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ODD CAR LOVER
Story by Lois Grace


I'm 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 WEIRD.  

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, OK?

VolksWoman

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