Last week, we asked you about your best “Volkswagen Beetle” story because we know that most of you have some doozies. The Beetle made its huge impact stateside because it offered cheap and simple basic transportation. If maybe the wheels fell off or feet went through rusted floor pans after five years, so what? You’d gotten your few bucks’ worth out of them. RK Nation turned out to have so many great stories that we couldn’t possibly share them all—but you can read all of them on the Roadkill FB page. Here are several of our favorite stories.
World’s Heaviest Beetle Engine
“My buddy bought one without an engine so he ended up having to search for one. He found one about 2 hours away from us, but the guy said he had to take all the other parts too. We incorrectly assumed he meant the small pile in the ad. Nope. 5 sets of doors, 14 engine covers, one hood, a roof, 46 (?) shifters, 24 heater units….the list goes on and on. Even got a dual-port in pieces. My ’78 F150 looked like we were in India, even had stuff strapped to the hood and my buddy ended up riding home with the engine he originally went for riding in his lap. Talk about a heck of a deal.” -Jon Woods
The Classic VW Story
“I only remember the 3 of my friends who had them being too broke to buy whatever the hell doohickey it was that would have kept us from having to push-start the darn things all the time.” -Jason Kendrick
Zip-Ties, Duct Tape, and…Ring Terminals?
“My old daily driver was a ’67 Beetle that decided one day to break the end off of its throttle cable in the fast lane of the 22 freeway during rush-hour traffic. The only place I could go was the center divider and once there, all I had to fix anything with was an electrical kit. I managed to turn myself around upside down in the drivers seat where I could get at the now bare end of the cable.
“I mashed on the smallest ring terminal in my kit, and connected it to the pedal with a tiny little zip-tie. Thus jury-rigged, I was able to get it back into traffic and off at the next exit before crimp connector let loose.” -Paul McCool
Back in the Saddle with Awesome Friends
“After I sustained a spinal cord injury due to a motorcycle crash, one of my incredible friends bought a 1974-based sand rail. He rigged up clutch/brake/gas and start/stop controls on top of the shifter assembly using air cylinders, a compressor, and storage tank, plus some timer controls to let the clutch ease out on take off. I get to chase motorcycles through the forest again and hang out with my bad-ass friends again!” -Matthew Mondary
Dude, Where’s My Motor?
“Well, there was that time I built a ’70 Ghia with a beefed 1600 dual-port, a Bus transaxle, and all the good Hellwig suspension stuff on vintage Enkei’s, tucking HR-78-15’s out back…I was 16. Poor man’s Porsche (so I thought!).
“I had a rusty ’69 Beetle for a beater back then. I had a bad habit of jumping short rural bridges and railroad crossings with that car. Way too much fun! The rear engine was great for getting quite a bit of air, if you went fast enough….
“That last landing was somewhat disappointing, though. Kind of harsh. The engine died, the gas pedal went to the floor, and the GEN light came on.After the dust settled, the starter would just spin free. I got out, popped the bonnet, and…..no engine. It was about about a half-mile back, laying in the road with part of the bellhousing still attached. R.I.P. Herbie.” – Michael Weakley
Bug in a Tux
“Top pic is when I bought it in 2002, bottom is as it looks now. It was my only car and daily driver until 2008, now it would be a daily if it ever stopped having ‘Roadkill’ type issues, haha.” – Matthew Hepburn
“My dad bought one from his neighbor. He paid for it with the proceeds of his garage sale: a cigar box full of coins and small bills that they agreed not to count ahead of time, just made the deal. He drove it across the state of Missouri to his father-in-law’s house and it broke down in his driveway. Father in-law was not impressed. After driving it for almost a year, he pulled into a gas station and a guy driving a 1949 Chevy 5-window pickup complimented the Bug. They decided to trade straight-up and drove to the DMV to sign the titles over.” – Bill Coons
“Riding in my brother’s first beetle when I was a teenager, I found out the battery was in the rear seat area when I sat down and jumped the +/- with the seat spring and my 177 lbs. I had a scar on my right cheek for years from that. Took out my favorite pair of 501 Levi’s.” – Andy White
“When I was 10 years old, I helped my father restore his 1967 beetle and we won 2nd place in its first show. He has since passed away, but I still have that trophy sitting in my shop. We spent everyday working on it. Best memories of my father.” -Russ Thompson
“Best car in the world. Owned my ’66 for 12 years now. I’ve worked on every inch of it. Drove it to college, at the drag strip, and to my wedding. And as of today, I will be able to drive my son around in it.” – Tyler Wilson
Out With a Bang
I had a 1970 Beetle back in college. I was driving up the interstate on my way to school and managed to get up to 70 mph going downhill in a tail wind. It was the highlight of bug ownership until five seconds later when I heard an explosion. I look in my rear view mirror and all I can see out the back window is flames.
“I pulled over and yanked the battery out from under the backseat and stood by the side of road to watch it burn. A friendly trucker pulled over and put out the fire with his extinguisher. They shut down the interstate and a fire truck showed up 15 minutes later and [they] took axes to my car, trying to make sure the fire was truly out. That was the end of my bug ownership.” -Eric Haddix
“Every day when I turn my beast on and wake the neighborhood. Every day when I drive past someone and watch them punch-Bug each other. Every day when I see little kids’ jaws drop because to them my car is the ‘coolest car ever!’ Every day is a great day in the beetle.” -Ty Algiere
Beetle Ownership: OG Roadkill
“In 1967, I got a 1962 Beetle for $10 with a broken crank. I learned a lot while fixing it, and that started a lifelong habit of obtaining other people’s cast-off transportation and getting it running. The bug was eventually sold to a friend who put a Sand Shark buggy body on the chassis. “-James Shiels
“My dad had one back in New York when I was probably 4 or 5. Rust holes in the pan let exhaust leak into the passenger compartment. Not fun driving in winter with the windows down to say the least, let alone the carbon monoxide poisoning. He also painted the car with driveway sealer at one point.” – Brian Gross
DIY Teenage VW
“Started working a job at a chicken take-away when i was 13, saved until i was 14 and then bought a 1956 VW oval window. It was barely a shell, rusted, wrecked. Bought a welder and learned how to repair rust and do bodywork, bought most of my tools to do the mechanical side of things (My dad showed me the ins and outs of mechanics as he is a technician ).
“Spent every day after school fixing it up and doing all the resto work. It received a 914 Boxer motor from a Porsche with down-draft Webers and a stainless performance exhaust. All up, I finished the car just after my 17th birthday, just in time for my Australian license. I spent my last year cruising it to school! All my friends thought it was the greatest little Bug ever. I still have it and I’m never going to sell it.” -Blair Whittle
Flying Beetle Delivery Service
“Man, oh man, I can FINALLY participate here! In the ’70s in Winnipeg, there was a pizza chain called Gondola Pizza, and my buddy at that time’s father owned a franchise. All Gondola Pizza delivery cars were Bugs , usually with the passenger seat removed and a giant heater box sitting in its place. There WERE backseats for friends of the drivers, though! Mr. Lancaster’s Gondola was in St. Boniface and it being the Prairies, everything there is dead flat…except the raised railway tracks!
I can’t tell you how many Bugs I was in that got airborne for 10-20 feet off those raised tracks! The drivers would try and get the cars back each night in ‘drivable’ shape for next day, but after 3 or 4 jumps in a single night, it often did not work out like that. Mr. Lancaster only minded a bit as the Volkswagon Bugs at that time could easily be bought for less than 600 bucks. It was as much fun I had ever had in a car up until that point and in case anyone was wondering, Bugs are incredibly well balanced in the air and tend to land on all 4 wheels!” -Kerry Krishna
“My Roadkill-as-**** Volksrod. It was a little uglier when I got it. Previous owner installed the Heb “kit”. ’63 vert body, ’68 pan. Had an uber-dangerous front end and beam extender in it. Pulled them for proper replacements. Spent a year deciding on the rims: Rocket Fire 16″x5″ and 18″x8″ with Yokohamas. Fabricated bomber seats from Iron Ace are in the living room. All switches and circuit breakers are mil-spec. Starter button is an ejector-seat button. Dash panels are recycled scrap aluminum.” -Emory J. Fitts
Saved by the Door
“I’ll never forget being 16 years old, living in Guadalajara, Mexico, and driving my uncle’s Beetle. I took it around a sharp left curve in a lower gear, the back end started to slide out so I lifted and, wham, lift-off-throttle oversteer! I thought it was going to roll over but the passenger door flung open and hit the road pushing the car back upright. Memories.” – David O. Rodriguez
(Shortest) Distance Record
“Bought a ’69 a year ago, no joke 20 yards from where I bought it, the front driver’s wheel fell off. Then 5 miles later, the motor started burning oil on the heads and then proceeded to throw a belt and finally overheated and lost all compression. 2 days and 200 buck, later I had done a full top-end rebuild.” -Joshua Finke
Awesome Thing Going On Here
“I got a ’74 Super Beetle when I was 14 years old, spent two years with my dad rebuilding it before learning to drive. I drove that car through high school, through snowstorms in the snow belt of Ohio, drove it when I got married, and through my first two children, car seats and all. It was in several accidents, but I kept driving and repairing it, then I had a third kid and ran out of seat belts, so I parked the car and got a VW with enough seat belts. I still have my purple ’74 super beetle although he hasn’t been on the road in about 10 years, I hope to restore him again someday along with my husbands 1974 Thing and get them back to drivable condition.” -Sandi Martin Smith
When I was 8 years old, I was in love with Herbie The Love Bug, just adored that little car, so my dad always had in the back of his mind to look for a ’63 Beetle for me. My dad was at the bar one night with some friends and someone mentions that the next day they were going to look at a Beetle for him and his wife. My dad asked what year it was and it was a ’63, well my dad and him made a deal of whoever gets to the car first (4+ hours away) would get the car!
So they booked it down to Lethbridge and my dad in his still-fresh 2002 GMC Sierra beat him, so he gets a dolly trailer and brings it home. The next morning my mom is screaming at my dad about something, so I walked upstairs to hear my mom say “If he sees that thing we won’t be able to get rid of it, he’ll fall in love instantly!” And I look outside and poking out the front of my mom’s Tahoe was a little nose of a car. And me being 8, I ran up and hugged him and called him Herbie. I’m 22 now and Herbie is still mine!” – Kyle Hanger
Dad and the Automotive Entry Point
“1977 Superbeetle Convertible with a 1641cc motor. Look at that big, bad 16-year-old kid. My greatest Bug story? Building this over the course of a couple years with my Dad. This car was my first car and the vehicle that drug me (forcefully) into the world of automotive mechanics. It became a Bug hobby, which became a Baja hobby, which led to a Jeep hobby… And I still have it. It’s in tarp storage for the time being. But it will never leave my family as long as I have something to say about it. Endless memories that I’ll always cherish with my pops.” -Farren Chuck Messerli
“Was probably 19 at the time, friend called me up asked if I wanted to come with him to Elko (about 5 hours from Reno) to pick up a ’66 Bug. [He] just wanted someone just in case something happened; we took the train, met the guy at the station around noon, car looked good and drove fine. The guy did say there was some rust on the floor pan—key word “some”—we get about 2 hours outside Elko, hit a pot hole, and a good chunk of the pan disappeared under my feet. Yup, was a lot of fun got some 4x2s halfway home so we didn’t have to hover our feet. By the time we got to Reno, there wasn’t anything left in front of the seat mounts.” -David Borges
Pile of the Month
“My first bug was a 1966 Cal Look Baja. It was a failed conversion I got for $300 with the rear chopped and the front slammed. Had a 1958 36hp motor with a Porsche 12-volt generator. In its original condition, it was a featured “Pile of the Month” in VW Trends circa early 1988. Put new glass all around, new interior, double-tube bumpers, new beam, lifted swings, and 31×10.50 out back.
It would do 60mph downhill in a hurricane and zero to 60 in 10 minutes, but that 36hp was solid, could run all day in the sand washes of the Mojave desert in first with no overheating problems. When the fuel pump failed, my local import shop had a NOS pump in stock, handed it to me for free and said if it doesn’t work, don’t bring it back. It had been in the shop since the late ’50s and had a Zenith phone number like an old tv show.” -Chris Zeliff
Volkswagen Valet Parking
“Well, my friends and I went to the movies once and there was limited parking so we went round and round and kept passing this Bug that was double parked. So four of us decided to pick it up and move it over so we could park.” -Michael Healy
Out of the Back 40 and Into My Car
In the black trashy-looking bug, broke a rear drum in the mountains of western Oregon. Pushed the car off the highway, went walking to find a phone, the guy I asked said he had a pan probably sitting out in his orchard. 3 hours later, we’re dragging my Bug to his workshop where we extracted a rusty IRS pan that still had 2 rear drums on it, 6 hours after THAT I had changed out the drum for one of the rusty old ones to get back home, having sanded the inner braking surface by hand as good as I could get it.
“That was 2011. It’s still on the car today, having sold it and then bought it back and drove on it from Oregon to Los Angeles and then daily driving it. I’ve had 10 of them, the black Bug was car #1 and the blue car pictured is my current daily. Countless stories of roadside repairs and people who stop and help. The one of the old man who stashed a pan away before I was born is one of my favorites though, ’cause what are the odds?” -Brendon Tatman
Never Underestimate a Drag Bug
“1985ish at Orlando Speedworld with my 440-powered ’73 Challenger. I’m 17 and on top of the world. A little champagne Bug stages next to me and all I can hear is a whooshing whistle sound, it was so quiet! I chuckled and thought this will be easy…This dude wheel stands it out of the hole and appeared to grab air thru all four gears by half-track. I started to pull on him, but it was too late: 2-3 car lengths when we hit the stripe. All my buddies gave me a ton of crap, but nobody wanted to line up with him that’s for sure!” – James Turman
“My ’68 was both my favorite car and my most-hated car. Used it as my daily driver in Colorado and every storm, the windshield wiper arm would pop off of the wiper motor. Luckily, there was a giant hole in the dash where the snow would blow into my face and I could shove my hand in and manually move the wipers before the wind shield would ice up too much to see since there was no heat. Every storm was an adventure! I was always a Jeep CJ guy and was shocked to find a vehicle that was even more bare bones and even more problematic. Man I miss that stupid car.” – Cory Easterling
State of Disrepair
“Had a ’56 a couple years ago that refused to drive into Rhode Island. Literally every time I tried to drive in Rhode Island, something awful would happen. First time was the best, though. My 20th Birthday, middle of December. I hear a pop and grind, I lose my brakes and gears. I pull over and wedge up against the wall of a bridge right at the top of an entrance ramp. The wheel had come off! I stayed there for 8 hours before a tow truck came fighting with local police about whether or not I was actually there.
“Then had to wait four hours at a gas station waiting for my mother who was forty minutes away to come get me. Was able to get the car home from the tow station the next day. The driver’s rear axle wasn’t torqued right, came loose and sheared the splines from the drum. Wheel came right off and tucked in right up until the fender. Had an extra drum and wheel seal, had her back on the road the next day.” -Taylor Donabedian
Optional Extra Venting
“My first car was a beetle. I remember driving down Laguna Canyon Road and hitting a bump. The back window popped right out and landed on the ground skidding across the pavement. Amazingly, it did not break. It was all scratched up, though. I stopped and got the window out of the road, popped it back in, and ran it like that until I sold the car. Every time I looked in the mirror and saw the scratches, I was reminded of that day. We laughed so hard when it happened. Always a good memory.” -Peter Griffith
Most Roadkill Use of the Dashboard Flower Pot
“Back in the ’70s, my buddy Tim DeWeese (RIP) had a Beetle. He had a tin can wired to the little flower holder thingie on the dash and lit a candle in it to defrost the windshield in winter! I remember watching him spin donuts on the frozen lake in our town.” -Don Richardson