now going to admit what all of you
have probably guessed: I'm an
odd breed of old car lover.
I come by it honestly; it's in my
genes. My dad was this way too.
Don't give us any normal old kind
of collectible car. I want something
really unusual, something out of the
ordinary. Dad was the same way
- he always wanted one of what he'd
never had before. And, preferably,
one of what nobody else had.
And, if he'd never even SEEN one of
the particular breed before, that
was even better. He bought a
brand new 1957 Bug at a time when
hardly anyone knew what they were.
He bought Vernon; when we all thought
all he wanted was a pickup truck.
Hahaha. I mean, he didn't just
go out and buy an old Chevy or a Ford
or something normal, he bought VERN.
(thank goodness) Now, try to
imagine what Vernon must have looked
like to someone who'd never seen an
old VW truck before. I wouldn't
call Vernon exactly something that
you'd go out searching to find.
But Dad did. And, when he and Vernon
arrived home, everyone shook their
heads, said "there he goes again"
and shuffled off, disappointed that
Dad hadn't come back with that old
Chevy. Everyone but me, that
is. Nah, not me, no siree. I
was right there, in the front and
only seat, admiring Vernon's quirkiness.
Little did I know that this was to
begin my long love of Volkswagens,
the odd, the unloved , and the downright
Shortly after Vernon came home, Dad
got an itch for an NSU Prinz.
Why, I have no idea, but he went out
and bought a new one. Ever seen
one of these? It was so small
that my brother and his friends could
pick it up and turn it sideways in
the garage. Dad didn't always appreciate
this. It was rear-engined, like
the VW, and I think it may have been
a 2 cylinder. Riding in it felt
sort of like being taken for a spin
in a blender, and sounded much the
same. It was great! Dad
had it a couple years, then sold it
to a friend, after he got tired of
digging it out from under the workbench
to go to work. Thinking of the
little NSU brought all of these other
"ugly cousin" cars to mind.
It takes a special kind of person
to fully appreciate these. They often
get ignored or laughed at car shows,
or at the very least, are made to
endure thoughtless comments from bystanders.
The poor Edsel owners. And,
on a par with them, the Corvair people.
My sister is a Corvair person, and
while not as weird as me, she'll defend
to the death her beloved '65 Monza.
As well she should. Not every unusual
car was a complete and total useless
failure. Our own much-loved
Bug suffered its shard of ridicule
when it arrived here, all those years
ago. Even though the VW has
proven itself, over and over again,
there are still those who love to
snort about the old "pregnant
roller skate" joke within
hearing of us VW fiends.
There's a lot of weirdo cars out there
I'd love to add to my VW menagerie.
Almost anything made by Studebaker
in the late '40's would qualify as
these cars had loads of what I like
to call Ugly Car Appeal. Simple styling,
and sturdy, sensible looks get me
every time. Another one I'd
love to get my hands on (for
sheer unusuality, mind you) would
be a Trabant. Never heard of
this, you say? Well, that could
be because they never sold them here.
The poor Trabant, East Germany's joke
on itself. And, as such, it's
appeal is high on t he VolksWoman
scale of Wantability. GIMME
ONE, right now. I'd love to
have one of these critters,
plastic body , 2-cylinder engine and
all. WOW. What a find that would
be. Imagine driving into a Concours
with this thing on a trailer!
It would have to be on a trailer,
since it couldn't be driven legally
anywhere in the U.S. - it pollutes
so badly there isn't any way to make
it street legal. But who cares?
What fun that would be! I wouldn't
mind if I could never drive it - the
looks alone would be worth having
it. Yes, I could put up with
all the jokes and snide comments -
provided anyone even knew what it
was or its heritage. For, as
far as looks go, it really is rather
unremarkable. The photos I've
seen show a very square and boxy body,
with a flat plain humdrum little face
in the front. There is nothing
there to spoil the utilitarian appeal
of the thing, as it were. But,
the Trabant in its native habitat
was SO ugly, So poorly built, they
are now recycling them into flowerpots
and carpet backing. Seems they are
worth more dead than alive.
So, even in death, the Trabi continues
to distinguish itself with service.
Talk about social redemption!
The article I read on the Trabant
went on to say that if one broke down
somewhere, it was usually given up
for dead, right there on the
spot. No time or money was wasted
fixing the poor thing, so the former
East German countryside is now littered
with Trabis, all waiting their turn
to be recycled. Sounds like
MY kind of car, for sure. And,
in East Germany at the time,
if you wanted a car, you had your
choice of the Trabant or something
called a WARTBURG. Now, I as
you: which one would YOU choose?
You wanna be the first on your block
to bring home a brand new, shiny WARTBURG?
Forever after, you wanna be the one
who goes into Kragen's and asks for
spark plugs for a 1990 WARTBURG?
I think not, although by the name
alone, I probably should add this
to my Collectible list too.
Most folks opted for a Trabant, which
is now a good thing for the flowerpot
and carpet industries. In 1991,
when the last Trabant rolled off the
assembly line, it went straight into
a museum. Volkswagen jumped
in and took over part of the remaining
plant. But don't hold your breath
for any VW/Trabant hybrids.
The Trabi is gone for good.
Which is exactly why I want one.
American Motors. Now, THERE'S
and name that will go down in automotive
history. My tastes run more
to the Nash years, rather than the
Gremlin, Pacer and Marlin of the American
Motors years. But they are all contenders.
It occurred to me once that Nash must
have had a great deal of Design Impaired
Engineers working for them, to turn
out al of these horridly ugly vehicles.
But in their ugliness, they also rate
high on the Wantability Scale.
Nash will forever be remembered as
being the carmaker made famous for
building some of the ugliest cars
in the world. Great, huge, hulking
steel bathtubs, turned upside down
, they were. Upside down tubs,
with God-awful paint schemes and faces
only another Nash (or quite possibly,
ME) could love. And, because
of this, I WANT A NASH. Actually,
I'd love a Metropolitan convertible
to keep Oscar company - they're almost
as cute and cuddly as VW's themselves.
The Metro looks just like a shrunken
version of that big behemoth Nash
- whatever that one was. If
I am ever so lucky as to stumble across
one of these, in station wagon form,
I won't be able to resist. I'll
just tell Rob that it followed me
home. AHHHHH, another dream
come true - the Ugliest Car in America,
in MY garage.
Another homely car I did resist and
am now sorry about was a BMW Isetta.
I found one in a VW used parts yard,
and fell in love. He wanted
$300 for it and I almost jumped on
it. Sadly, I let this one get
away because it had been rolled and
I felt I could not give it the proper
attention it required. It was
green and white, and the much-coveted
2+2 body. It was a two-door
: one in the face and one on the right
side. HEAVY SIGH. Alas,
this poor Isetta was later given to
a friend of mine, who could not sell
it either and it ended up being -
GASP - crushed. I will forever
regret its terrible fate. In
another vein, how about the Tucker?
While not truly ugly, it suffered
the fate of all unloved old cars.
It really was ahead of its time -
from the revolutionary third headlight
that turned with the steering wheel,
to the helicopter engine in the rear,
it was quite an engineering marvel.
Too bad The Big 3 pushed Tucker Motors
under before anyone had a chance to
buy them. I could see this in
my Dream Garage too................................
Bet you think I've just about exhausted
my memory of ugly cars, huh? Wrong!
Now, I would be remiss if I
didn't mention at least one member
of the Citroen species. Specifically,
the 2CV. Now, there are those
who would claim that this car rivals
the Nash for the All-Time Ugly Car
award, but I say they're about equal.
The 2CV, if early enough, has the
added advantage of a wooden framed
body with reinforced canvas
body panels! Now THAT's odd
enough for me! Any new Citroen
would find itself right up there with
the Best of the Weird as well.
But, I think I may be forced to limit
my Odd Auto Collecting to pickup
trucks. It's what I know best,
and would keep my Weirdo Meter from
running completely amuck. Yes,
a nice sturdy, complete Studebaker
truck would do me just fine, thank
you. And, while I'm at it, why
not a Hudson Terraplane pickup.
And, I'd settle for a nice snazzy
REO Speedwagon too. What can
I say? I'm a truck kind of person.
Also, that way, maybe Vernon wouldn't
feel like such an outcast sometimes.
VW did some pretty ugly stuff early
on too. The Hebmuller and Rometsch
come to mind, but I won't go into
that because I happen to believe both
of these are actually pretty darned
handsome. But that's by VolksWoman
standards, which are by no means indicative
of the general view. And, I
don't look forward to getting hate
mail form all the VW coachbuilt lovers
out there so I won't continue.
But the Kubelwagen gave birth to the
Type 181, the poor Thing. It's
close enough to a truck that I'd love
one, if you're giving them away.
heck I might even be persuaded to
buy one someday.
Last, but not least by any means,
my Wish List should include an old
Saab. Now, I had a relatively
new Saab - a 1978 99GLE - and it's
a fine car. It has a certain
character and flair of its own, but
these old guys really attract me.
I'm sure it's the Ugly Factor at work
again, since most early Saabs owners
were forced to drive them wearing
bags over their heads. Hardly
a soul could stand to look upon these
creatures. But oh, the wonderment
of a mighty V4 engine! It has
a certain VW-like silhouette, in that
hunchback sedan model that makes me
long for an old Saab 93 of my own.
It probably wouldn't take up much
room, really, and I think even my
"new" Saab could get used
to it being there. Because,
see, I'd have to have another '78
for my collection also.
Beauty truly is in the eye of the
beholder. If that eye belongs
to me, the uglier the better, really.
And, you could remain sure of one
thing with a vehicle like one of these:
they'd not be "just another pretty
face"! OK, ONE LAST request:
a Citroen. Yeah, a Citroen too,