I love this story about how a 22-year-old woman learned how to fix cars by driving a ’72 Beetle across the country. It brought back fond memories of changing the oil and spark plugs on my ’63 Beetle (39 miles per gallon); I even progressed to the point where I could change a clutch cable (thanks to this classic repair guide). Ah, the joys of the air-cooled engine!

“How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive: A Manual of Step by Step Procedures for the Complete Idiot” was my bible. It included information about how to buy a VW (first of all, go and sit in the car and “feel the vibes”). And I did; After I sold the Little Darlin’, we bought a ’67 Microbus. One time, I was driving home from a Cape Cod camping trip in the bus, when the dashboard um, kind of burst into flames. My friend started freaking, while in my calmest, most soothing voice, I kept saying, “It’ll be fine, don’t worry about it” as I put the tiny flames out with my hands. (I think it was a short in the radio.)

Then I had a ’67, which I used to drive around West Philly with “Tracy Nelson is the Holy Ghost” painted on the door. (My own take on the “Clapton is God” meme.) I finally patched up the rust myself and handpainted it with enamel that I polished to a high gloss. I remember the day it was finally done: July 4th, 1976. I was standing on the roof to see the fireworks, and looked down to see my beautiful little white Bug in the glow of the streetlamp. Ahh.

The next morning, it was gone. Guess I did too good a job, because it was stolen for parts and was found in a chop shop a month later. It was very traumatic to find my little Bug not only stripped of her fenders and tires, but filled with trash and cigarette burns everywhere.

That was my last Bug. If I ever get rich, I’ll buy another one.

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