One of the reasons why my wife and I decided to get a classic Beetle in the first place was not only to relive our respective pasts as Beetle owners, but to also be able to enjoy the show circuit along with fellow collectors. Now that we have a presentable, running Beetle again, I drove it to its first show (under our ownership), to the 24th annual Harrisburg Area Volkswagen Club (HAVoC) Volksfest at the Mount Hope Estate in Manheim, PA.
My wife didn’t attend because she was at another event that day for owners of Greyhounds… the dog, not the bus. So, early Saturday morning, I piled a chair, some wipedown cloths, a power inverter (just in case I needed it), and my trusty 1980’s relic Magnavox D8443 boombox into the Beetle and made my way in the rain to Mount Hope Estate. I also dressed up in my custom designed Beetle t-shirt.
I forgot to bring my paper towel “defrosters”, so I had to work the vents and heat in just the right amounts to prevent fog buildup on the inside of the front window and carbon monoxide poison from the (suspected) exhaust leak on the muffler and/or heater box, yet still remain comfortable in the damp, 42 degree temperature. Fortunately, the cold humidity dissipated quickly and my windshield stayed clear for more than half of the trip.
I decided to take half highway, half back roads. It has been a LONG time since I took an extended highway ride in a Beetle other than the few miles I had driven when bring it home after purchasing it. The national speed limit was 55MPH at the time I drove a Beetle on a regular basis and I had no problems driving within the edge of the law on the highway. On my trip to the event, the speed limit was still at 55MPH, but I felt like I was the slowest car on the road. The car was quite loud, even at 55MPH. I blame this in part to the suspected rusted muffler and resonator exhaust tips, leaking exhaust AND excess noise. I have a replacement muffler to install someday as soon as I get some original “pea shooter” exhaust tips. I tried to find the tips at the show and nobody was selling them… not even the EMPI dealer!
I get to the event, enjoying the long ride in the process. I had forgotten how much attention is needed to drive one of these things. I’m so used to my late model Taurus offering smooth, one-handed, nearly automatic firm ride on all road conditions that the handling of a close ratio manual transmission while driving through tight turns with both hands on the wheel is a form of culture shock. But, I did get used to it soon enough, almost welcoming it, since it makes driving a Beetle a symbiotic relationship of man and machine. Then again, the pleasant memories of my younger self and my first 1968 Beetle were awakened through the effort.
At the event, I was asked to park on the lawn, beside a dark green Corrado and a purple MK5 GTI. As far as I know, I was the only one representing a 1973 standard Beetle. Since I was new to these events, I was somewhat unsure of the decorum one should use. How much can you sprawl in your spot? How should you present your vehicle? What is an acceptable noise level? Is there an acceptable noise level, etc.?
Right now, I consider my Beetle “average.” There is nothing specifically unique about it except maybe the paint color (not matching anything in the VW color lineup). It has chips in the paint in places and some rust areas that will need attended to. The interior needs full carpeting and eventually a new headliner as it is ripping along the edges. So instead of trying to present it as a “show car”, all I did was roll down the windows, open the engine compartment, and open the trunk lid. I put my D8443 boombox in the trunk compartment and tuned it to a local classic rock station. I actually got more questions and compliments about the boombox than the car. I can’t wait to see what happens when I get a vintage Coca-Cola cooler to bring along!
Shortly after I got set up, I hit the flea market. There are a lot of little things I need to add/fix on the Beetle to get it closer to stock. I didn’t buy everything I did all at once. It was over the course of several trips to the flea market area. I picked up the following items throughout the day:
- Replacement speedometer. The one that came with the car works, but it is not true to the year. It had extra indicator lights and did not have the I, II, III shift indicators around the scale.
- L/R vent pieces. I have the vent box, but there were no side pieces to the dash vents. Now I have what I need.
- Passenger door lock button. The vinyl was missing from mine, so I wanted to replace it. It’s the little things, you know!
- Dome light assembly. Mine was missing some of the electrical tabs.
- Ashtray. The front cover of mine kept breaking off.
- Windshield washer bottle. Mine had none.
- Cigarette lighter assembly. Mine had none. I believe they were options at the time. I’ll just drill the hole to install this where one would have originally belonged.
I didn’t spend much time walking around the event. I certainly didn’t have time to visit every car on display. But as with most aficionados, people have personal preferences. So I went to see some vehicles which were close to the style and designs I prefer. I was impressed with Ron’s BB-8 Beetle. Clever name for a Beetle that happened to have been painted in colors similar to the Star Wars character.
I particularly like the “stock look.” For me, looking at stock vehicles will give me ideas, and even reminders, of what I may need to do for my own Beetle since I want to make it as stock as possible. Meanwhile, I went to look at some of the Buses that were there. I first started driving my parent’s 1969 Bus before I got my 1968 Beetle, so, there’s the nostalgic aspect of it. I also looked at the Westfalias. Those are dream vehicles of mine. I would LOVE to be able to get one someday. Finally, although I am not particularly fond of owning any of the older Beetles myself, I have an appreciation for well restored pre-’68 Beetles. There were a couple nice ones there. Their owners should be proud of them.
I’m now looking forward to the June Bugs event. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to attend any of the other regional events in he meantime. I’ll probably just be limited to local vintage cars get togethers until then. Even June Bugs isn’t penned in since it happens to fall on the weekend of a number of other potential social commitments.