2012 marked my fourth summer as the owner of a 1971 VW Super Beetle. It’s been mostly fun, mixed with a little frustration, but I suppose most classic auto owners would probably tell you it’s the same for them, whether they own a Chevelle, Fairlane, Polara, or Hornet. It was a delightful summer. Greta, as my Beetle is called, has been running quite smoothly ever since I had a mystery electrical problem solved back in the spring. The solution? Pull out all the connections and then put them back in. Whatever was loose before is now working properly, strangely enough, and the engine starts right up every time. 2011 was the summer of troubleshooting and expensive fixes, but in contrast, 2012 has been very much a turn-key-and-drive kind of year. One of the highlights of the summer, aside from Volksfest, which I'll tell you about below, was the Guatemalan Beetle I spotted outside Avenue's Garage in central Ottawa. It dated from the mid-sixties, and looked to be in pretty good shape, although it needed some interior work. It had a matched pair of 2004 Guatemala plates-- quite the sight to see for a combination plate / Bug fan like me.
Volksfest, for those who don’t know, is the largest non-judged VW show in Canada. It happens each August in the small village of Embrun, in the easternmost reaches of Ontario. I was doing other things last year and didn’t attend—and it was probably just as well, since Greta would have coughed the whole way with rust in her fuel line from an old tank. But for Volksfest 2012, I turned the key and made the 50 km drive to Embrun along some sideroads on a cool summer morning. The weather was threatening all around us, but it seemed that there was a large patch of blue sky overhead, reserved just for us.
Greta is more of a survivor than a show car—the last paint she had was in ’86, and I tend not to wash her often, because I need new window gaskets and I shudder at the thought of water collecting at the bottom of the doors. Greta is painted gray, but has more of a flat finish than the glossier, newly-restored Bugs at the show.
I thought about bringing my YOM stock to Volksfest, but I didn’t make any sales when I carted it around two years earlier. Besides, buying YOM plates shouldn’t be a spur-of-the-moment decision, since you have to go and get them registered, and stickered, and that costs more money. Instead, I brought some non-YOMable plates in a box, more as conversation pieces than anything else. I talked to people about YOM, and I handed out some cards as well, and I even sold a few plates, and bought a stack of others from a collector I met at the show by a stroke of luck.
I wandered around the park, looking quickly at the small piles of parts and odd sods that people brought. No plates to be found-- I had the monopoly in that market. I was able to sell my Eberspracher fuel-powered cabin heater, and I let it go for $20. I've heard that they can go for over $100, but mine needed to be serviced by someone familiar with them, and there was no chance I would ever use it-- it was simply taking up space. I guess my Bug is now less stock than it used to be, but it's nice to have the heater out of the trunk-- fixing dashboard wiring and ventilation hoses while working around it was a royal pain in the behind.
I admire most older Beetles that I see, although I greatly prefer a stock appearance, with no chopping and a minimum of after-market customization. Many of the Bug owners at the show have shiny alloy wheels on their vintage bugs, but for me, nothing beats the original look of a plain rim and a shiny hubcap. Maybe my love of the “stock” look is what has prompted me to be a big fan of YOM plates on such vehicles… If it looks like it could be in an old school yearbook photo, right down to the license plate, then that’s what really makes me go wild over a car.
I was one of only two air-cooled VW owners at the show to be running a pair of YOM plates, although not everyone has a Bug that’s old enough—and the show is co-sponsored by another local V-Dub club that caters to newer water-cooled, tricked-out VWs, so the other half of the field was populated by relatively modern vehicles. I did make a few contacts and hopefully, that may result in more YOM-plated VWs in the Ottawa area next year. I did see one creatively-mounted 1959 plate on a Bug—it was screwed into an old steamer trunk that was sitting on the roof rack. The car itself was mid-60s, but I was happy to see an old plate just the same.
A long time ago, I saw a 1960 Bug on the road close to my house, sporting a set of YOM plates. I happened to have a camera, and snapped a picture at a red light. Now, years later, I know the owner of that car as Ron Bell, who is a member of the local Ottawa VW club that I joined last year. Ron’s ’60 Bug is a survivor, like mine.
I left the show in mid-afternoon after enjoying a cheeseburger at the fundraiser barbecue (I paid $3 and expected a single, but was pleasantly surprised with a double). I had a great drive home—save for a two-minute downpour that I could see bearing down on me for a mile before I hit it. I rolled the windows up in time and endured the rain. About a minute after it stopped, the sun was out again. Greta just kept on rolling. There’s nothing like cruising on a country road in 4th gear with the windows down, the sun shining, a full belly, and lots of new plates to pore over!