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Owner Review

1969 Volkswagen 1500 Review

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When sitting down to write something, first sentences are always the hardest, so I think I'll just put this here, that way the creative juices will start flowing and I'll be off to a flying start!

I wrote that around twelve minutes ago. Which, funnily enough, is roughly the same amount of time it takes a 1969 Volkswagen Beetle to get from 0-100.

Sorry, did I write 100? I meant 80.

And, let's be honest, do you really want to go 80 kmph in a car with kneecaps for airbags and a steering alignment as precise as a shotgun spray? Me neither...

The Volkswagen Beetle is a funny little thing. Born for the people by Hitler and his goons, the "Bug" has managed to survive decades of change with its chubby grin firmly intact.

Created as 1950's political propaganda for the masses of the Germany, the Bug developed into the 60's symbol of freedom and liberation, before slouching through the 70's and 80's and cementing itself in the record books for its production run of over 21 million cars. Thousands of changes were made over the years; some small, others large - all in an effort to keep up with the constantly evolving automotive landscape that was. But it just wasn't enough, and in 2003, the final Beetle rolled off the production line and straight into the museum, destined for greatness, forever.

The beetle I'm driving however, is not destined for greatness. In fact if I'm not careful, all it will be destined for is a telegraph pole. Or a brick wall.

The steering is awful. No, not awful. Woeful. It's like driving a wet, floppy mattress with your hands made of butter.

The simplest of right hand bends develops much like a scene from "A Beautiful Mind"; Apexes, steering charts and speed graphs float through your mind eye, and only the correct combination will unlock the corner's exit successfully.

Mind you, if did happen to miscalculate, you've got all the time in the world to realise it, because the Beetle is slow.

I'm not talking base-model-Toyota-Corolla slow.

I mean hung-over snail slow.

The German's may have the whole, small-engine-high-horsepower thing sorted now, but back in the 60's it was another story. Put it this way, the 1500cc engine has enough power to get you to the shops and back... If the shops were downhill and you were then prepared to move to a house past the shops further downhill.

It's not really the engines fault completely. The SynchroMess (or is it Mesh?) Gearbox reminds me of my childhood playing the board-game "Operation". Remember it? It was that one where the patient was lying down and you had to extract little parts buried in him with tweezers without touching the walls otherwise the buzzer would go off? Finding gears in a Beetle is much the same, It's just that if you touch a wall whilst fishing for a gear, it's the shattering sound of crunching cogs that warns of your mistake.

After several attempts and twice as many profanities, I finally got it into gear and sat back to take in my surroundings. The interior of a Beetle is a lovely place. I put it somewhere between sparse and Spartan, with just enough comfort to remind you of how lucky you are to be living in the 21st century.

If the petrol fumes haven't already completely suffocated you, the road, wind and engine noise will bludgeon you to within an inch of your sanity, and any change in climate outside is amplified inside the walls of the Bug. Chilly day outside? Make a snowman passenger. A pleasant Spring's Afternoon? Better Get a blacksmith to forge you gauntlets because everything you touch is magma.

Now, you may think that after reading all of this that I hate the Beetle; that I would never step foot in one again. Truth is, I've owned four beetles, each as devilishly good as the last.

You don't buy a beetle speed, or comfort or twisty mountain roads. You buy a Beetle for the headaches, the laughs and the moments.

Cars nowadays are too proper and too perfect; they've lost their character and sense of fun - they're all grown up.

The Beetle though, hasn't. It's a perfect moment frozen in time, preserved through its imperfections and quirks, which will live on longer than any new-age ounce of poise and perfect.