I have great trouble thinking of Bogart,
my '69 sedan, as a vintage Volkswagen.
I mean, new body style, big bumpers,
IRS suspension, headrests, AM/FM stereo
with equalizer, Michelins, KYB gas
adjust shocks, mag wheels, tinted
windows, and brake lights bigger than
a thimble. All this, VINTAGE?? Hardly.
But, when listing their "vintage"
vehicles, lots of folks often include
their '68, '69 or '70 as an ancient
example of the venerable Volkswagen.
I'm not arguing with this - heck,
50 years is 50 years - but since I
also have '58 and '59 VW's, by comparison
the '69 does seem NEW. Every now and
then, though, something about this
car reaches out and slaps me in the
face, sort of as a reminder that he's
getting on in years.
had Bogie (as he is fondly known)
for years now. I bought him as a car
I could drive daily, with few worries
as to dependability, and he hasn't
let me down. He's been the perfect
picture of reliability and spunk and
cuteness and all the things that VW
is famous for. But I think it may
be time to do some adjusting. Not
on Bogie, on ME. I need to adjust
my thinking somewhat, to accommodate
the fact that he is now an Elderly
bug, a geriatric Beetle, if you will.
He's doing things only older cars
do, and while he can't help it (he
does have over 175,000 miles on him)
these little episodes only serve to
open my eyes a bit wider about his
age so I won't get too comfortable.
night I had a fire in the dash. Yes,
every VW-owner's nightmare, and this
fire wasn't the first either. The
last one was several years ago, after
having a new stereo installed by a
crew of subhuman creatures who probably
could'nt tie their shoes, much less
install an electronic device. Anyway,
if the first instance, I was cruising
along, doing my business and listening
to Steely Dan, I think, when suddenly
I heard a tiny POP and gray smoke
began issuing forth from my dash.
Being the calm and reasonable person
that I am, I immediately began screaming
and steered safely to the side of
the street, bouncing neatly off the
curb. I came to rest directly in front
of my mechanic's shop. HOW I ended
up in that convenient spot, I don't
remember, but he rushed out with an
extinguisher and saved the day. The
stereo hadn't been properly grounded
(um-hum, didn't we know this all the
time) and the "old wiring"
had fried. I later had the wiring
redone on the stereo but I was amazed.
Surely the wiring could'nt be THAT
old! It'd only been about 20 years!
get on with my story, one night was
a bit different. Since Bogart now
seems prone to age-related oddities
like his brothers Vernon and Oscar,
I wasn't surprised when the speedometer
quit working. It had been on borrowed
time since last winter, when the dang
thing began howling like a banshee.
I just assumed - silly me - that the
cable was breaking so I thought I
could buy a bit more time from it
by squirting some lubricant down into
the end. The noise quit, and I forgot
about it until a couple months ago,
when it finally broke. So what, I
thought, a $7 cable and it'll be as
good as new. Well, Bogie doesn't do
anything that can be fixed that easily.
I should have known better. I got
the new cable, installed it several
weeks later (don't wanna rush these
things) and it worked for exactly
2.3 miles. At that point, the howling
was even more intense, probably Bogie
protesting the easy fix. Thoroughly
disgusted now, I did what any normal
woman would do - I went and whined
at my husband to fix it. He decided
it was the speedo itself that was
the problem and took the offensive
thing completely out of the car. Did
you know there are 14 wires that hook
up a '69 speedometer? FOURTEEN. Anyway,
I got it rebuilt and overhauled -
the gears were frozen, did I say that
- and Rob installed it with the new
cable last week. It looked great!
Nice and clean and those numbers are
now so white! Everything worked. While
we were in there, I found a loose
wire that just happened to be my horn
wire. It had come undone and while
I did notice the horn had been acting
kind of spazzy, I failed to do anything
about it till I noticed that loose
wire. I hooked the horn back up, test
drove my speedo, and was a happy camper.
one night. I went to put Bogie in
the garage and started him up. I turned
on the headlights, and within a fraction
of a second, the generator light dimmed,
I heard a small POP, then a tiny hissing
sound, and suddenly, DEJA VU! The
car began filling with smoke. This
time, thick, black smoke. YIKES! Not
wanting a Bogie Briquette, I groped
frantically for my trusty extinguisher,
which was cleverly concealed under
a pile of debris on the floor and
not within easy reach. I shut off
the ignition, watching the smoke pour
out of the dash at an alarming rate.
Not knowing if there were actual flames
up there I again did what every normal
woman does when faced with this kind
of situation: I screamed for Rob to
come out. Together we unhooked the
battery, popped the hood open and
swore loudly at Bogart in very vulgar
language. Well, it was 9:30 at night
and neither of us was in the mood
to mess with smoldering wiring and
fires and other inconvenient stuff.
After ripping off the wiring cover,
we discovered a very large chunk of
wire was completely fried from the
speedo back to the headlight switch.
Why?? Well, seems there was a loose
wire that had been disturbed when
we put the speedo back in. The bare
end waited until I turned on the headlights,
then shorted out against something
under there. The little flames just
whizzed up the entire length of wire,
burning it as it went along. We felt
really dumb when we got that wire
out of there and saw how close we'd
come to cooking Bogart completely.
Now THAT would have been inconvenient.
Bugs like him don't just grow on trees.
should be easy to fix, but will require
a new wiring harness from the headlight
switch back to the speedometer. I
suppose things like this shouldn't
amaze me, but I can't get used to
the idea of things breaking in Bogie.
After only 175,000 miles?? Cheap garbage.
His second gear is getting a bit stiff,
downshifting, and I'm told the transmission
is just getting old. He already has
new brake drums on the front, as the
old ones got too thin to turn again.
His new upholstery job (1990) is fading
and cracking once again. Little things
like that can and will be fixed, but
remind me every time that he is not
the state of the art car he once appeared
to be. Hey, after driving Vernon for
5 years, a John Deere would seem state
of the art! I don't think of Bogie
as being 50 years old, or ever wearing
out, or inferior in any way, or HEAVEN
FORBID, VINTAGE. Rob says ALL my cars
are so old, they probably have Roman
numerals on the speedometer. Very
funny guy, isn't he?? But I drive
this car every day and it's hard to
think of Bogart as an aging vehicle.
After all, he looks so spiffy!
guess if you buy a new car every couple
of years, then you don't go through
this terrible realization process
about your present set of wheels.
You aren't going to keep them, so
who cares how old they are?? They
become someone else's problem. Rob
agrees with me. He usually plans to
keep his trucks for about 4 or 5 years
(longer than most people I know) and
then trade them in. He wrung his hands
gleefully when our Ford Ranger drove
off in trade for our new F150, thinking
of the 96,000 miles that would now
be someone else's nightmare. I, on
the other hand, cried. Really though,
how many people keep their cars 12
or 15 or 20 years?? Not too many.
In comparison with Bogart's condition
now, Vernon was old and decrepit and
ancient when Dad bought him. And he
was only 8 years old then! Judging
by this time frame, Vernon should
be producing his OWN fossil fuel right
about any day now. So, for me, thinking
of Vernon as old wasn't a stretch.
Knowing Oscar - my '58 convertible
bug - is old isn't too hard either.
All I have to do is look at those
tiny little glass taillights, and
the ivory knobs on the dash and breathe
that vintage AROMA, and it's easy.
But Bogart?? NAH.
how do I do this, this Attitude Adjustment??
Somebody tell me. Wait a minute, on
second thought, I don't think I want
to know. If I start treating Bogie
as if he's old and frail, he'll soon
start acting the part. Right now,
I think these things that happen surprise
him as much as they do me - sort of,
like, OOOOPS! You mean my engine needs
a rebuild AGAIN?? Pesky thing. Drat.
I think I'll just keep treating him
like a '91 model, with 175,000 miles
on it. That way, he'll never suspect
that he's aged at all. After all,
the Bug did look almost the same for
some 40-odd years, right?? This way,
he'll never catch on.
I wrote this, Bogie has had several
other repairs, not the least of which
is a brand new, from-the-ground-up
Gene Berg 1641cc engine and several
sets of Michelins. His daily driving
escapades are now over, after I bought
a Golf GTi. With more than 225,000
miles on the clock now, I do consider
him truly One of the Old Guys and
he gets all the benefits of his newly-acquired