Antony Ingram of All Car Tech and Green Car Reports fame has been writing about his VW Beetle. Not what you would expect from someone who is a fan of green motoring (don’t worry he does like other stuff to!).
Allow me to introduce Roland. He’s a 1974 Volkswagen 1303 “Super Beetle”, painted in rattle can blue and currently sitting immobile in my parents’ garage.
Roland could just as easily be a late 1980s Toyota Celica GT4, though. Or a Mazda MX5, or even a late 80s Mini Cooper. You see, Roland was bought largely on a whim to fill an “old, interesting car”-shaped hole after my old Mazda MX5 was stolen 12 months ago.
I bought a modern Fiat to replace it but while fun to drive and utterly competent in most objective ways, it lacked the sparkle of the Mazda and therefore left me feeling a little cold. To satiate my desire for something interesting I trawled the classifieds, ebay and forum “for sale” sections for something else and considered all of cars mentioned above, before finally deciding that what I really wanted more than anything else was a classic Saab 96 V4.
I got on the hunt and contacted several owners, but the search was proving fruitless. Either classic Saab owners haven’t figured out how technology works yet or they really don’t want to part with their cars, but after four dead-ends without replies, I gave up. That’s when Roland turned up, gleaming in a satin blue on an internet forum for a temptingly low price.
I’d not considered Beetles before, assuming them to be out of my lowly bag’o’sand price range, so Roland appealed. He also looked amazingly straight, and advertised electrical gremlins aside, utterly usable.
A few days later I was driving 200 miles to Essex to have a look. I decided to buy him there and then, so drove 200 miles back home, got some money, and when everyone else was watching a guy called Will and a girl called Kate tying the knot, hopped down to Essex again, and drove Roland the 200 miles back to Yorkshire in glorious sunshine.
He’s a little scary at speed (speed being relative – around 60mph is the happiest speed to settle at). Steering is a little imprecise and he’s better at catching crosswinds than an around-the-world yacht, but the engine pulls nicely and the suspension is buttock-cradlingly smooth compared to the Fiat.
Since returning, he’s been parked in the garage undergoing a slow and steady deconstruction. What initially started as a simple strip-down to re-wire him has turned into a full-blown restoration project as his true, slightly worse-for-wear condition and my imagination both took hold.
Now, with no windows, very little interior and many body parts removed, I’ve passed the point of no return and rather than that usable, fun classic I was after, I have an unusable (but still fun) lump of Beetle-shaped metal.
Future plans include a sympathetic restoration with an as-yet-undecided paint colour and original trim. The aim is to have a Beetle that could be used all day every day. I don’t want a show queen and certainly not a car costing a fortune that I’d be afraid to use. After that – and hopefully by next Summer – the only remaining plan is to drive him.
Hopefully more than 200 miles…
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