that title corrected and sent out by the end of the week. I requested to be called when it actually goes out. Half an hour later I get a call from the Director who said she wanted me to know that she hadn't ignored me and that she knew I already had received a call from the other person. I reiterated that I wanted a call notifying me of the actually mailing of the title.

In between the two calls I get an email from Texas. They said that the error must have occurred before August 2000 when the last Texas title was issued. I zipped them an email back telling them that I'm sure it was but as to where it began is unknown. But I still needed the acknowledgement of the error. This afternoon I get a short note from a different Texas employee telling me that the number on the title that was surrendered to their state and the paperwork all match. And I should order a VIN inspection of the vehicle. (really?) With fingers on fire, I shot out an email right back at her and explain that yes, they match but it was WRONG! And I already did all that and I already TOLD YOU THAT! I sent them pictures and the VIN inspection report. Good grief! Doesn't anyone read anymore?

This afternoon, as I sit in front of a fire and ponder the events of the day, something stuck out in my mind- that first call this morning the one from that woman, she said the car was a 1972 and I corrected her by saying it was a 1971- why did she say that? Oh, crud! From August 1971 to July 1972 the first three digits of the VW vin is 112! Does she still not understand that the error was the first digit, a one, was omitted??? Is she going to assume that the car is a 1972 and send me a title with THAT error on it??? I got back on the computer and send photos to the secretary to the Cabinet Secretary.

As I continued my typing of this drama, I become more and more concerned, "what if the secretary to the Cabinet Secretary doesn't check her email? What if it goes unnoticed? I gotta call her!!!" The secretary did get the email and she forwarded it to the lady who called the car a '72. She assured me that she would contact her again to make sure she understands everything and does not make an assumption which would send me spiraling in to the pit of having to start this all over again.

The next day as I am thinking of nothing at all, my phone starts ringing and it is an Austin, Texas number. "I don't know anyone in Austin. As I am staring at the screen of the ringing phone, I decided to answer it. It's the first lady from the Texas DMV that emailed me!!! What was exciting is that the pictures and inspection that I sent them yesterday motivated them to agree to send me an acknowledgement of error letter!!! Wow!!! Maybe Murphy is tired of tormenting me on this car!

That letter came within minutes of the conversation so I forward it to the secretary of the Cabinet Secretary to distribute to the other officials that I had been dealing with. I got an email back from her stating that she had, indeed, distributed it. The next morning, I got a call from the woman who implied that I was stupid. She said that the title was going out in the mail. Has the war finally been won? Has there been a victory? We'll know if that title shows up in the mail on Monday. Hoping against hope, I went to the post office on Saturday after work. "could it actually arrive in one day?" Nope.

Monday. Do you know how hard it is to wait for time to go by so as to be sure not to go too early? Eesh. Finally, I went to the post office. "Do I dare to believe that it's there?" Better prepare for the worse. I slip the key into the box aaaaaaand- It's there!! It's actually there! Oh, wait, is Murphy playing a cruel trick on me? I held my breath and looked at the pertinent information, is the VIN correct? Yup. Did they put the correct year of the car on it? Yup. Yay!!!!! The nightmare is over! Whoo Hoo!!

A final note to all those who have the privilege of owning one of these little cars, which we all know it comes with much frustration and education, my advice is to enjoy it while you have it and teach others. There are fewer and fewer of these little cars left on the road and even fewer available to rebuild.

My love for these Bugs began with a ride in this little car and now, after the love and loss of Sonny Reign and the attempt to regain it through Cloudy, the love affair comes to its end with the sale of Cloudy.

Desiree Hodges

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