Friday, 15 November 2013

Vintage Volkswagens, as a Religion.

Above: a beautiful example of a 60's VW Beetle at a recent show I attended. Loved it. 


My first car was a 1966 Volkswagen Beetle 1300 deluxe. I loved that thing, even though it had a six volt electrical system and drum brakes that had the stopping power of wet newspaper.  I took the (then) 20 year old car on camping trips, where I would fold the seats down and sleep in it. It was my trusty companion. That car would be getting on for fifty years old now. 

I recently attended a Vintage VW show and the owners were fantastic, dedicated people, and were understandably obsessed about their cars, which in many cases (but not all), often the only type of vehicle they had. Their conversations were not so much about where they had been in them, but what they needed to do to make them more reliable. Or in some cases, to actually run. There seemed to be an element of relief for some people that their car had actually made it to the event. 

For most, it seemed that their car was never "finished". Different strokes for different folks, but that would frustrate me to no end. 

These cars have reached cult status. 

I don't think I would own one and use it as a daily driver any more. Here's why: They actually cost as much as a nice, modern used car now. (Mine cost 600 bucks in 1986). They don't have air conditioning. They don't have airbags. They require constant maintenance. They have four gears. They have a habit of catching fire if the battery isn't properly insulated from the springs sagging on the back seat. The fuel tank is in the front, between whatever you hit, The windscreen is 6 inches away from your face. The dashboard in the pre-1967 models are metal. They aren't fuel efficient compared to a modern car with a similar sized engine. They are unreliable. Their lights are terrible. They have vinyl seats. They are incredibly dangerous in crosswinds.

They are beautiful, though. That's about it. 

I have a late model turbo diesel Saab 9-3 that I have driven 70,000km in the last 18 months. No problems. Just get in and go, without a care in the world, and not a concern that it won't make it to point B. My other car (which is "another German brand", not a Volkswagen) actually parks itself. It wakes me up if it detects I am nodding off. (Thankfully, my own common sense over-rides this feature, but it's nice to have).

Convenience. Reliability. Air conditioning. Lights that work well and brakes that stop you. A crapload of airbags and ABS. Nothing too bland, either. That's what I want in a car in 2013.   

Would I consider having another VW Beetle as a stored "collectible" car? Absolutely. I just wouldn't drive it much. 

Financial/ Life Tip: A car is a machine for getting you and your family around safely, with as much class and so-called "prestige" as you want, or choose to justify. I love cars, but that's really what they are; just another machine. If you can, try to make it as nice as you can and as reliable as possible.

I have fallen into the trap of buying money pits of cars, unfortunately. (Ask me about a Fiat that I had when I was 23; it actually deserves its own post). Take it from my early days: Don't be the person whose whole life is spent fixing a car or worrying about it's reliability (unless you actually enjoy breaking down on the side of the road).