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Story by Lois Grace

As I thumbed through an old issue of Hot VW's (July 1992 - The Vintage Issue to be exact) when one story caught my eye and I am compelled to air an opinion that I realize will not be very popular. But, air it I must, since no one else ever has.

I refer to a gorgeous Dove Blue 1957 panel van on page 42. Now, before you go getting the wrong idea, I want to just mention here that this is in no way meant as an attack on Hot VW's magazine, or on the van's owners, or on the vehicle itself. No, rather, I'd just like to tell you what I think, and please remember that this is only one person's opinion - mine.

As I read this story and glanced at the photos, one thing struck me. One thought, and that thought was "HOW SAD". What a sad life this Type II has had. Only 408 miles on the odometer. Reading on, I discovered why: this van had been used to transport luggage on and off a cruise ship. Over and over. I wonder how many trips it had to make along the dock to rack up even 408 miles. Hmmm. To continue, it has never been registered or licensed - no need to since it has never traveled a street or highway. Never had the pleasure of taking its occupants somewhere important. Never had the pleasure of hauling something no other vehicle could handle. Never had the fun of being really cared about, or recognized as "our car" by a small kid. See what I mean? Very sad. I mean, as I read about this van, I am reminded of my own Type II, Vernon. Now, admittedly, I am somewhat biased about him! But what I genuinely admire are the HIGH mileage vehicles - what I really come unglued over are the VW's that have been driven across the country and back, gone camping, gone shopping, run errands, gone to the dentist's office, and picked the kids up from school, along with a hundred thousand other trips, and THEN someone restores them. Only after they've done their work and put in their time and logged those miles does someone restore them and fuss over them and pamper them. After years of working hard, the devotion pays off, and the car is taken from show to show, and displayed proudly as the owner (maybe even the driver of all those miles, as in my case) stands by and basks in the reflected limelight. Oh MERCY, it brings a lump to my throat! Yes, give me a nicely restored Type II with half a million miles on the clock, and I guarantee you that will be one bus or truck or van that someone cared enough about to go to all that trouble. After being used for eons, doing what it was that Type II's were meant to do, someone CARED ENOUGH to restore it back to its original glory. Now THAT'S a Type II!

True, this particular van has an interesting history. But if I can labor the point a bit further, it was used minimally for the cruise ship business, then parked for 25 years. Then, to add insult to injury, from October 1988 until now, it apparently sat idle again at someplace called the Bug Port Shop. It's all enough to make me weep. I think of all the fun we had in Vernon, fun this van has never know: my brother and I learning to drive in him, my dad pulling out stumps with him, and hauling cars and parts to his property up north, my mother loading him full of newspapers and going to the recycler in him, my friends and I going to the drive-in and shopping and out to lunch and for rides in the back of him. The list is endless, and every trip added to the memories made in him. They also added to Vernon's own unique personality, his own persona. I think that is what bothers me the most about this van - it doesn't look alive. There is no spark there, no joie de vive, if you will. By now, I know some of you are snorting and giggling and that's all right. It's OK! I know not many think of their Type II's in the same way I do. And that's fine with me. But let's just not forget that cars were built to be used and enjoyed, not abused, but taken on drives, steered, stopped, gassed up, and even washed once in a while. This poor van hasn't known the most important part of being a van - being NEEDED.

Before you go thinking that I don't admire these low-mileage marvels, let me say here that I DO. I find them remarkable, and somewhat freakish in a good way. They will always be more collectible and valuable than my own cars. If collectible is what you're after, then by all means, find one like this and seal it away in a Ziplock bag for 25-30 years. For sheer monetary value, I suppose you can't beat this formula. But for the pleasure you can have with a VW, this is empty and unfulfilling. For me?? I'd rather use mine. Sure, Vernon got most of his use in the first 25 years of his life. After he began aging and since his restoration, he doesn't get used much. Admired, yes, but not actually used. But he DOES get driven and I don't keep track of the mileage other than to make sure I don't exceed the limit allowed him yearly by my insurance company. I don't fret over that extra 8 miles it cost me to go a bit out of my way to avoid a nasty stretch of road, getting him from one point to another. I go, and try to enjoy the drive (as much as you can in a Type II!). To me, each extra mile is just added proof that Vernon is still anxious to do what he was built to do - GO. I do applaud this van's owners for not being in a hurry to remove the tiny dents it has, or to paint over the chips in the finish. This is the only character this vehicle has, and is reflective of its short history. I am glad too that it has found a happy and appreciative home with them - it's what all VW's deserve.

OK, I've had my say. Is there anyone out there that agrees with me, anyone at all? I am afraid I'm all-alone in this. But that's all right too. I have Vernon to keep me company, just like when I was a kid, all those years ago. AHHHH, it's so nice to have a friend.


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