It was baby blue, but it was really mostly oxidized metal brown. It was vintage, hailing from 1969, but it was really mostly old and unloved. It was a sorry pile of parts and possibilities, but it was really mostly……mine. I had clearly bitten off more than I could chew. It needed metalwork, but I had access to a wire feed welder. It needed engine work, but I had already rebuilt an almost identical engine at the shop where I worked summers during college. It needed sorting out electrically, but how complex could a Volkswagen Beetle be? It needed shelter from the elements, but uhhhmm…well…I had a tarp and the landlord was..well…tolerant.

I got it running and drove it one night with an illegal plate, no brake lights, and one headlight back to my place. It would not run below 1500 rpm, and would not go into 1st gear, so it was an exercise in timing and gymnastics to get back while not drawing attention to oneself. The designated spot was in an alley between houses. It was about 12 inches wider than the bug. I had to climb out through the window because the door would not open wide enough. This was ok because the driver window would not stay up anyway.

In the next days and weeks I dropped the engine and ordered parts from ads in the back of magazines (this was pre-internet). I remember cuts and scrapes and curses due to rusty nuts and bolts. I eventually brought it into my basement apartment. On another smaller tarp, I stripped it, replaced rings, converted it to dual carbs, bolted on headers, and painted the tin. I removed the tank and had it cleaned out at the local radiator shop. Many evenings were spent under that car getting the motor back in place and running. More blood was shed.

When it fired, I took it for a short run, and learned a few important lessons in restoration. First, after many many hours and days, and tremendous effort, the car looked just as bad as day one. Second, the glorious victory of invisible progress produces broad smiles and powerful endorphins unrivaled in other endeavors. Even more than that, it gets in your blood…

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