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Tuesday, June 04, 2013

My First Real Car Was A 1956 VW that Looked Similar To This

This 1978 VW is on Craigslist today - a guy wants $4500 for it. My first car was a 1956 VW that looked like this. I paid $100.

Today on Craigslist I saw this car. It is the closest look I can find to what my first car looked like. This is a 1978 VW. My first car was a 1956 VW convertible - this color of body and top. 

In 1966 - close to high school graduation - I bought a 1956 VW convertible for $100. It was 10 years old and in horrible shape. The 36 HP engine leaked so badly that I had to keep a piece of cardboard under it - and that was on the street - we didn't have a driveway or garage. It had a 4 speed transmission that had to be completely stopped to shift into low gear - that is the way they were then. It had no gas gauge - you had a lever to flip on the floor when you ran out of gasoline. That gave you maybe one gallon more to find a gas station. 

My VW had no heater - so in the winter I used to buy army surplus cans of "canned heat" and burned them on the back floor - that is the little bit of floor I had. Mine was rusted through so badly - I would run along as I drove. My friends used to use those floor holes as one of the first camper toilets. It had tiny 5 inch wide by 15 inch tall tires. The speedometer cable ran into the front left wheel to measure your speed. 

The floor was so rusted out - that I carried a roll of aluminum flashing - tin snips - and a pop riveter to make repairs. One time I was showing off at the local drive-in - the Napoli. I was going to do a "wheelie" imagine that with a 36 HP engine. VW batteries were under the back seat then. When I popped the clutch - after a whole bunch of noises - the battery fell thru the floor and out onto the street. As the crowd roared - I got out - re-installed the battery - started her up - and zoomed off - not to be seen again for a month. 

No one had invented reclining seats yet - but I had a solution. After a little seat hacksawing - and a couple of bolts - I could drop the passenger seat to make it into a level bed. It would go down with a thud. Sometimes going down the road - I would hit a bump - there would be a thud - and my passenger would be in the supine position. With that reclining seat - and the cans of "canned heat" - even during a heavy snow storm - my VW was ready for action at the Lakeside dances. All the cars would be covered with snow - except my bright green VW - people swore I had washed it during the driving snow - it shined so much - clean and dry.

Another neat thing - that car was so light - and the tires were so tall and skinny - and the engine was in the rear - it was an excellent snow car. I was able to get into the snow and ice ruts - take my hands off the steering wheel and the car would "steer itself" like on rails. 

One night 6 of us piled into it and went to NYC. We didn't start that way. A friend needed a ride to Palmerton. When we got to Palmerton - the sign said NYC was 80 miles. That seemed easy enough. It was 10 PM - traffic was light and Route 22 beckoned us. With 6 passengers - that is 6 HP per passenger - the car barely got up to 50 MPH. But as the clock struck midnight we crossed under the Hudson River in the Holland Tunnel. We were greeted by bums and panhandlers as we put up the tattered soft top for protection. The car had no heater - and we were not even aware that air conditioning existed - so it was a muggy New York August night with 6 sweating unbathed teenagers. We did not stay long - as we cruised up 9th Avenue. 

The VW was getting weaker and weaker as we went - due to an exhaust pipe break - the engine got louder and louder and seemed weaker and weaker. Around 5AM as the sun was slowly appearing in my rear view mirror - we limped up over the Blue Mountain on Route 309 in 2nd gear. If we made it to the top we could almost coast the last 10 miles back to Tamaqua. The Blue Mountain always reminded me of the mountain chain across the island where they found King Kong. On the north side was a strange forbidden land - the Coal Regions. No one ever got out of there alive. But the VW made it - at least for one night. 

It is funny how a stupid Craigslist car ad can jog all that out of this old brain. 

Since then I have bought and sold many cars - 

1965 Honda 50 cub red   $225/$150
1956 Volkswagen convertible green  $100/$0
1961 Ford Falcon blue    $250/$250
1960 MG-A Twin Cam roadster blue   $750/$900
1969 Volkswagen Beetle blue   $1849/$1200
1970 MG-B roadster yellow  $2600/$2300
1960 Mercury Comet wagon white $20/$0
1971 Chevrolet Vega panel truck white $2200/$1800
1961 Auston-Healey Sprite convertible orange  $100/$650
1972 Honda 600 sedan yellow $1525/$400

1964 Ford F100 pickup red $550/$375
1974 Ford Mustang coupe silver  $2400
1975 Auranthetic electric motor cycle $525
1977 Chevrolet Chevette  red $2700
1977 Scamp travel trailer white  $2400/$2200
1978 Thomas Chevrolet bus green  $10700/$11000
1978 Vespa Ciao moped red $700
1970 Coleman tent trailer green $400
1967 Chevrolet Camaro convertible yellow  $700/$1200
1978 Chevrolet Camaro blue $99 lease

1980 Renault LeCar red  $4000
1976 Cadillac Fleetwood blue  $900/$2200
1982 Chevrolet Chevette blue $4400
1975 VW Dune buggy red $1800/$1500
1981 Cadillac diesel brown $7100
1984 Suzuki Samurai red  $6000
1984 Small trailer K-Mart red  $200
1985 Subaru wagon silver $10700
1988 Trax moped red $800
1988 Plymouth Horizon blue  $9000

1981 Volkswagen van yellow  $2200/$2900
1990 Honda Accord black  $19000
1972 International school bus yellow  $1200/$0
1988 Dodge Shadow turbo red $6600
1993 Plymouth Voyager van green 
1980 Nissan pickup truck white
1997 Honda CRV black  $22000
1997 Honda Del Sol black $20000
1997 Trailer small covered gray  $1600/$1000
1988 Suzuki Samurai gray  $700/$2800

1986 Dodge 600 convertible white  $2700/$1500
2002 Mazda Miata green
1976 Dodge Coachmen camper orange  $1000/$1000
1972 Argosy camper brown
1989 Ford Coachmen camper red  $9000/$7000
1995 Chevrolet Coachmen camper blue $14000/$13000
2002 Tomos moped black
2002 Tomos moped blue
2001 Volkswagen Jetta blue  

2008 Harbor Freight trailer red    $200/$250
2004 Honda van silver   $13000/$9000
2007 Vespa LX150 scooter blue   $4400/
1986 Dodge 600ES convertible white  $4000 
2003 Carry-on Trailer black $250
1977 Scamp Travel Trailer white  $2400/$2000
1972 Taurus Terry Travel Trailer yellow $1800/$1200

2005 Yamaha Vino 125 maroon  $2600/$2300
2009 Honda Ruckus scooter black   $1300/$1900
1997 Toyota Tacoma truck maroon  $2000/$3500
2005 Vespa LX50 scooter black  $1500/$2200
1997 Ford Ranger truck white  $3500/$4100
1990 Mercedes diesel white    $2000/$4300
1997 Ford F150 truck maroon $5200/$6500
2008 Club Car Precedent Golf Cart maroon  $3000
2010 Honda SH150i Scooter maroon  $2200/$3500
2001 Ford F150 Truck silver  $4500/$6100
1963 Ford Falcon Ranchero blue   $2500/$5900
1994 Dodge Conversion Van $1200/$3400
1986 Honda Helix Scooter $1750
2008 Toyota Prius red  $18000

I had 69 - cars - scooters - campers - trailers - buses - trucks - golf carts. In 48 years that is almost 1.5 per year.  

Henry David Thoreau said - "The man is the richest whose pleasures are the cheapest." 

If a man can live on the seat of those cheap pleasures - he never has to work a day in his life.  I said that......that and marry a pretty college professor.

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