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Story by Lois Grace

It bothers me a great deal to hear vintage enthusiasts loudly proclaiming their loyalty to the New Beetle - what's up with that? In the process of admiring the New Beetle and touting all its advantages, some want to point out all the "flaws" of the original. I don't necessarily think a VW fan needs to be "one or the other", but isn't a small measure of devotion to your primary car of interest in order here? In other words, you USED to be a vintage VW freak, what happened to that?? I'll be the first one to admit the New Beetle is way cool. They hit the styling nail smack dab on the head when they built this one. Just retro enough to appeal to us die-hard vintage fans, it's also cutting-edge chic with modern touches throughout (including the latest safety devices) and sleek aero ,dynamic styling. But I doubt very much that the New Beetle will have the rabid cult following that its older sibling enjoys. I haven't seen any car do that since the Real Beetle faded away in the late 70's. But where is it written that you must insult the original in order to admire the newcomer?

Real Beetle and New Beetle owners should be able to co-exist happily in a hobby that includes so many different VW types and their related admirers. After all, who gave Volkswagen the feedback it needed to build the New Beetle? It wasn't the thousands of Nissan, Honda, and Toyota owners! It was US, the vintage VW crowd! We, the owners of the Real Thing, knew a New Beetle and its owner would be warmly and enthusiastically received by us. The world was ready for a New Beetle (even though I still wish t èhey'd given this car a Real Name)! WE were the ones who told them, "If you build it, we will buy it." And, some of us vintage enthusiasts did buy it. But some Nissan, Honda and Toyota owners (and a few others too, I suspect) also bought it. As "off-brand" foreign car owners, some of these new New Beetle people need a gentle education in the VW hobby they bought into.

Volkswagen owners have always enjoyed a certain individuality. When the first Beetle hit these shores in 1949, it was the complete, total opposite of what everyone was buying and driving at the time. With no fins, hardly any chrome and a tiny air-cooled REAR mounted engine, it was the exact antithesis of what the American people had been told they wanted up till then. Still, it became the best-selling car in history. Why? Because it earned the love and devotion of its owners. Owning a New Beetle brings with it certain respo ?nsibilities, not the least of which is (in my opinion anyway) being friendly and enthusiastic with REAL Beetle drivers! My recent unofficial, unsanctioned (by anyone or anything other than ME) on-the-road poll has proven that a solid 95% of New Beetle drivers don't wave back at you, if you wave at them. What is THAT all about? Don't they know they are driving a second-generation ICON? Don't they know that Beetle drivers DO this at each other? It is just downright rude to ignore a Beetle-inspired greeting, when given from another Beetle, Real or New! At the least, ignoring such a gesture causes antagonistic feelings from the sender (not me, mind you, I like all VW people). And at the worst, it creates a giant hole in the "fabric of the family", in this case the VW Family. Owning a Real or New Volkswagen means being a part of this family, whether you like it or not.

Not too long ago, my hubby and I took my '58 convertible Bug, Oscar , out for a ride. We traveled main highways and country back roads. And, only ONE New Beetle waved back at us! We were gone for most of the day and traveled a distance of about 100 miles - during which time we ran into 6 New Beetles! I don't get it. Do New Beetle drivers think they are just driving a CAR? (someone enlighten them, please) Do they think they can be anonymous in a New Beetle? (hardly possible, since nothing else looks like a Beetle, Real or New) Are they tired of the attention? (if they are I suggest they sell the Newbie and go back to their boring, boxy Honda) It was a lovely summer day, warm and clear, and we met all sorts of interesting and vintage cars out doing the same thing we were. Even the VINTAGE MG WAVED AT US! Heck, a GTO c onvertible waved at us, and we all know a GTO is a PONTIAC! But their waving and friendly greeting made them more a part of the VW Family than the New Beetle owners.

Say you've just bought your New Beetle for transportation. You're not a joiner, you don't care about clubs, you just wanted a cute, unique car. I understand. But would it kill you to wave now and then at the very people who made YOUR CAR possible?? We aren't asking you to park and get out to talk with us for hours about your purchase (although vintage VW drivers will do that without any hesitation). We are just asking for some recognition, some gesture that you understand what being a Beetle driver is all about. If that is too much trouble, then you have probably bought the wrong car and are going to fend off the friendly advances of the rest of us vintage VW crowd for as long as you own your New Beetle. Just try not to get too annoyed when we repeatedly try to draw you into our ranks. It's habit!

I have become aware, since the New Beetle arrived on the scene, that this very same thing must have happened when the Jetta and Golf first appeared. There have always been two distinct camps when it comes to water- vs. air-cooled Volkswagens. Not every person can have a rabid passion for both types of VW's; one or the other will usually win out. But Jetta and Golf owners have always managed to peacefully co- exist with us vintage types. Sure, the two were like oil and water (haha, literally, almost) and they almost never mixed, but even a jaded brand-new-Jetta owner could have been seen to occasionally admire an old vintage Volkswagen. Out here on the West coast, the water and air-cooled factions rarely share a show, and usually don't even socialize much at events. But the Vintage People acc ¡ept the water-pumpers, and vice versa. We're all just a part of the same big VW family. This is what I think the New Beetle owners are not understanding. With the introduction of the New Beetle, the scene is changing a bit from what we've known in the past. New Beetles are not being bought just by VW fanatics, they are being sold (in increasing numbers, I'd bet) to anyone wanting an economical small car with cute, retro styling. These are people who would, most likely, have been just as happy going out and plunking down their $20,000 in front of a Toyota dealer. They chose the new Beetle because of its personality, looks, and (let's face it) it's HERITAGE. But we need to get one point across to these new owners: owning a Newbie brings with it the responsibility to FIT IN! A friend of mine, Tom Janiszewski, put it very well when he said "We need to bring these people into the fold! They need to know it's OK to be friendly. It's just l ike getting in touch with their inner fahrvergnugen selves." On the flip side of the coin, I have had it pointed out to me that some New Beetle owners ARE waving, and are being given the brush-off by Real Beetle drivers. The source of this information says that some Real Beetle drivers have been known to ignore the greeting of a New Beetle driver, for reasons unknown. He thinks it might have something to do with snobbery, the Real Beetle owner not wanting to admit that there is now another piece of VW history in the making. I, personally, have never seen this snub in action, but I got it from a reliable source who will remain nameless, because I am sure he would appreciate me not complicating his life.

I also think the majority of New Beetles are being bought by people who, years ago, decided to "grow up" and buy a "real" car. This of course meant getting rid of the Beetle they still drove, but wouldn't admit to actually loving. Some misguided folks think you aren't really an adult until you give up your fun car for some boring sedan or wagon. VW owners everywhere know that this is the thinking that results from years of hard-core brainwashing by mainstream domestic auto builders. Those of us who held onto our Bugs, Buses and Ghias already KNOW that one can be grown up and drive a VW at the same time. But the NB buyers now are finding this out for themselves, when they go in and order that NB. Driving becomes fun again. Your car again looks different than the thousands of others on the road with y'ou. You enjoy the attention, again. And they discover what is probably the best part of owning a Beetle: the sheer joy of feeling like a kid again. What they need to know is that this feeling they are just now discovering once more has never stopped or gone away for the rest of us! So just remember: it doesn't cost a thing to share the joy of your New Beetle with other VW owners on the road. So when you're out driving it around and enjoying yourself, just do it: just WAVE! I'll bet the guy waves back.

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