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THE MEANING OF VW LIFE, or, HAVE YOU CONVERTED YET??
Story by Lois Grace


In keeping with a 90's Volkswagen ad campaign, how do you define FAHRVERGNUGEN? Choose which apply from the list below:

1) Pleasurable experience obtained only by driving a VW
2) Pleasurable experience obtained only by driving a vintage VW
3) Warm fuzzy feelings experienced upon receipt of letters and goodies
from far-away VW pals
4) The arrival in the household of a new member of the VW family
5) All of the above

What prompted all this? It's been a busy few weeks at our house lately. But, in the middle of all this hubbub, I've had time to make up a little quiz for you. What wakes you up in the middle of the night? What demands to be fed when empty? What can cost an arm and a leg, only to sit around all day doing nothing? What makes you forget your work in the middle of the day, causing you to lapse into daydreams and ponder its future? When you get a couple minutes to sit down, what can make you jump up again to tend to its every need? Then, just as it gets OLDER, what constantly requires your money to keep it going? Give up?

Those of you who will do well on this quiz are most likely parents. But, parents of WHAT? I'm not talking KIDS here. Yes, we've had a Blessed Event at our house recently, but the "baby" weighed in at over 1800 pounds, took ME home that night, and is already 55 years old. The Perfect Child, I'd say. After wanting convertible for ages, I now find myself in the enviable position of being Suitably Converted. My newest boy, Oscar, came home a month ago and is a 1958 Volkswagen Bug convertible. He's black, with a black top, and for his age, is in remarkably well-preserved original condition. His arrival changed a few things within our family, as new babies usually do.

For one thing, I'm a Type II person. Vernon has been my first love for as long as I can remember, and that goes back a considerable way. I've always had a weakness for the Type II Bus Faces, and if it happens to have a pickup bed attached to the rear, count me gone. As anyone who has been following my ramblings for any length of time knows, Vernon was my dream come true. My daily driver, Bogart, is a wonderful little fella, but he's NEW. He's a 1969 model, and while not what you'd call the latest, he's still new when you're talking in terms of Vintage VW's. So, Oscar was a bit of a shock. The steering wheel isn't flat! He has a BACK SEAT. The gas filler is under the hood! He drives like Vernon but is shaped like Bogart! And, strangest of all, he can actually flip his lid!

I hadn't done too much thinking about WHAT convertible I wanted when I found Oscar. I knew I wanted a Bug convertible, but that leaves about 189 years' worth of bug convertibles to choose from for me. So, when Oscar smiled at me, I smiled back, but I wasn't sure he was THE one. Nevertheless, I call about him that night and drove him the next day. I wasn't radically impressed - his muffler leaked like a sieve and his steering felt a bit like it was connected with rubber bands. The brakes were mushy. He had no taillights - after sitting out for sale for one day, they had been stolen. Heck, he only had one license plate! But there was something there that called to me - he looked at me as if he was hoping I'd want to take him home. It had been a while since anyone CARED about him - sure, they'd done all the right things, more or less, but no one CARED. Pretty soon, I stopped making excuses and I bought him.

How did he become Oscar? Well, he needed a name, that much was obvious, and after all, he IS an older gentleman who wears a black toupee, so we had to be careful. "Dudley" came to mind. But, the day after he came home I went out to greet him, and OSCAR looked back. It was that easy, and his name proved to be comical, yet dignified. He seems happy with it. Vernon and Bogart tried to make him feel welcome, but I think Vern in particular was a bit bewildered. He was used to being the only Vintage Beast in the house, and this new one didn't even have a ROOF. What the heck??

Convertibles are funny. They love attention. The first day I drove him someone wanted to buy him from me at a stoplight. It seems as though you are more VISIBLE in a convertible; they're almost a state of mind. You're sitting right out there in the wind and the sun and the smog. Everyone around you can hear your radio. You can hear their kids cry. Birds talk to you as they fly over, smells are more potent. The sun is warm on you but the breeze is cool. It's easy to get sunburned and in nearly every convertible I'll bet you'll find sunglasses, sunscreen and a Chapstick. It's more like riding on a roller coaster than driving a car. Even parking is different. You don't just lock the doors and walk away. You have to put the TOP up first. And here in California, who would ever think of driving around with the top up- to begin with? There's a lot to learn about this, and how to Convertible Conduct oneself.

This all sounds like tremendous fun, but be aware, converting is not without its hazards, and the most obvious hazard is the sun. Sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat can easily handle this obstacle, but you'd think that if you needed to apply all the foregoing equipment just to drive the car, why not just put the top up an forget the rest? Because you'd look like a dweeb, that's why. The same way you'd look like a dweeb if you put the top and roll all the windows up! It's dangerous in California to be seen doing this. So, I smear on the sunscreen, and tie my hair back and grease up with Chapstick, all for the privilege of being out in the elements.

Another hazard might be flying debris, although I haven't personally experienced this phenomenon. Suppose the guy in front of you tosses out a cup? Are you going to get the ice in your face? Or, YUCK, maybe they get tired of that chewing gum - let's hope they're not smokers either. But, I'm willing to face these horrors if it means being Converted.

One of the best things about a convertible is that there is a lot of nifty stuff on them. Take the rear view mirror for example. The mirror and the visors are connected, all one unit, but the mirror itself is on a swivel. With the top up, the mirror swivels down to see out through the back window. Put the top down, and when it's folded it stick up so high you can't see easily over it. Then, the mirror swivels up, so you can see over the folded top. Leave it to those clever Germans to come up with something like this. The front hood locks from inside, so that when the top is down you can lock valuables in the trunk. Getting into the trunk requires the key to unlock the knob. Really clever. The grab straps for the back seat hang from the frame of the top, then neatly tuck into the top when it's folded down so they don't show. They don't get caught in the frame as you are folding it either, as you might think, since they are located far enough forward to miss the hinge. I know, I know, engineers get paid to do stuff like this, but it still amazes me. You should see the window rubber. Now, about now you are asking yourself, "How on EARTH can she get so excited about window rubber?", but you have to see this to fully appreciate it. The window rubber perfectly grooved to fit with the chrome trim on the windows, so that when you roll up the windows, nothing leaks. And the structural support in the body is a work of art as well, blending in without being obvious. I could go on for days about how clever the top itself is, but I don't want to bore you. All in all, quite a work of art, worthy of the VW name.

So, every weekend since his arrival, I've spent at least one day cleaning or painting or replacing something. And, with Rob's generous help, we've managed to get Oscar more than presentable. Once the bad weather hits, he will go live with a friend, indoors in his barn with others of his kind. I'm sure I will miss him, but I've promised Vernon he doesn't have to give up his spot in our garage for Oscar. So, to keep peace between the siblings, small sacrifices are mad. And, from now on, I will be a Type II fanatic who also happens to have adopted a convertible. And I say, when it comes to Fahrvergnugen, the more the merrier.

VolksWoman

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