COMMENTARY

Driving an orange VW Super Beetle into sunset

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One of my cars from the teenage years – the Volkswagen Beetle – ceases production Wednesday. The final edition version of the Beetle, which looks far different than the one that got me around, will roll off the line and into a museum.

It was nearly 45 years ago that my car of tooling around was an orange 1975 Super Beetle. The car’s design - a rounded silhouette with seating for four, the nearly vertical windshield and the air-cooled engine in the rear – was like the regular Beetle. The biggest difference was a much bigger dashboard.

It wasn’t my first car – that was a 1967 Ford Falcon handed down to me by my brother after he painted it Dodge Purple – but it was one of my favorite early cars. So, yes, two of my first cars were orange and purple.

Dad bought it in the spring of 1975 brand new for less than $4,000. He was proud of that deal.

One of our first trips with it was a beach vacation and about 12 hours of driving to Myrtle Beach. Mom was sardined in the back seat with the luggage and my dad and I took turns driving. We tooled down the road in that little orange machine.

My first accident came in the orange Super Beetle. I turned in front of a guy who wasn’t paying much attention either. He clipped the back of the VW and made it inoperable. Calling my father after that wreck wasn’t much fun.

My mother was in the hospital at the time. Dad didn’t tell her about the accident. She came home but couldn’t get out for awhile and he continued to not share the bad news. We got the car fixed before she was recovered enough to go back to work.

Dad decided to not tell her (bad idea). It was a couple of years later when she was rummaging through some drawers and found a receipt from the repair shop. Dad hadn’t destroyed the evidence (be sure your sins will find you out!).

She was more upset about the “coverup” than if we’d told her in the first place. While she eventually forgave us, she never forgot it either.

I drove the VW to college for 2½ years while attending Morehead State University. I’d put in $5 and make the 60-mile drive from Ashland two and sometimes three days a week. The VW got some serious gas mileage. Of course, not having a radiator meant keeping the temperature regulated was nearly impossible in that car. In the winter, we had to keep it extremely hot to keep the windows defrosted.

I was working for the newspaper in Ashland at the time and drove the VW all over northeastern Kentucky. Eventually, after saving enough money, I bought my own wheels – a Chevy Impala if I remember correctly.

My brother needed a car at the time and he took the orange machine with him to seminary in Louisville. The car eventually died on him – my brother was as rough on cars as me – but it served its purpose.

So as I read of the history and demise of the VW in the story, it made me a little nostalgic about a machine from my past.

MARK MAYNARD is managing editor of Kentucky Today. Reach him at mark.maynard@kentuckytoday.com

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