This Month's Topic: Your First Car. Submit by October 7th.
I was 18 in January 1982. To my Father's great displeasure, I was taking a semester off from college to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I got a job on a loading dock in Manhattan on the west side, facing the Hudson River. And I needed a car.
First things first. My wonderful Mother, at my request, sewed together imitation sheepskin seat covers. The running boards were rusted out. I knocked them off, and replaced them with hand-cut oak running boards I fashioned in my basement and coated with the same stuff boat-owners use on teak. I suspended them from the wheel arches with ordinary L-brackets from the hardware store.
Next, the stereo. I purchased a $30 Kraco AM-FM cassette deck and installed it myself after removing the stock AM-radio. Since the trunk in the Beetle is in the front, the job was easy as the back of the metal dashboard was wide open to me. But there was one problem: The Beetle battery is 6-volt and the stereo was 12-volt. That took me all day to figure that out before a $30 transformer had to be purchased. Brown indoor-outdoor carpet from (now-defunct) Channel Lumber was fitted to the floor and tacked down with double-sided tape.
I soon discovered water was coming in the car during a hard rain. The source: big rust holes around the edge of the floor. When I sat in the driver seat, the rusty floor literally sagged and made the holes bigger. Yikes. I was off to the local metal-smith to get a piece welded on to secure the floor.
I loved the crank-open sun-roof. But it worked only about eight or ten times before it gave up. Fixed by the local VW mechanic, it worked another dozen times, before it, and I, gave up on it. Oh well. The car had triangular vent windows, which I loved to tilt in to have the wind rush in at me on hot days. There was no AC, of course.
The beautiful thing about the original Beetle was its simplicity. When it wouldn't start, I crawled underneath and rapped a screw-driver on the solenoid, or took the wires off the distributor cap and re-fastened them. Worked every time. The engine, in the back, looked kind of like a sewing machine.
Six months into driving the Bug, I was T-boned in Manhattan by a yellow Ford Crown Victoria taxi. The light weight of the Beetle resulted in my car being bounced, rather than smashed, and sliding sideways about twenty feet. I was, unbelievably, unscathed, though a bit dazed. The dent pounded out.
After another year of driving it, and a re-built engine being installed and my re-enrollment in college, Fordham University, I sold it to a friend for $750.00. She had 127,000 miles on it. About six months later, the friend told me that a rear tire literally exploded off the side of the car for reasons still unknown. He sold it for parts.
I know that buried in one of the boxes of childhood book reports, sports trophies and letters in my basement or attic, I still have one of the keys to that car. Why? Because you always remember your first.
Now, what's your story? In 300 words or less, share with us your story about your beloved first car. And if you don't have a picture of it, upload us a picture of yourself you are willing to have seen by potentially millions of people, and we will find a picture of your car. If you do have a photo of you and your first car, by all means upload them to us by following the Share Your Story link above.
AOL Autos Editor-in-Chief David Kiley is author of Getting The Bugs Out: The Rise,Fall and Comeback of Volkswagen in America. John Wiley & Sons, 2001.