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Story and Photography by Lois Grace

For you non-Latin-speaking readers out there, that means "Time Flies". And, sometimes while it's flying about, it reaches out and smacks you in the face, as it did to me this morning. On the way to work, time reached out its long arm and slapped me in the face. I've found this is happening more and more now that I'm - ahem - getting older. Suddenly I feel a LOT older.

I was listening to a CD I'd gotten for Christmas, "On the Third Day" by Electric Light Orchestra. I have many fond memories associated with this recording, as I first heard it when my husband Rob and I were dating. I think it might have been one of the first cassette tapes he bought after installing a clunky little cassette tape player under the dash in his '69 Beetle. The Beetle's name was Humphrey, and that car was responsible in large part for me buying my own '69 Beetle, Bogart. But I digress.

Another of my Christmas gifts this year was a t shirt honoring the 20th anniversary of the GTi. Twenty years?? Surely that can't be possible. If you remember that the GTi first began in "Rabbit format", then it is indeed possible. All this got me to thinking (one of my flaws):

When my husband and I met, there were no such things as DVD's, CD's, VCR's, cell phones or Golfs. Although I don't remember the actual cost, I'm sure gasoline was so cheap per gallon then that the stations probably paid US to fill up. I remember well, waiting in the long ridiculous lines of the 1970's "gas crisis", but the gas we waited hours to get was still cheaper than a gallon of milk. Imagine that! Now we pay $3 and more per gallon, but don't have to wait to get it. At that time, Volkswagen was still building the Beetle, for crying out loud! In fact, VW still built the venerable Bug when we got married, and didn't cease production of it until the year we bought our house, 2 years later. The Rabbit hadn't yet begun prowling the streets at this time, and it was not unusual to see new Beetles with dealer plates cruising by. Geesh! I feel so old.

A lot has happened since Volkswagen built the first Beetle, but perhaps even more has transpired since the first GTi arrived. Plasma TV. Cell phones. Recording devices. Unheard-of medical advancements, including CT scans. Microwave ovens. Recycling. Hybrid vehicles. COMPUTERS. The knowledge advancement in the last 30 years is astounding. The differences in our lives since then is even greater.

But, consider what was going on when the Beetle first appeared. W.W.II was just beginning to flare up, and Hitler decided he needed to control the world. And, in pursuit of that end, he also thought a "car for the masses" might make him wildly popular among the German people, while giving them something they badly needed: affordable personal transportation. So, he commandeered DR Porsche's idea for a People's Car as his own, and production began on the Beetle. Imagine the surprise of the folks who first saw this car! Small, with the engine in the wrong end, and AIR COOLED! The world had never seen anything like it before. I'm sure it caused a huge uproar when it first appeared. In my opinion, no car since that time has ever rivaled the uniqueness of the Beetle; not the import of millions of cheaply-produced Japanese cars, not the hybrids one can buy today, and certainly not the bloated (and silly, just my opinion again) SUV. There is no other car ever built that has even come close to duplicating the popularity and sheer "difference" of the Beetle. And because of that, the Beetle deserves a place in history as the genuine icon it is.

The arrival of the Beetle opened the doors for the other small cars to follow. In a word, it created the small car market. Sure, there were small cars before the Beetle, such as the American-made Crosley, but none of them ever achieved the popularity enjoyed by the Bug. Why didn't they?? Who knows. Perhaps it was a case of poor timing or marketing. Maybe it was that the Beetle was "the complete package" and the rest of these small cars simply were lacking something the public felt was essential. Maybe it was simply because the companies that produced them didn't have the resources to produce and sell millions of them. I'm sure marketing executives could analyze this and give us all an accounting. All I know (and I suspect other might feel the same way) is that none of these cars even came close to the Bug's pet-like appeal. Yes, it probably boils down to looks. How sad is that?!? The Crosley was a cute little devil, but not cute enough to avoid being overcome by the Beetle's "adorability factor". The Mini Cooper, MG and Bug Eye Sprite all came later so they can't even be counted. Too bad, they are all so darned cuddly.

I don't know why all of this just suddenly occurred to me. Maybe it's that time is not bypassing me either, as I am realizing how old I'm getting. Funny, if I look in the mirror it sure seems like I'm getting older, but sometimes I still feel like a kid. And, if I open the garage door and stare at my two Volkswagens out there, time stands still. THEY haven't changed at all. One of them is now nearly as old as me but will always remain an automotive Dorian Gray, thanks to me being born first. The other is my "newest" vintage VW, at 37 years old. I've owned this car since 1975, and it's still hard for me to believe that we both have aged at all. (haha) So much water under the bridge, yet so much more to come.

I guess, all things considered, we all age at the same rate. Yet, our Volkswagens remain forever frozen in time and either youthful or lovingly reborn as such. Either way, it's hard to get old when your vintage vehicles don't. The cost of restoring a human has to be more than good body and paint work, right? But after a few more years, I just might think about it! Hey, if Vernon can have his face lifted, I suppose I could do the same.

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