A couple of months after purchasing my first VW in 1986, I was introduced to Alan, a family friend of my girlfriend. He was a longtime VW guy, both air and water cooled.He gave me a precious gift, my very first copy of what is known in VW circles as the “Idiot Book”. The actual name is “How to keep your Volkswagen alive, a manual of step by step procedures for the complete idiot, by John Muir.”
This book has great content in mechanical knowledge, funny artwork and humorous stories and sayings. My own personal copy has seen many years of use, and it certainly bears the scars.
Back in around 1992, I was rebuilding my first VW engine. I purchased the parts I needed, and studied for weeks as I prepared for this challenging adventure. I spent so much time getting ready that I even dreamed at night about rebuilding my motor. There is a picture in the book that perfectly captures my state of mind at the time.
In the end, I was able to successfully rebuild the engine by myself. It was quite an accomplishment for a relatively inexperienced mechanic and helped build my confidence in my own abilities and further solidify me as a Volkswagen nut. To this day, my Idiot Book still has the grease marks from my dirty hands while rebuilding that Type III motor.
If you have driven or gone for a ride in an old classic VW, then you have experienced the smell. My wife thinks they stink. For me, it brings a flood of fond memories. A musty smell of old carpet, throw in some dampness and a bit of hot exhaust and you might start getting an idea. With the exception of a couple of restoration projects that included complete paint jobs and all new interior, every one of my VW’s have shared that distinct aroma.
The original designers of the VW engine decided to heat the car by pulling in “fresh” hot air from the oily engine compartment and then warm it even more by running it through heat exchangers wrapped around the cars exhaust system. Interestingly, this heat design actually worked pretty well, especially for anybody sitting in the back seat. (Unless you are driving on old VW bus, which is a different story altogether.)
I currently am experiencing one of those rare moments over the last 30 years where I actually do not own any Volkswagen’s. Just like those previous few times, I know it is just a matter of time until the right opportunity presents itself and I once again find myself enjoying that all too familiar smell.
In the early summer of 1986, I was looking to buy my first car. I didn’t have much to spend, having only scraped together $600. I had been looking in the newspaper, the little nickel want ads and had kind of settled on a VW bug. Back then, there were a lot of bugs available, but I had no experience and didn’t know anything about VW’s or cars in general. I was driving past my old workplace one day and there it was. A 1966 Sea Blue VW bug with a for sale sign on it for $800. It was exactly what I was looking for. But, I was short $200. Today, I would offer $500 and try and settle for $600, but I had no experience buying a car and had no idea I could offer less than what was being asked. So, I borrowed $200 from my best friends mom and I was the proud owner of my first VW. In hindsight, I cannot believe how fortunate I was. I didn’t know the difference between pre or post 67 VW’s, and I just lucked into what today is probably one of my favorite cars I have ever owned. Shown below is one of the few photos that I still have of this car.