Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Volkswagens, the worlds most economical car, or the bane of the highway!


This is the model that broke the old hippies heart,
 it was the last V.W. bug to roll off the assembly line forever.
The 2003 Volkswagen Beetle 
 The Volkswagen Beetle, or “Bug” as it was affectionately known.

You either loved them or you hated them, there was no in-between. The Volkswagen Bug was manufactured from 1938 to 2003. There were 21,529,464 (twenty one million, five hundred twenty-nine thousand, four hundred sixty four) Volkswagen Beetles manufactured in all. It was the most manufactured and produced car in history. No other car maker sold as many of a single model than the Volkswagen Beetle.

…and, back before freeways, in the early ‘60s, it seemed like they were the single most impediment to traveling down the highway. I can still hear the whistley little four-banger air cooled engines in my ears. It seemed like no matter what hill that you were on, there was a Beetle up there in front, bugging you, leading the parade. Even though they were getting great mileage, they were holding up everybody behind them, causing trucks busses and passenger cars to use their very lowest gears. The wear and tear, plus the wasted fuel caused by slowing down to follow the whistley little annoying Beetle more than sapped any fuel savings that the Beetle could have saved the world. Not to mention all of the labor of the people that were providing time for the freight industry. Sales people, and people headed toward their jobs were held up. You could be late to work and you could tell your boss that you got caught behind a Volkswagen on Benbow hill. It was an acceptable excuse.

I have always over-thought everything, so being trapped behind a V.W. pulling a hill allowed me way to much time to think. I have never taken a psychology class, because I’m afraid of what I might find out about myself, but that doesn’t stop me from delving into the psychology of those around me. It always seemed to me that the people that drove V.W. Bugs were doing it with some kind of a smugness about them. Their philosophy seems to be: “If everybody drove bugs, the world would be a better place, we would be using less fuel, and we would be moving at a slower and more relaxed pace”. So, they feel obliged to hold you up, because they are better and smarter than you. No way would they ever pull over on a hill, they couldn’t afford to loose what little teeny-weeny bit of momentum that they had wound up in their little itty-bitty motors. If they pulled off, nobody would EVER let them back in in front of them. NO WAY! It was like a V.W. driver could die on a turn-out before anybody would let them back in. I think that people that drove real cars would be secretly happy to see a V.W stranded in a turn out forever. Plus, if the V.W. drivers were really that concerned about the environment, why weren’t they driving bicycles, hand-carved out of driftwood? They are all pretentious phonies. There, I said it, I feel better.

The early sixties were a time when more powerful and economical engines were being developed. Trucks were being produced with large diesel V-8 engines with magnesium frames and wheels that could move freight up hills and 55 miles per hour, only to be held up by a whistley little V.W. Bug. State and federal officials recognized the problems of the highway system. They realized that there was no sense in building faster, more powerful trucks and delivery systems if they were only to have the pace set on the highways by a V.W Bug. So, the Interstate Highway System was upgraded so that every state was to have a major freeway. After the freeways were built, the popularity of the V.W. dropped off, which proves something to me. Bugs are just no fun unless you are holding something up.

As you might have guessed, most of this was written a little tongue-in cheek. And, maybe some lingering annoyance at having had to follow way too many Volkswagens...  Deal with it.

My wife’s second car, way back before we were married, was a Volkswagen. She loved it because she liked to shift all those gears, I can understand that. It gave her great gas milage, and it was a time in her life that she was not in any big hurry to be anywhere. Ah... the freedom of youth.

Volkswagens awaiting restoration. Photo by Kim Sallaway.
VW Transporter
The den of the hippie bird, used to lure young chicks with
the promise of a whole wheat alfalpha sandwich.



Ross Sherburn said...

Number three cylinder always burns a valve,because the oil cooler is over it!

Fred Mangels said...

My first car was a '69 VS Beetle. My mom actually bought it for my older brother's car. Then she "bought" it from him and gave it to me. Not sure why.

Didn't have it more than a couple years. Around '73 the clutch started slipping. Rather than get the clutch fixed, I pretty much gave the car away to a dealer. I saw it for sale later at just under $1000.00, a fair amount of money at the time. I felt like a fool.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Yeah Ross, I was going to mention that, but I ran out of time, so I posted it anyway.

I was also going to mention that most all of the "tranporter" models were used to make dune-buggies, because of there double reduction rear axles that gave then lower gears and greater ground clearance. I think that they had bigger motors also. Did the motors run backwards on the transporter??? Does anybody know?

Fred Mangels said...

Not sure what the transporter model was but you do remind me that I also had a VW dune buggy a short time after I moved up here. Bought it from a friend from SoCal who came up to visit. We called them Baja Bugs.

He'd built it from scratch, one piece at a time and sold it to me for whatever reason. About the only problem with it is it wouldn't start with the key. You always had to push start it. I had it checked by a mechanic and he said it was because the starter housing was for a 12 volt system but the starter was a 6 volt, as was the battery. The starter needed a bushing to keep it level because of that, which it didn't have.

I always had to push start it as it seemed too complex to me to switch the whole thing back to 12 volt, but push starting was pretty easy. If you could get it rolling for ten feet you could start it up.

I ended up selling that after only a few months. The guy that bought it was from the Bigfoot Preservation Society, or something along that line, and wanted to use it in his search for bigfoot. I thought it strange to want an off road vehicle that had to be pushed started, but I guess he knew what he wanted.

I've seen him since then on bigfoot shows on TV, but not my old Baja Bug.

Oh, and that engine sat in the car the same direction as my first VW.

Anonymous said...

I saw two "Things" going down the road a couple of months ago.


Ross Sherburn said...

I rebuilt several VW engines in the early seventies. They are a learning experience. Put one together to find out the main bearings were loose in the case.Then had to have it line bored,at least,I think thats what you called it?
Rebuilt one for my Uncle Luther who lived in Willits. It made it back over to Willits from Corning,so i guess I did OK on that one.
Then you find problems with the heads,have to take them to special shops for the work.
V-Dubs were good in there day,for what they were,but I don't miss them...............

Ross Sherburn said...

I missed spelled "there",should have been "their". Hate when I do that!!!!
I learned the difference in these two words about 55 years ago,in Garberville!

Fred Mangels said...

"...saw two "Things" going down the road a couple of months ago.".

I'm not sure I've ever seen one of those on the road. Not even back in the day. There was an old rusty one sitting in the driveway of the house that's part of the First Presbyterian Church in Eureka a few years ago.

I always thought those would be neat cars to have. The Thing was Rick Harrison's- of the TV show "Pawn Stars" fame- first car.

Ross Sherburn said...


Ross Sherburn said...

One thing good,you could pull the engine out in about 10 minutes,if you knew what you were doing!!

Robin Shelley said...

My mom had a brand new 1973 VW Super Beetle when I was in high school & it became "my" car. It's the one I would give anything to have again, you know? I guess it's okay to say it now that I can't get in trouble for it, but that car would pull Ridgewood Grade at 70! (: My parents sold it after I got married... for more than they paid for it new.

Ross Sherburn said...

Robin didn't mention the Supercharger.................

Erwin Calverley said...

The Volks is definitely a good reminder of the 50’s-60’s era. But in this modern age, this rock still rocks the road. The better news is, the manufacturer is still producing this type of vehicle with a more modern touch. But as they say, nothing beats the original.

Phineas Homestone said...

>> I think that they had bigger motors also. Did the motors run backwards on the transporter??? Does anybody know?

Engines same size or slightly bigger. The engine's ran the same direction, however the differential was put in backwards in the reduction trans-axles.

Little trivia: the engines were originally aircraft engines converted to automobile use. F. Porsche was forced to use them instead of his choice of some kind of two-stroke sleeve valve engine. Just think of it this way, Ernie: if Porsche had gotten his wish, the VW would never have succeeded, granting your yours.

Nettie Christensen said...

My family used to own two Volkswagens: a sedan and the vintage VW Beetle. Though I was never a fan of Volkswagen, what I love about these cars is that they are known as the most fuel efficient vehicle. It consumes little diesel and has a better fuel economy compared to other cars. Who doesn’t want to own a car that will let you save on gas?

-Nettie Christensen

Tom D said...

In 1968 I had a 1957 VW bug, 36 horsepower. It was fun to drive on old roads, had pretty good traction, and I pulled the back seat out for fun. But when I got on 101 it could get stressful, especially on those long hills. There always seemed to be a log truck behind me, so I'd try on the downhills to get as far ahead of him as possible, because that 36hp motor didn't give much on the uphills. I'd keep looking in my rearview mirror and before too long all I'd see would be a big old grill..never realizing how much better it would have been for everybody if I'd just PULL OVER. Well, I fell asleep down by Santa Rosa one rainy night and wrecked it. And that was the last one I bothered with.