Movin on with Nellie: Remember that last Volkswagen Beetle ride


In My Midnight Confession by The Grass Roots was vibrating from the small radio imbedded in the dash of 1968 white Beetle as racing Mustangs passed by.  My boyfriend Dave was kissing my neck as I thought to myself, “I’m going to remember this moment forever.”

“Cool, groovy,” I thought with my sophomore-in-high-school brain because Dave was a junior in high school, tall, smart; and, best yet, he and his brother shared the Beetle.

The VW Bug, aka The People’s Car from WWII, was already a classic in my head. It was smaller than a Ford Rambler but offered a sense of counter culture--squiggly lines versus straight ones. The engine sneered a little louder than a Lawn Boy mower or a large remote-controlled model plane. Not buff at all, the Beetle had a tin-like roof, un-carpeted floor boards, and seats with springs just under the surface. Spartan, with nothing posh the bug featured front bucket seats, FM/AM radio and a racing stripe on each seat.

With Proud Mary by Creedence Clear Water Revival blasting the intimate four-foot square car, we dragged Main Street laughing and singing--a double date with his brother and girlfriend. With windows rolled all the way down, the street heat streamed in and rolled around our faces.

One junior-year football season, my then boyfriend Wade picked me up in his metallic-blue Beetle for a ride to Lodi.  He was the varsity team quarterback for our high school; but the game we were heading to was between other rivals.   As we drove, he held my hand and shifted gears with my hand in his on the stick shift.  He talked about his dad and brothers and about the supper his mom had cooked.

When we were almost to the stadium, the engine croaked. He tried to start it again.  It just wouldn’t cooperate. He waved traffic around. Checking the engine and then the gas tank, Wade discovered he miscalculated the volume of gas in the tank. The fickle-finger-of-fate from Laugh In had struck, I thought. We had run out of gas! Since the meter didn’t work properly, the actual quantity was unknown. I remember feeling like I was in the Love Bug movie with Herbie.  We ran hand in hand to find gasoline for the German-made chariot. We stumbled. We scrambled over short concrete garden walls and zipped across medians until we found $.33-gallon gasoline at a Sinclair station.

When we ultimately entered the stadium and climbed to the top bleachers, we were laughing. We shared some Wrigley’s Doublemint gum. As I yelled for the home team, he was fidgeting.  Then he said, “Here’s the award for the best giggle in the world.”  He handed me a finger-sized silver trophy fashioned out of the aluminum gum wrapper. “It’s in honor of your good humor about running out of gas, too.” 

Later I met his father, a U.S. Air Force officer, who chuckled as he said, “It’s just not any girl, I let run out of gas with my son in the bug!”

Alas, these and others are some of the final stories of the Volkswagen Beetle coming off the Pueblo, Mexico assembly line for the last time this year. 

Thanks for the memories VW Bug!

Advertisement