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Story by Lois Grace

Mileage on a car is like gray hairs on a human. At least, to me it is. Not that I enjoy gray hairs, but I figure if I do have any I have earned each and every one. Gray hair means you’ve lived long enough (usually) to experience enough of life to know yourself. Gray hair means longevity. Gray hair means wisdom and knowledge; of yourself and others. If you have no gray hair you either must not have been around very long, or want to cover up the fact that you have been, something that I find vaguely distressing. Why not share your smarts and your experiences and your stories? Why on earth would anyone be ashamed to be wise, smart, and vintage?? True, you don’t have to look like you are, but why not admit it?? Babies are fun, yes, but they aren’t that interesting (unless your thing is drool and babble). It’s not a character aw. It’s because babies are new, and haven’t been here long enough to be interesting yet. New cars are like babies. Fun to look at and play with, but let’s not get one. There is lots of potential in a new car, as in a baby, but experiences and wisdom are still years down the road for both.

And, speaking of roads, here is how my theory applies to cars: I have never been a huge fan of vintage, low- mile-wonders. They are, to me, a sad example of what can happen if one has too much money, too much storage space, and not enough time to drive. What is a car for, anyway?? I like to think of my Volkswagens as mobile art. I like to drive, and I like to drive vintage VW’s. I’m not much for collecting things just for the sake of having them. I like to enjoy the things I collect, and take them out and play with them once in a while. Low mileage vintage cars have never been played with. They are 50-year-old babies, babies who get played with for a few minutes, then put away and forgotten for a long time. Or, if not forgotten, bragged about and doted on but never truly enjoyed. This is not to say that I am among those hardy and brave few who REALLY enjoy their vintage Volkswagens, by driving them in long-distance treks through snow, sleet, rain and every other sort of phenomenon Mother Nature can throw at them. No, I’m not such a hardy and brave soul. I’m also not 25 years old anymore and that could be part of the reason why my bravado is, frankly, worn out. I value my life and limbs the way I value my Volkswagens: healthy and in one piece. But I sure admire those who put foot to the door (in their vintage VW) in December and drive up a mountain to camp for 3 days. The Volkswagens these folks drive are the ones with the gray hairs. These are the coveted Bugs and Buses (and, probably, other models as well) who have experienced life to the fullest and probably have more than 200,000 miles on the clock (even if it’s not the original engine) These are the VW’s that are truly loved and cherished. And, there is the other side of this coin as well.

Way back in the early 80’s Rob and I began going to every VW show we could find. Mostly because I wanted to (and he really liked the swap meets) but also because I was hoping to and some stuff for Vernon. I still cherished the hope that Vern would be restored someday and I wanted to see what kind of parts were still out there for an old beat up Single Cab. Then, as now, these shows drew all kinds of people. One group we consistently ran into at the shows out here on the West coast where what were rumored to be “foreign investors”. These folks all seemed to be (from what I could tell) from Japan, and they were as easy to spot at a VW show as a tattoo on Martha Stewart. They were always in a large group, with the men walking in front and the women following behind them, looking bored. All of them were dressed impeccably, and by that I mean in 3-piece suits! It didn’t matter what time of day it was, or when the show was held: these guys wore Armani to a car show, be it the middle of July or on a rainy Sunday in January. The women were usually decked out in their own designer clothes, with only the very best of everything. They seemed to speak little English, and had an interpreter with them, who would ask the questions. They would casually stroll the show car field, seeing what was there and if it were for sale. If an offer on a particular car was made and accepted (which seemed to happen frequently and out of the blue, oddly enough), they paid in vast wads of cash. These “investors” and their entourage would tour the entire show, stopping now and then to have their interpreter ask a vehicle owner something. Sometimes, they stayed for quite a while asking questions. And, more rarely, sometimes the car they inquired about stayed behind at the show once the event was over - the supposed sale being analyzed. As the tale went, it was said these investors had been buying Volkswagens for export to Japan. Apparently, vintage VW’s were so rare in Japan that entire groups of people would come here to buy up as many nice ones as they could, to take back. Once there, I heard they were sometimes set up in their own little rooms and displayed like fine art, never to be driven again. I have no idea if this story is true or not. There is likely some truth in all of this, somewhere. Probably more often, these cars were resold at a tidy pro t to some Japanese buyer to enjoy. I do know that a friend of mine sold his award-winning ‘57 Oval to a Japanese man that shipped it back to Japan. I don’t know what became of the car once it got there, or how it was used or not used. Maybe it was set up in it’s own little life-size “display case”, to be admired anonymously forever. Or, perhaps it got a new home with an owner who adored it, and drove it whenever he or she could. I’d prefer to think that was the case, rather than to think that these poor cars who had enjoyed such a busy and active life here in the States would simply be allowed to sit idle for many years, with its’ odometer going nowhere.

It doesn’t matter to me where it’s driven, as long as it gets out now and then for some fresh air. Does a VW deserve any less?? I don’t think so.

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