Blaine's VOLKSWAGEN Shrine


Chrysler claims to have invented the minivan!
What's this, then?

Our 1966 Deluxe Microbus at Pismo Beach, CA - R.I.P.

Grandpa's brand new 1959 Beetle started it all!

1969-1971 - Lightnin' Bug - My 1958 sunroof Beetle

1973-1976 - 1964 Baja Bug

1976-1980 - Type IV - Four-door sedan (welcome to suburbia!)

1978-1979 - 1963 Karmann Ghia

1980-1989 - Homemade 1971 Westfalia

1981-1989 - 1959 Panel Van - only 1 previous owner!

1988-1998 - 1966 Deluxe Microbus

1990-1995 - 1971 Type III Wagon

From 1992 - 1972 411 Two-door, 4-speed sedan

1993-2004 - 1986 Golf

1997-2005 - 1973 Super Beetle Baja Bug

From 1997 - 1991 Vanagon Westfalia "GTI"

From 1998 - 1974 Typ 181 Acapulco "Thing"

2002-2003 - 1989 Fox

2003-2011 - 1999 Jetta GLS

From 2011 - 2009 Tiguan SE 2WD

From 2005 - 1987 Jetta Coupé

From 2005 - 1987 Monque's Eurovan MV

License plates created at Acme License Maker with images from RT's Blank Plates


I never really figured my Grandfather (for whom I was named) for a 'revolutionary.' After all, he was an accountant at the Amalgamated Sugar Company in Ogden, Utah and pretty much minded his own business. But to borrow a phrase from Bob Newhart, the 'button-down mind' sometimes strikes back.

In 1959 Grandpa was bitten by the 'bug'. In a round-about way, he acquired a new 1959 standard Beetle. Malcom Pingree arranged to have the car ordered through Strong Motors in Salt Lake City and Grandpa was supposed to pick it up in San Francisco. The plans to go to SF fell through so Malcom arranged for delivery to Ogden. The car cost about $1200 in those days. Grandma immediately dubbed it "The Puddle Jumper" and the next door neighbor gave him no end of grief over his foreign car (a few years later, that same neighbor bought himself a 912 Porsche).

Grandpa and Grandma even drove the car to California and took me back to spend a few Summer weeks with them. I remember snoozing in the cubby hole behind the back seat looking up at the stars through the back window glass. All in all, I think Grandpa only kept the car for a couple of years - I suppose Grandma was afraid he'd get creamed by a big truck or something.

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My first Volkswagen was a tan 1958 sunroof purchased in 1969 for $500. A previous owner had redone the interior, updated the tail lights, and had it repainted (without adequate surface preparation so the paint was starting to peel). I found a set of Empi 5-spoke wheels (the old two piece type) and I was stylin'!

In all other aspects the car was a stocker with the typical 36HP engine. I dropped the usual #3 exhaust valve and learned how to do a complete rebuild in the process (I also learned not to let the grease monkey at the corner garage use the impact wrench to tighten the pully nut - ruined the oil slinger and I had to take the whole thing apart again to replace it).

About a year into ownership, I was run off the road and rolled the Lightnin' Bug. The extra reinforcement of the sunroof really kept us from being injured (there were five of us in the car), and I was even able to drive it home after a friend helped me change one destroyed tire.

But the car was a wreck! Half joking, I called a friend's dad who was a VW nut (I often borrowed special tools and bought used parts from him). I asked if he just happened to have a spare body around. Ha ha! Well, he did, but I was not enthused - you see it was off of a 1954 and no one I knew thought that a 'Little Window' was cool.

Nevertheless, it was free, so I set about replacing the body and getting the car back on the road. One funny story: with the body off, I quickly noticed that the impact of the roll-over had broken the tranny nose cone. I didn't really want to take the engine and swing-axle transmission out to replace the part, and so got the wild idea of driving the chassis down to the local heliarc welder to have it fixed in situ. I hooked up the steering shaft, slid the driver's seat into the runners, installed the battery, strapped the gas tank to the front beam, jumpered from the battery to the coil, and fired 'er up. It was about a five-mile trip and some friends accompanied me in their bug.

Good thing too, because we had to pass along side a public park where the 'man' hung out attempting to catch speeders. Fortunately the patrolman was on the other side of the park, so my buddy drove his car right along side mine between me and the cop's line of sight! We made it to the shop (and back) without a ticket, but the weld job didn't work - had to replace the nose cone anyway.

One of the Empi mags had a hairline crack in it, but another friend really wanted a pair and he traded me a pair of Porsche chrome wheels for two of the Empis (he knew about the crack). I finally got the car back together and prepped it for paint. In those day's, Earl Scheib would "...paint any car for $19.99." I was realy fond of the metallic green paint used on many late '60s Camaros - Earl didn't have the paint (metallics were an extra $10.00 in those days), but they agreed to paint the car if I would buy the materials. I sold the car in the Fall of 1971 to a friend.

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Upon my return from Italy in 1973, I immediately began looking for another VW. While overseas, I had fantasized about building a Fiberfab Avenger (styled after the Ford GT40 race car), but the realities of working, going to college, and developing a social life overshadowed all. Searching the classified ads, I came upon a 1964 Baja Bug 'basket case' with no engine and decided to check it out.

The car was in Costa Mesa (I was living in Corona, California at the time), so Dad and I hopped in his Ford Courier pickup and headed down. It was certainly a disaster, but it was all there and I struck up an additional $150 deal for enough parts to put together a 1600cc engine. Borrowing a towbar from a friend, we returned that weekend to complete the transaction.

The Baja kit was top-quality fiberglas with nice, strong hood hinge mounts. Also included were a Chenowth rear cage, an off-road canister air cleaner (Tri-Phase?), and a competition exhaust with high-mount header pipes (so no heater). Over the course of six weeks in December and January, I had the car together and primered. Eventually, I acquired the requisite white spoke wheels with knobby tires on the back (the fronts were Michelin X), though I often wished for a full set of very trendy (and very expensive) Norsemans.

I got married that next summer (1974) and came face to face with a whole new set of expenses. Somehow, I still managed to find time and money to work on the car. My new wife thought that the car was a bit of a fright and needed paint, so one day while she was working, I picked up a couple of cans of flat black spray paint and applied the two-tone camoflage - not exactly what she had in mind! Also during this time I developed my distinctive door stencil, which consisted of Rommel's Afrika Korps palm tree with a VW symbol replacing the swastika.

As time went on, I started to notice that the '64 body was not in very good condition. Cancer had set in on the front wheel wells, and the passenger-side 'A' post had started to separate from the body. Three years earlier, I had seen a straight '55 European body in a nearby wrecking yard and had told the owner, "You ought to hang on to that. Someone will want it someday." I drove over and it was still there. $75 later it was mine.

The '55 was a good choice. This particular shell was bare, but I knew that the '64 doors would fit ('55 was the first year of the new door latch mechanism). In retrospect, it would have been a prime candidate for a restoration, but at that point I wasn't interested in vintage cars - oh well! I set the shell on blocks in my apartment garage and worked on it as time allowed. I sanded and primered it and painted all the interior metal with black wrinkle finish paint. I removed the center of the dash board from just right of the speedo to just left of the glove box (eliminating the large radio grille and the ash tray in the process) and installed a stainless steel panel with a full set of VDO gauges and about a dozen waterproof toggle switches.

To the left of the speedo (the pre-'58s had a large blank area here), I cut two openings and mounted two of the later under-dash fuse blocks - this seemed like a nice utilitarian design and would provide adequate protection for all the usual Baja accessories. I acquired a good late-model wiring harness and installed it and the additional wiring I would need. The back of the instrument panel was a marvel in wire ties with each wire properly colored to match the factory specs!

On the appointed day, I swapped the bodies. I had new rubber for the windshield (cut down from the '64 by a local glass shop) and had the car up and running in short order. Other improvements over the next several months included a sliding steel sunroof (from another '64), a rear wiper, fresh air box from a '68 (with hood scoop), and a pair of hard to find pop-out side windows. I ended up removing the roof lights because the wind noise with the sunroof open was unbearable.

Eventually, the car did receive its yellow paint (Earl Scheib again, but the price was up to $39.95!) shown in the top photo. The car developed a shudder when letting the clutch out (I have since determined that this was probably a broken weld at the end of the clutch tube). In the summer of 1976, I joined the Air Force and while I was at basic training, my parents convinced my wife to sell the car - that was a great shock! So if you ever see a little window Baja Bug with a sliding steel sunroof. . . .

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After basic training and Weather Observer tech school, I returned home to retrieve my family (two kids now) and head to my first assignment at Hill AFB Utah. The pressure was on to buy a 'sensible' car, but I don't recall having to argue with anyone that it had to be a VW. A Rabbit would have been nice, but they were way too new and expensive for this mere Airman. So we settled on a 1971 411 four-door with automatic transmission and air conditioning. The paint was moderately oxidized (VW's early metallic paints did not hold up too well) and the automatic tranny was a bit of a downer, but once in second gear it ran like the proverbial scalded ape!

The Type IV taught me a lot about fuel injection and CV joints. It was an okay car, but quite a departure from my 'Bug Man' personna. Still, it took us reliably around town and back to California for Christmas visits. I added driving and fog lights as well as a rear fog light, roof rack, and trailer hitch. I also got a good deal on a set of OEM accessory aluminum wheels (the dome type with the six slots).

One Saturday at a yard sale, I found a 5-3/4 inch aircraft landing light, which I installed in one of the high-beam recepticles. On the way home from work that night, I decided to try it out; it lit up the whole hillside - for about five seconds until the headlight relay melted. Luckily, I still had the driving lights to get me home!

We took the 411 to Alaska in 1979, pulling a small box trailer I built out of an IRS rear suspension. The Type IV was a cold-blooded beast and even after sorting out all the arctic weather issues, it sometimes let us down. Eventually, the transmission died (I figure that the seal between the auto tranny and the final drive gave way, allowing the gear oil and ATF to mix. Ultimately, it gave up its engine to repower the '71 Kombi we bought in Alaska.

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My friend John Robinson, who lived in Salt Lake City, had cable TV (a prestige item in those days). One day he called to ask if I might be interested in a Karmann Ghia that had been advertised on his public access channel - the price was $50. I said, "Sure!" to which he replied, "Good, cause I already gave the guy a $25 deposit!" He had checked the paperwork and the VIN and all was in order. A couple of days later, I towed the car back to Ogden.

It ran, but just barely. The Ghia's fuel needs were similar to those of a two-stroke in that it required a quart of oil for every tank of gas. It was a blue streak! Finally, I pulled the engine to see what I could do short of a complete rebuild. The 40-horse's cylinders were big bore 62mm, a size that had been superseded by 1mm. Poking around the garage (I had a part time VW repair business), I found a worn set of sixty-threes that I had taken out of a blown engine. One of the pistons was cracked, but I found that I could fit the worn 63mm rings to my 62mm pistons and get a better seal. After that, it ran okay (but still burned some oil). Ultimately, I got a once-in-a-lifetime deal on a rebuilt long block and was finally able to wash the oil residue off of the rear of the car for the last time.

When we were transferred to Alaska, my Dad bought the Ghia. He drove it around for a few months and then sold it to my Brother who jazzed it up significantly. My sister bought it from him and drove it until a worn out carburator set the whole thing on fire - it was a total loss!

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VIN 2312273374

One summer, while stationed at Eielson AFB near Fairbanks Alaska, we borrowed a co-worker's 1970 Westfalia for a weekend trip to Denali (Mt. McKinley). We loved the extra elbow room and the idea of carrying our 'house' on our back, and I started looking for a bus to buy. Westfalia prices were a bit out of reach, but I soon found a 1971 red Kombi for $1500. A previous owner had installed an aftermarket "Z" bed in place of the rear seat, so we had the beginnings of a camper!

As you may know, the Kombi is a sort of low-priced station wagon that can double as a cargo van. The rear interior walls are done in tan fiberboard rather than vinyl upholstery. I started in adding camping features to the red bus and spent many hours at Fairbanks wrecking yards finding cool stuff to install. The biggest (and most frightening) step was the decision to cut a hole in the roof and install the small pop-up roof shown in the picture.

Over time, I built a camping interior styled after those found in the later breadloaf Westfalias. I found an Eberspacher gas heater, a pair of crank-open windows, and a stretcher bed to go above the front seats. The sink and fridge were in a cabinet behind the driver's seat and the full-width bed was retained. There was also space for a port-a-potty, a necessity with five females in the car and restrooms miles apart! Although it didn't have a built in stove, I mounted a Westfalia-type propane tank midships on the passenger side and added a Coleman quick disconnect fitting to feed a camp stove and lantern. The propane also powered a small Swedish-made heater that tucked nicely under the passenger seat. With the car fully insulated, I could maintain a 70-degree differential from outside air temperature (but at 40 below zero, that's not saying much!) Later, I acquired a wrecked '69 Westfalia and installed the full-length pop top and single stretcher bed on the red bus - we now had 4 kids and we could all just about fit (someone's bed was still on the floor).

I took the back half of the wreck and made a trailer out of it. Eventually, I removed the 1700cc engine from the Type IV and installed it in the bus with a two-barrel Weber carb setup. It would run well, but always had cooling problems.

We took the camper bus with us to San Diego and then two years later on to Illinois. I rebuilt the engine a couple of times, always because of a burned or broken valve. On the last rebuild I added a hydraulic lifter kit which really improved the valve life and an oil temperature gauge which did nothing for my confidence (the needle was usually pegged in the summer). With a fifth child born in Illinois, we finally grew out of the camper bus and sold it in 1989 before we left for New Mexico.

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VIN 385350

This 1959 panel van was probably the most interesting vehicle of the bunch. I learned about it from an Alaskan friend while out fishing. We were both VW nuts and he told me about this van that he drove as a teen while working for a 'gentleman farmer'. He knew that the van was abandoned on the farm property and took me by for a look. It was a sight!

Bereft of tires and wheels, the van sat on the ground within a stand of trees. There wasn't a single piece of glass unbroken, but oddly it still had the masonite partition between the cab and cargo area. The engine was long gone too. With my friend's help I was able to contact the doctor who owned the farm. He was quite old, but signed the necessary paperwork to turn the hulk over to me. The Alaska Motor Vehicle Department was quite bemused as their records showed the doctor as being the first and only owner of the vehicle.

By moving day, I had acquired four good wheels and tires and enough lug nuts to mount them. I also brought a length of nylon rope and an unmounted tire. A co-worker agreed to help and we headed out for the farm. With all the tires mounted, we soon realized that one of the rear wheels was seized - we managed to get the drum off and remove the brake shoes which solved the problem. Lashing the front bumper to the back of the camper bus (with the unmounted tire between), we headed home, my buddy steering the van and sitting on a glass-strewn carcass of a seat.

The first improvement was to put the Afrika Korps stencil on the door (see photo). Several trips to the wrecking yard yielded all the glass and lights needed to put the car back on the road. When I put the 1700cc engine in the camper bus, the dual port 1600 ended up in the van. When we left Alaska in 1982 we shipped this one to California and later drove it (loaded with my model railroad stuff) to Illinois. When the old split case tranny gave up the ghost, Pat Bollendorf at I.T.S. in El Cajon built me a great late model tranny with tall gears to overcome the low ratio reduction gear boxes. The van could finally do 65 MPH without frying the engine!

As the result of a couple of trips to Europe, the van sported a kilometer speedo and a fine pair of Bosch Euro headlight buckets. But by 1988, the rocker panels were starting to cancer out. I decided it was high time I restored the old van and ordered a complete rocker panel set from a nearby VW speciality shop. Then disaster struck! One late spring night, a sudden wind fractured a tall black walnut tree in our backyard with devastating results. The van was not insured for this sort of catastrophy and was a total loss except for the engine, transaxle, and the odd bits and pieces (notice the partition leaning up against the side). Fortunately, the recently acquired '66 Microbus was ailing in the garage (with transmission troubles) and was not damaged.

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(almost spelled something) VIN 246097335

Our 1966 Deluxe was another vehicle that was passed around the family. My brother Vaughn (who acquired our old Ghia from Dad) purchased the bus in Riverside California sometime in the early Eighties. He lowered it and fitted it with Porsche Alloys as was the practice of the time. Vaughn's attachment in a particular car wanes as time passes, and he eventually lost interest and sold the bus to Dad. Dad had the suspension put back to 'normal' and drove it off and on for a while, mostly as a 'curiosity car'. Eventually, he sold it to our sister.

In the late Eighties, I bought the car and took it back to Illinois. Being in the military, I was able to maintain the original California license plates on the car until I left active duty in 1992 - back then, gas stations wrote license plate numbers on charge slips and on more than one occasion, the clerk absentmindedly added an 'i' to the sequence! After the panel van was crushed, I put its engine (the 1600cc dual port from the '71 camper) and transmission in the Deluxe (after changing over the axle tubes and reduction gear boxes). The Deluxe served well for many years and took us on trips to Georgia, California, and Mexico.

The one prized accessory I obtained during my ownership of the vehicle was a Westfalia luggage rack. I purchased it as a basket case and cut all new wood slats before assembling and installing it on the car. But the car eventually started showing its age. The burgundy paint was oxidizing badly and a persistent cancer problem was turning the front of the cargo area floor to Swiss cheese. Worse, I noticed that I was lifting myself off the seat as I drove on the bumpy Albuquerque streets; my body couldn't take much more of the primitive torsion rod suspension. Finally, a few months after purchasing my Vanagon Westfalia, I sold the Deluxe to a local who soon after unscrupulously resold it to an unsuspecting buyer for a considerable profit.

I hear Vaughn would like to buy the Deluxe back if he could figure out where it is!

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What can you say about a Type III that hasn't already been said? This was strictly a transportation car that we bought off the Kirtland AFB 'lemon lot' for $500. We didn't do much to it other than put on a fresh set of tires and keep the engine running. This latter bit was no mean chore; Type III engines are always dirt encrusted due to their not being sealed from the road below. And the car often sounded like it was one stud away from the heads falling completely off!

But it got the wife back and forth to her job for a couple of years, which is all we expected. We'd like to think that the fellow who answered the For Sale ad found the time and will to restore the Variant to its former glory, but what's the chance of that?

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Within my extended family, this car is probably best known as "Blaine's Folly." I joke that I bought this car because I had a pair of headlights to fit it; sad perhaps, but true! During one of my AF-sponsored trips to Germany in the late Eighties, I acquired a bunch of VW parts including four sets of 'flat' Type III taillights (which I later sold at a hefty profit), Euro headlights and KM speedo for my 'splittie', and a pair of early one-piece Type 4 headlights.

I actually drove the 411 home, but just barely made it (and just barely stopped before hitting the house). Since then, its only movement has been at the business end of a towbar. But it's a two-door (sporty!) and has a manual transmission (sportier!). "Project 411" is 'on deck' to be built after the Acapulco Thing is restored; here are the plans (apart from renewing and refreshing the mechanicals):

Things I'd like to find include:

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VIN 1VWFA0172GV006847

In 1993 we entered the watercooled world with our 1986 Golf. The car was a salvage rebuild, having been driven only 68K miles before being hit in the right rear quarter. The damage had been expertly repaired (except for rewiring the courtesy light switch on the right rear door) and repainted. We bought the car from the restorer for a bit over $2,000; for a couple hundred additional, we also got a set of GTI alloy wheels (Avus 'Snowflake') with caps and tires.

Since purchasing the car, we tinted the windows, added black GTI wheel well trim, and installed a GTI style grille with round 7" headlights and the smaller inboard high beams. We've really been impressed with the relative indestructability of the 1.8 liter inline-4 engine; these things just go and go, and with power to spare. We finally had to replace the engine in the summer of 2000; it was still running with plenty of power, but it had started to burn oil and wouldn't pass the visual part of the smog test (even though the hydrocarbons and CO levels were okay).

During 2002, we replaced the struts all around and added a set of late MkII 'Big Bumpers' with the integral fog lights, Euro side marker/turnsignal lights, and a Fischer CD holder (real neat accessory that fits in the cubby-hole in front of the shifter). We also picked up an interesting accessory consisting of a pair of remotely adjustable headlights (including a dial switch that mounts in the dashboard switch panel). Never heard of this one before, but they must have had some accessories in mind when they put six switch locations in the dash!When we purchased the 1999 Jetta ownership of the Golf passed to our son, Dietrich who traded the Baja Bug for it. Sadly, the Golf was pummeled to death during a freak hail storm in Socorro NM in October 2004; happily, it was still fully insured!

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Upon turning 18, our third daughter, Nicole, decided to finally get her driver's license and look for a car. On a railfan expedition to Belen, I saw this 1973 Super Beetle sitting along side the road with a For Sale sign. It ran a bit rough and the seats were all sagged out, but for $700 who could complain? We also got all the dealer maintenance info with the car and were surprised to see that the car had over a quarter million miles on it, yet the engine still had the original serial number (though I do know that VW often stamped the identical number on a factory rebuild). The Bug had been delivered in Germany to a G.I., and had made at least two round trips across the Atlantic before finally settling in New Mexico.

We took care of the immediate problems immediately and the rest as time and money allowed. Nicole had a few 'adventures' with the car, including running up on a center divider (while wrestling with a Big Mac), destroying two tires in the process. She got new seat padding and upholstery, new bumpers, and new running boards. As a wedding present, I rebuilt the engine for her.

During the Summer of 2001, Nicole and Gabi (youngest daughter home from college) were in the car at an intersection where they were clipped by a large truck. The impact destroyed the front of the car ahead of the front wheels, but the girls were uninjured. Nicole gave the car to our son, youngest in the family, replacing it with a nice black 2002 Jetta 1.8T.

Soon after, Dietrich and I were looking at the car, trying to figure out what to do and wishing someone made a Baja kit for a Super Beetle. The local VDub speciality shop and the magazines were no help, so in a last futile effort, I got online and typed "Super Beetle Baja Kit" in a popular search engine. Voila! Enter FiberJet Industries makers of a replacement hood and nose piece that together with standard Baja Bug fenders and deck lid make up a complete Baja kit!

We finally painted the Baja over the 2004 Christmas break. Earl Scheib's red-orange was an OK match to the factory interior color. Within a month, we had sold it to a local high school student.

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Click the photo to be taken to the Vanagon Page

With the kids growing up and getting married, the household was shrinking. At some point it occurred to me that we could once again fit into a Westfalia. Besides, I was making good money as a Technical Writer, and it was time for a more comfortable ride. I started looking in the paper and online for a Vanagon. Well, there were an amazing number of 'beaters' and the later model ones in good condition had some amazing (high) prices!

In the course of tracking Westfalias on Autotrader.com, I kept running across a silver 1991 in South Carolina. The price was reasonable, but it had an automatic transmission and I remember being less than impressed with VW's earlier forays into the world of clutchless drivetrains. Still, it had all the power accessories and was reputed to be in good condition, so why not consider it? It was still available. Fortunately, my wife's parents lived just 100 miles away from the Vanagon's location and they agreed to drive up on Mother's Day and have a look.

Since they were coming out the next day (building a retirement home in Durango), I had photos in short order; he was impressed. Boy, was I stoked! Car looked great, and had the VW mag wheels to boot. I made the financing arrangements and that Saturday, my Dad and I flew out to Atlanta (Mom was glad to have him out of the house, and it ended up curing his periodic urge to take a road trip - read the full travelogue at Vanagon.com).

Owning the Vanagon has been an adventure - we've put 70K miles on it in five years and had our share of problems:

. . . but It's still my dream car . . . until I manage to build one of these!

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During the summer before her Senior year, Gabi expressed her deep desire to own a VW 'Thing' (I had a feeling she was gonna turn out to be the 'weird kid') so I started looking. In short order, I found a poorly cared for 1974 Acapulco model not five miles from our house. The deal with the kids is that I'll contribute $1000 for their first car, the rest is up to them; so Gabi had to come up with another thousand in order to get the car of her dreams. Besides, by so doing we would be joining a pseudo-eco VW movement 'Save the Thing.'

(Still haven't found a photo, so I 'lifted' this photo of our car's twin off the internet. This is exactly what it looked like.)

As 'delivered' to us the Thing had a hard fiberglas top, a swinging rear tire mount, and sad seats. The side curtains could double as privacy glass and the rear deck and one rear fender were mangled. Over time, we worked out several of the problems and also purchased a set of 5 aggressive-looking Continental tires for the unique 14" wheels. We also dropped a few bucks at the Thing Shop, purchasing their unique mirror mount door hinges and a glove box door with radio panel.

Then, a little over a month after graduation and on her birthday no less, Gabi rear-ended another car at a traffic light, severely damaging the front of the already tweaked Thing. We got it home and started stripping it down for eventual repair. I found a decent front end and made arrangements to have the front skin grafted on by a highly-recommended body man.

The guy turned out to be a hack and he really messed up the job. Our goal this summer is to get this car back in tip top condition and sell it (for a lot of money).

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VIN 9BWBA030CKP035719

After Gabi graduated from Johnson & Wales, she came back to Albuquerque for a while. Considering what we had already spent on the Thing repairs, we 'cashed her out' so she could buy this 1989 VW Fox. This is a nice little car with only a few cosmetic problems . . . until her boyfriend rear ended another car with it! The collision pretty much toasted the grille and headlights and curled the front edge of the hood under.

Unlike the Golf, this car does not have an unbolting front end. A day at the wrecking yard yielded a good grille, grille support, headlights, parking lights, and a white hood. I spent many hours removing the damaged front skin and radiator support, straightening the front cross-member, and grafting the replacement parts on to the car. With everything back together, you can hardly tell that anything happened. Along the way, we've fixed several other minor things like the broken hood lever and driver's mirror, and added a few things like a right side mirror and the nifty deluxe interior light (with map light) from a Fox GT ('Accessorize' is my middle name!).

The Fox is an interesting car - it was made in Brazil and though it shares some parts with other Volkswagen offerings, it is unique in many ways. The engine and fuel injection system is pretty much a match to the 1.8L CIS engine in our '86 Golf but it is mounted in-line, not in a 'sidewinder' fashion as on the Golf. Stranger still, early Foxes were delivered (in South America anyway) with a 1600cc air-cooled engine; it sat right in front and gulped cooling air through a modified fan and shroud! There was even enough room under the hood to store the spare tire (now found in the trunk where it belongs). Gabi has since moved to the Seattle area but didn't take the car with her. We sold it in Sept 2003.

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VIN 3VWSA29M5XM096042

The '86 Golf took us to California on our Summer 2003 vacation. Sadly, it was deemed more reliable than the '91 Vanagon Westfalia (which were it not for F.I. problems and an elusive A/C leak, would have been nice to have during five days camping). It kept up its end of the bargain just fine. Still, it seemed after 10 years it was high time to look at a newer car for the wife.

A quick look at AutoTrader brought us face to face with a low-mileage Jetta with lotsa extras. As far as I was concerned, the basic 2.0L inline 4 engine was a plus (sure, the 1.8T, the TDI, and the VR6 cars are 'sexy', but more moving parts=more chances for something to give out).

The paint is a nice burgundy red, not a rare color here in NM, but rare on local Vdubs (black and white are far more common). Accessorizing will be kept at a minimum; the car already has alloys, full power, leather upholstery, heated seats, and moon roof. We've added E-Code headlights with built-in fogs, OEM mud 'farings', and a Phatbox; but the wife has already vetoed a 'BORA' badge change!

The Jetta met its demise in May 2011 when it was involved in a rear-end collision with another family member's Lexus SUV. The repair estimate pretty much equaled the replacement value of the vehicle.

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It took us a while to accept that our faithful Jetta had to be put out to pasture; it still ran great but the damage was just too severe to be economically repaired though we drove it for a good month after the collision. We started looking around for a suitable replacement.

I had never been overly fond of the Mk V Jetta or Golf, due largely to the rather grotesque chrome front end treatment, so I cast a wider, though still exclusively a VW, net. Perusing AutoTrader online, I was reintroduced to the Tiguan line and saw that a base model burgundy vehicle was listed for sale at a nearby used car lot, and another identical example was at a dealership across town. In short order, I dropped by for a test drive and was positively impressed with the zippy performance of the 2.0 Turbo. But the basic 'S' model's amenities left a bit to be desired.

AutoTrader also listed a blue SE at the nearby VW dealer so I put away my fear of being "had" and drove by to take a look. Long story short, the car had good curb appeal, had a few extras (including the glass roof), was a beautiful shade of blue, ran well, and had a warranty. In the end, we took the bait and two years later are still quite happy with the Tiguan. One mystery remains: The 2009 SE came stock with 18" wheels (17" on the S; 19" on the SEL) yet we took possession of our SE with 17-inchers. All attempts to find out from the sales staff why this happened were met with quizzical looks and slightly plausible guesses. A bit later, I realized that someone was lying - the photos of the car that I had downloaded from the AutoTrader site clearly show the Tiguan with its original 18" wheels.

The surreptitious wheel swap didn't bother me as much as the dishonesty. And anyway, when it came time to replace the tires, the seventeens saved me almost $40 EACH compared to the eighteens!

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Plate ideas - or maybe they're already taken?

We took the settlement for the 1986 Golf (less $68 salvage value to keep the car for parts) and purchased a 1987 Jetta Coupé and a lot of additional stuff. Dietrich and I set about producing a faux 1992 Jetta Coupé with a ton of updated features.

Rebuilding and reconfiguring a car to this extent is a fun, educational, and tedious task. We have taken this car to a level of disassembly I've not experienced since building my Baja Bug way back in 1974. We used the four-year-old engine and the transmission from the Golf, renewing the clutch and many of the engine peripherials as we reassembled the Jetta. We also removed the entire interior, changing the blue bits and pieces for black and recovering the headliner.

With the car apart, we sanded and painted the door jambs, engine compartment, trunk, and hood and trunk lid underside with the new color (in a single-stage paint). It would have been nice to take the near-bare body to the paint booth, but this alternate approach allows the car to be driven while we complete the rest of the body work and parking lot rash remediation.

The other planned or already completed modifications include:

In augmenting the electrical system, we had two goals: Do it in the "German Way" and improve where appropriate. Consequently, we consulted our Bentley Books, traced circuits through the car, added new circuits through the appropriate harnesses and connectors using appropriately color-coded wires and correct connectors, and generally kept everything tidy as if it were a factory installation. We added fuses and relays for better safety and reliability and documented our work by marking up our Bentley wiring diagrams. Our attention to detail paid off as we let absolutely no smoke out of the wires when we reinstalled the battery.

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Over the years, oldest daughter Monique and her husband have owned a Fox, a Golf II, and this 1999 Eurovan Multivan. Test driving it, I was amazed at just how peppy it was with its VR6 engine.

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