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Story by Lois Grace

WARNING: if the following gets too mushy for you, bear with me. Take heart and read on: what you find might reflect your own feelings about your VW, even if you're not ready right now to admit them.

If our cars are truly expressions of ourselves, then my car is saying great things about me. I consider Bogart, my '69 Bug, a sort of round, white, 1800-pound extension of myself. While I certainly don't need that extra weight, it' s nice to own a car that's telling the world some really good stuff. And what is Bogie saying? Well, among other things, that he's (and me, by extension, remember) round , cuddly, cute, and cheap. He's saying that he's noticed that the older he gets, the more people stop and want to look at him. I doubt this will happen to me as I get older but who cares. And, lastly, he's telling everyone that he's fun, and RELIABLE. After having owned (I hate saying this, since it sounds so, so.........materialistic or something) him for 20 years now, and after becoming truly interested in the inner workings of VW's, have I again found a vast admiration for this fine little fellow. He's a true credit to his Teutonic heritage. It's all enough to move me to tears.................".

OH NO, here she goes again", you're thinking. OK,I've got a grip. I'll continue. Anyway, I've always admired the Volkswagen's simplicity of design, but once I began driving our Saab on a regular basis, I've begun to appreciate the VW even more. The Saab is a great car, don't get me wrong. But let me explain why I was driving the Saab,instead of Bogie, if I admire VW's so much. It was in March, 1994 that my mechanical wizard, Steve, gave me the depressing news that Bogie's present engine probably would not last another 6 months. Bogie's old but very reliable 1600cc single port has a crack in the case, necessitating a (most likely) swift buildup of what can only be a brand-new engine, from the ground up. This news came 9 months ago. Bogie has now long since passed the critical 6 month mark. And, as his engine overhaul approaches, I have a new reason to love him: he hasn't blown up yet. I mean, like the Timex watch, he takes a licking and keeps on ticking. And, like the Energizer Bunny and your own VolksWoman, he keeps going, and going, and going....................

When Steve gave me this news, all I'd gone in for was a new clutch! GEEESH. Leave it to him to find something wrong. It's hard to have great confidence in a car - even one you've trusted with your very life on a daily basis for 20 years - if there's a danger that said car is liable to break down (in a BIG way) at just about any given moment. So, I began driving Bogie in nice weather, because, while I enjoy walking, I'm not truly wild about walking in the RAIN. Driving the Saab during all this rainy weather gave me a new appreciation for Saabs and their safe handling and their even safer size. Driving the Saab regularly also gave me biceps like Popeye. But since this isn't a SAAB story, I'll save it for the Saab newsletter.

Being of a frugal nature (read=cheap), I wanted to get as much mileage out of this ready-to-blow 1600 engine as I could, before we went and installed the new engine. And, in a perverse way, I guess I wanted to prove to Steve that he was wrong. Prove to him that even if there was a crack (the existence of which I am beginning to doubt), Bogart could successfully travel several months more, and end the life of this old engine in some ordinary and terribly dignified way. I just don't see this one giving up in any flamboyant manner, I truly don't. After all, look what they have to do to VW engines to make them blow up at car shows. I assure you, if I had a crack in MY block, I most definitely would not be perking happily along on my way to work. Heck, I've had migraines that felt like a cracked block must feel. For sure, I would not be out at 60MPH on a FREEWAY. Bogie manages to accomplish these things, and much more, with this dreadful Split Personality.

So, I continue to drive, and wait. I change his oil (he's using his customary amount,and leaking very little), and wait for the idiot lights to blink on, alerting me to the fact that the contents of my crankcase are now on the windshields of the guys behind me. I wait for some horrid, acrid odor to issue forth from the nether regions, confirming the fact that my once-useful Beetle has now been rendered into a very large bookend. I wait for the screech and clatter of broken metal to tell me that parts aren't just parts; when smashed against each other rapidly, parts become junk. And, to date, I'm STILL waiting. It's OK, it really is. It's OK if Bogie still wants to go. I don't mind waiting. The longer it takes, the more convinced I become that the air-cooled VW, in its purest form, is one of the finest vehicles ever conceived by man (or woman)kind. They don't build cars like this anymore. Any of you old enough (and clear headed enough) to remember the 70's might think of Neil Young and his song right about now: "Long may you run, long may you run.............with your chrome heart shining, in the sun, long may you run." SNIFF. It's enough to.............you know............oh heck. WAHHHHH! Pardon me. I'm such a sap.

Then engine Swap Day arrived, after a brief spell when I drove Bogart with very low oil pressure and a queasy feeling of doom. I got up one morning, noticed a black oily sheen on the left rear fender and I knew: it was time. I think both Bogie and I knew we could get away with this "driving-him-till-he-drops" scenario, until that day. Once the oil pressure became uncooperative and the oil began preferring the fender to the crankcase, there was no reason not to forge ahead with the transplant. I drove Bogie to Steve's shop, where the long block had been delivered for completion a few days before. Things were ready to roll, and after leaving him in good hands, I went on my way. A few days later Steve called me, saying he had plans to put the new engine in and start it that very night. Did I want to be there for the big moment? Of course, there was no question!

I really wanted to document this moment on film, so I grabbed the camera and headed over there after work. The big moment came later that evening, when the new engine was in and ready to go - I turned the key while Steve stood guard at the rear. The engine turned once, twice, and on the third try fired up. It was pretty exciting - Bogie's first new engine in over 20 years, and it was running! Brown smoke filled the garage, the roar of new parts finding their niche filled the air. Steve fiddled with timing and adjustments, and I danced and shrieked with glee. I know, it's not a pretty picture, me making a fool of myself in this manner, but I couldn't help myself. I know engine transplants happen all the time, but every time I've been involved with this , it always hits me the same way. It's a miracle! I know they pay people huge sums of money to engineer things so they actually do whatever it is they're supposed to, but it's always amazing to actually see something like this in action. I've never lost that amazement, and I hope I never do. Within a half hour of getting Bogie going with his new engine, Steve and I were driving off down the road on a test drive.

This new engine was really something - so smooth, so quiet, so powerful! I hadn't realized how sick my old engine had been till I drove the new one. That's typical of VW's though, even though compromised, they'll still go. And, my old engine was no beater, it had just outlived it's usefulness. It sure was hard convincing IT of that fact, however. It wanted to go and go, and it did seem sort of a shame to rip it out of there while it was still running. But after a week or so of driving the new engine, I'm sure glad we did the trade. Why wait till it actually blows and have to tow it in? Why wait till it blows and have that oily mess to clean up? As it was, I replaced all the black sound deadener in the engine compartment - I can imagine how gross this would have been had it been greasier than it was. And, now that's it been almost 3 months, I'm wishing I'd done MORE. More horsepower! The new engine is a 1600cc single port, with balanced crank and lightened flywheel, semi hemi-cut heads, stock size pistons and cylinders. This whole combo works VERY well, runs like a clock and will probably last me forever. Once I got used to the pep this new engine had, I wanted MORE. But realistically, if this engine lasts me 20 years the way the first one did, that'll be good enough for me. I have to remind myself not to get greedy at this point in time. Twenty more years with my little buddy would be REALLY nice. Life is GOOD.

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