Fairfield Country Day School teacher Doug Reed shown with four students during winter school break on an extended field trip in Florida. Reed drove them down in his VW beetle that somehow accommodated all their luggage and dive gear. PHOTO COURTESY FLO REED

Bye bye Beetle: Owners reflect on their beloved VW bugs



The looming end of VW’s Beetle has stirred fond memories and stories throughout Hancock County.

 

As of July, Volkswagen will squash global production of its Beetle. Two special editions of the bulbous car will be offered to mark its finale.

In the late 1930s, at Adolf Hitler’s direction, the “people’s car” was designed to look like a beetle and introduced during the Nazi era. In 1949, the buglike compact made its debut in New York City and swiftly became the nation’s budget car by the early 1950s.

Former Hancock vintage car dealer Gardiner Crabtree at the wheel of a powder blue ‘Bug,’ bearing a 1993 U.S. Department of Defense sticker, which he acquired in California.
ELLSWORTH AMERICAN PHOTO BY LETITIA BALDWIN

In the United States, where cars continue to rule as the favorite form of transportation, Americans’ steady shift to larger vehicles led to the bug’s eventual demise despite various comebacks.

The good news is the VW Microbus will make a comeback in 2022. Introduced in 1950, the hippie favorite will return as all-electric ID Buzz. If there’s enough buzz the sleek concept car, which seats eight and goes up to 270 miles on one charge, could be in production by 2025.

As for the Beetle? Will it truly be gone forever? VW of America CEO Hinrich Woebcken was quoted as saying “I would say ‘never say never.’

 

                 — Letitia Baldwin

 

Easy to work on

 

By Chris Kravitt

Back in the late ’60s, I always owned Volkswagens. Bugs, Karmann Ghias. And, always convertibles.

In 1968, when I was 21, I bought a ’55 beetle convertible for $85. My friend Brian and I wanted to go to the Bahamas, and figured the cheapest way was to drive to Miami and fly over from there.

At the time, we hoped the Beetle would get us to Miami and then back to Connecticut. If not then at least to Florida, and we’d worry about the return trip later. Well, not only did it get us there and back, but I wound up putting many thousands more miles on it before I finally gave it up.

On one trip, at night, I was driving on the beltway around Washington, D.C., when the throttle cable broke. Fortunately, it broke right where it hooked up to the carburetor. I had a wire coat hanger, and was able to splice a piece of that to the broken end of the cable, and continue on my way.

That is just one example of how easy they were to work on. Just think what that $85 car would be worth today.

 

Chris Kravitt crafts knife sheaths and other leather goods at his business Treestump Leather in Waltham.

 

Bug ballast

 

By Agatha Hughes

In 1960, my parents owned a black Beetle and we lived in rural Virginia with a long, hilly, dirt drive. The Bug had a hard time navigating that driveway in winter so my father put firewood in the little compartment behind the back seat to add more weight, keeping the Bug from fishtailing.

One December, well, firewood was not good enough. So he looked around for something heavier and suddenly his eyes lit up — he was looking at my VERY pregnant mother.

She had a great sense of humor and for the next three weeks she was willing to ride in the back seat, although we did have some trouble actually getting her back there…

In January, my brother Lucian was born. Perhaps they really should have named him “Ballast.”

 

Agatha Hughes lives in the Gouldsboro village of Prospect Harbor. She adds, “best vanity license plate I ever saw on an old Bug: “Giddyup.”

 

Connecticut to Florida

 

By Flo Reed

My father taught for most of his career at Fairfield Country Day School in Fairfield, Conn. On a number of occasions, he took students on lengthy field trips, including to Florida, during their winter break.

On at least one occasion, he and four teenage boys traveled from Connecticut to Florida in his VW Beetle. With the help of a roof rack and removal of the back seat, all five of them fit along with their luggage, which included scuba tanks!

 

Flo Reed lives in Surry. She directs strategic growth at Sustainable Harvest International in Ellsworth.

 

 

Sugar in the tank

By Rick Foster

Back in the mid-’60s, I had a VW Bug. Loved it, but the engine was just about worn out. For some unknown reason, a vandal decided to put sugar in the gas tank. Fortunately, I had insurance for that and I got a brand new engine

Never did find out who put the sugar in the tank, so I never had a chance to thank them.

 

The former voice and personality of WDEA-AM radio — the Godfather of the Golden Oldie — veteran broadcaster Rick Foster is semi-retired. He DJs part time at Star 97.7 and hosts “At The Hop” from 3 to 5 p.m. Saturdays on WERU Community Radio.

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