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MACHO DRIVER
Story by Lois Grace


I have a strange thing to admit: I've always been sort of a "Macho Driver". You know, not wimpy, not hesitant. I'm a sort of grab-it-by-the-hair and GO sorta driver. You want examples? Well, OK, you know, no hill-holder clutch for me. No shifting down for corners for me. No waiting for a full 5 minutes and checking all mirrors 14 times before I change lanes. I don't fill the tank when it says it's 1/4 full. I think you get the idea? This is not to say I'm an unsafe driver. No, to me this just means I don't let opportunity pass me by. Rob prefers to call this the VolksWoman School of Offensive Driving. I don't call this kind of driving offensive, I call it macho. And, as all you who regularly drive VW's already know, it's very hard to drive macho in a Volkswagen. I mean, they just don't lend themselves well to being pushy and aggressive. If you try, the strongest reaction you'll get from other drivers will be peals of hysterical laughter. Driving macho in my younger years meant SPEED. I had friends who knew guys with Fun Cars - fat tires, fancy paint jobs and BIG horsepower. Boy, that was great. I wasn't content to just get rides home with these guys. Nah, I wanted to own the car. Now, since I'm a bit older and (supposedly) a whole lot wiser, it means just enjoying the driving experience.

To do that, it means no longer having to prove anything. It means just me and the car, out on the road, having fun. And, if it weren't for all the other idiots out there on the road with their cars, it'd BE fun. Hahahaha. Enjoying the driving experience can mean many things - while the faster-is-better aspect certainly sounds fun, it can also be really gratifying to merely hum along a road somewhere, enjoying your machine's movement. With a Volkswagen, that movement doesn't usually translate into anything really quick. Take Vernon, for instance. Given his rather large, bulbous and ungainly shape, speed has never been his strong point. And, since I don't drive him regularly anymore, Fahrvergnugen is not one of the things that comes to mind when first taking off down the road in him, after not driving him for many weeks. No, sweaty palms, shaky knees and a healthy respect for modern safety devices spring instantly to thought. I know why: it's because after commuting to work in something a bit more, uh, substantial, the experience of driving a non-VW makes one a bit more relaxed. Once Vernon is moving, however, all thoughts of my own imminent mortality leave me and I'm transported (get it? transported??) back to a simpler time. A time when windows slid back instead of rolled up. A time when there was no need for a front seat to move in 15 bazillion different directions, all orthopedic. A time when a brake light was a mere red speck on the rump of the beast, no bigger than the palm of my hand. A time when 36 horsepower could easily get you anywhere you wanted to go and no one tailgated or honked at you for doing it, because they all had cars like this too. All this, and the entire 9 feet behind the cab was a PICKUP! Who could ask for anything more?

Bogart (my '69 Bug) is better, but only by a small margin. Bogie was built by 1969 standards, which at that time, were most admirable, I'm sure. But by 1995 standards, Bogie is a bit wimpy. Oh, all RIGHT! Even by 1969 standards, Bogie was/is wimpy. But it didn't matter so much in 1969, since most Bogarts were owned and driven by folks who spent most of their time in an herb-induced stupor. At 1600cc and roughly 60 horsepower, Bogart is easily overpowered by the 200+ horsepower machines that try to drive over him on a daily basis. For example, we have a new freeway here in San Jose. It connects the north part of our city to the south part, where I live. This freeway is generally thought of by those of us who use it in glowing terms, as having been sent by the gods, but in reality it was built with genuine taxpayer money. Either way, it's been a great thing. I did find several serious flaws in it soon after it opened: for one, the police have been told never to drive on this freeway, and for another, all other drivers seem to agree that they must travel at least 95MPH. So, that of course means Volkswagens need not attempt to use this road. When they opened it, they forgot to put up the little signs at each on ramp, the signs with a Beetle profile and a red circle with a line through it. Well, that little oversight of theirs meant Bogie and I could now try out the new freeway, same as everyone else. So, I got on to go to work and was immediately run over by several large, foreign-looking luxury cars. Hahaha. OK, not run over, but they did attempt to scare poor Bogie out of his wits by running right up on his rear and lashing their lights.

What this did accomplish was to create a general attitude of hatred between us, and leave me to shake my head and wonder what I'd done wrong. And this in the RIGHT lane. You can imagine what it was like in the far left lane. So, as a result of this horribly rude behavior, I had to call our local newspaper columnist and ask if the "85" posted on this freeway was really the NAME of the freeway or was this the SPEED LIMIT. He thought this was hysterically funny and printed my name in the newspaper the next day. He did not, however, print me as "Lois Grace, Volkswagen driver." Which is probably a very good thing, since then everyone would have nodded sagely and said to themselves, "AH HA. That explains it all."

We already know that speed is not one of the ways that VW's distinguish themselves. And, we also know very well that the VW doesn't NEED speed to make its mark on the automotive world. Our humble little machine has already gone own in history merely by being what it is: a simply made and easily repaired, reliable car. So we won't belabor the point. Unless you want to. No? OK, I thought not. But there are ways to get around being humble and simple and easy to repair, should you wish to try them out. There are ways to turn your mild-mannered Volkswagen into SuperBug. I've known people who've done this. It isn't even that hard- you just take out the old, wimpy, under powered engine and bolt in some new power plant. One person I knew that did this took out the perfectly good (but wimpy and under powered) 40hp engine in his '65 convertible Bug, and bolted up a Porsche 914 2.3 liter monster. This Porsche-morph motor matched perfectly the new persona of this convertible, and allowed him ( and his owner) to act MUCH younger than they really were. Now, mind you, this is not always a good idea, since the Bug on the receiving end of all this horsepower had problems afterwards that no self-respecting stock Bug would admit to. So, there ARE prices to pay for messing around with the way the VW factory designed things.

They did it for a reason and these reasons are usually very good ones. Sometimes, even if you do beef up your Beetle, people will still give you trouble. I think it has something to do with the packaging. To me, it's sorta like putting Godiva chocolates into an M&M bag. I mean, take away that fancy gold foil box and the ribbon, and what's in there? Chocolate. Right? Even if you change your VW's heart and soul, he's still going to be wrapped in that cute, cuddly, lovable Bug Shape. So, if you choose to turn your mild-mannered VW into a contender, then be aware that this tactic can backfire.

Yes, driving a VW takes some special training. I learned these secret maneuvers at the hands of my dad, who believed in early education. I took my first lessons in Vernon, driving, when I was 12 years old. Dad taught me the finer points of Volkswagening, not the least of which was the fact that with 36 horsepower, you don't pull out into traffic in front of ANYONE. Not even the paper boy on his chwinn. No, you had to have a "good head of steam up" (Dad had been in the Navy) before you could pull out in front of anyone. During those early days of driving, I heard that four-letter word hollered more times than I can remember: WAIT!!! Dad would yell, and I'd stomp on the brakes. Vernon would lurch to a stop and once again, the world was a safer place. I learned how to steer a VW too. This meant steering with one hand, while the other hand shifted gears, turned on headlights and did hand signals out the window. (When hand-signaling, it was important to remember to change hands on the wheel.) Dad made sure I knew all this stuff because even in those days Vernon was so old that no one noticed that his 6 volt blinkers even worked. When I graduated to a Real VW (i.e., Bogart) VW driving became a bit easier, even though it also became quite a bit more hazardous. Because, in addition to blinkers that really worked and gears that would shift without griping came 20 extra horsepower. I think this is about the time I ecame a Macho Driver. With that extra 20 hp, I could easily pull right out in front of oncoming traffic and not have to worry about becoming someones' hood ornament. The paper boy no longer feared me, because by the time he pedaled close to our street I was long gone around the corner. I could also travel comfortably on the freeway. Being somewhat lower in Bogart than in Vern, I could pull into a drive-through window of any variety and actually pick up my order without dislocating my shoulder. But power quickly went to my head, and I had to be put in my place several times before I came once again to my senses and realized how foolish I'd become. So don't make the same goofs I did. Trust me and brush up on your own Volkswagening, before you or your beloved Bug get hurt. Trust me.

As Volkswagen drivers, we are all put to the test on a daily basis. Usually it is nothing more than someone getting the best of us, as we try to mind our own business. It can get bad enough that we are treated as if we are invisible to the driving public. If you drive a white VW, you'll know what I mean. I think the vast majority of drivers out there would much prefer to not have to share the road with our little friends, and it comes through in their antagonistic attitudes towards us. But, in the interest of sanity (and due to the high cost of retaining a lawyer) it is always best to turn the other fender when someone does you wrong. It also tends to be much more relaxing just enjoying your car while driving it, instead of constantly getting into situations where you find you have to prove how great it is. If the guy wants in front of you that badly, let him go! He'll laugh to himself and think it was his obviously superior vehicle that put your little Bug in its place, but you'll know the truth. Crassness before Cuteness. Girth before Greatness. Destructibility before Durability. Who cares? Besides, just think: 100,000 miles down the road, everyone else will be in the same place: the JUNKYARD. Your Volkswagen will just be nicely broken in.

VolksWoman

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