Oh, My, Isn’t It a Beauty!

I got my car back today, exactly as the mechanic promised, everything new or rebuilt or upgraded— engine, transmission, clutch, firewall, cv’s, alternator, and a host of small parts. He said my VW is now the second best he’s seen, the best being an 2003 bug manufactured in Mexico that ended up in the USA and was somehow made legal. But compared to my car, that one is just a baby. Mine is . . . astonishing.

It is astonishing that the car kept going with only necessary maintenance for so many years. It is astonishing I have owned but one car my entire life. It is astonishing that I managed to find both a great body guy and a great air-cooled VW engine guy to do do the restoration, and that I had the money to pay them. And it truly is astonishing that a car I thought was almost moribund has risen from the dead and is now as new as a 44-year old vehicle can be.

Oh, my. Isn’t it a beauty!

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(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)

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Rebuilt engine

and the mechanic who did the work.

The Folly of Planning

I should know by now that making plans is an act of folly since life — and death — so often overrides those plans. And yet, still I plan.

For the past several months, I’ve been planning and preparing for a cross-country hiking/camping/backpacking trip. I bought whatever gear I thought I’d need, fulfilled my promises, cleared my schedule. In fact, I was just ticking off the last item on my list — an oil change and a tune-up — in preparation for my departure this weekend, when my plans fell apart.

I should have known this would be an ill-fated trip when not one, not two, but three people who had invited me for extended stays more or less disinvited me all within a couple of days of each other. I’d still planned to head out because ultimately this trip was about me and my relationship to the world, but my mechanic put the brakes on the whole thing, at least for now.

Apparently, although the car runs very well, and the engine could last for a couple of more years just driving around town, I’d need luck to do a cross-country trip, and despite my penchant for planning, luck is something I never plan on. I didn’t intend to push either myself or the ancient VW, so I probably would have been okay, but I bowed to the inevitable and am having the engine rebuilt. And the transmission. Eek.

It’s funny. I had the body work done because the engine and other mechanical parts were fine, but now that they are not good enough for what I have planned, I have no choice but to get the very expensive work done or else I would have wasted the small fortune I spent on the body. By the time it’s all done, I will have paid enough to have bought a new car. I certainly can’t fool myself into thinking that all this work makes the vehicle new — this folly of mine is still forty-four years old. And yet . . . what the heck. Everyone needs a folly at least once in their life, right? Besides, the bug is the only car I have ever owned, and I’m the only owner it has ever had. Such uniqueness should be celebrated, if only by a new engine.

Once the work is done, I still can’t set out. I need to drive it around town for at least five hundred miles to break in the engine and maybe take a short trip or two before I attempt a cross-country trip. So that’s what I’m planning.

Yep. Always planning, folly or not.

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(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)

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Makes me wonder what plans these seabirds had made — or not made — for them to end up in a parking lot in the desert, waiting for a ride back home.

The Great Reveal!!

I had nightmares last night. In my dreams, I drove helplessly around, got lost, couldn’t see where I was going, which makes sense since my six month hiatus from driving was about to end.

Yep. The VW restoration is complete!

Oddly, I didn’t think I’d feel anything for the finished car — I mean, it is just a car — but when I went to pick it up today, I felt awed and overwhelmed at my first glimpse of the restored bug sitting in front of the auto body shop. I knew Pedro did good work, but it’s one thing seeing other old cars looking new, and something else seeing your own. He truly went over and above what he said he would, partly because he is an artist, and partly he felt bad about how long it took.

The artist who restored my Volkswagen

The artist who restored my Volkswagen

The thing shines! He polished the windows, headlights, hubcaps. Replaced all rubber parts and weatherstipping. This in addition to hundreds of hours of bodywork. No bondo for him! Sheet metal and welds all the way. And he did all the things he said he would such as replace the brake and fuel lines that I’d paid someone else to fix. (He tells me God loves me because I could have been killed in that car. Not only did the cheat not replace the brake lines he was supposed to replace, he cut the rear brake line and plugged the hole for the rear brakes on the brake cylinder. Eek.)

And his upholstery guy did a good job on the interior — new padding and slipcovers on the seats, new headliner, new carpeting throughout.

It’s still an old car, of course, with old car crotchets, but not as many as you would think. The last time I drove the car, it was a rattletrap, a junker. It didn’t really matter what happened to it since it seemed to be on its last legs . . . er, wheels. And now, it’s a near classic, a vintage car of some value. That will take getting used to!

I was worried the car wouldn’t start after not being driven for so long, but it started right up. I was worried about forgetting how to drive, but that wasn’t a problem, either. I drove for a couple of hours today to work out any kinks, but the mechanic who did the repair work seven months ago did a wonderful job. There were no mechanical problems, and the car sounds like new. (Like a new old-style-beetle, that is. Not like a new modern day vehicle.)

I’ve often wondered at my folly for going along with such a protracted and rather costly restoration. (I didn’t envision a restoration — I just wanted to get rid of enough rust so it could be painted.) After all, as people keep reminding me, it’s still an old car, and as such doesn’t have the safety features of the new cars. On the other hand, it also doesn’t have a gazillion electronic parts except for the electronic ignition I had put in. It’s mechanical all the way.

Now I’m glad I went ahead with the restoration. It’s past time for a bit of folly, and besides, it’s nice seeing the old bug looking so good.

Restored 72 VW

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(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)

At the Car Hospital

I went to visit my car at the auto body shop today, and it’s left me feeling . . . I don’t know. Shaken, maybe. I never wanted to see it in the intermediate stages of restoration — things so often get worse before they get better, and this is so much worse! — but I needed to see if the car was in fact being worked on.

And oh, the poor thing! Makes me wonder if I will regret having all the work done. I am pouring out a lot of money for what is, after all, an ancient vehicle. (I have never done an expensive foolhardy thing in my life, never wasted more than a few dollars at a time, so if this turns out to be a foolish move, then, I’ll just chalk it up to experience.) Even worse, I’m stuck in this vehicleless and homeless state for another month, and the frustration of it all is getting to me. I am an independent soul who hates begging for help, and lately, I am in that situation more often than not, especially since I am running out of people to sponge off of. In the beginning, people felt good about helping, and were pleased to have an opportunity to be kind, but three months is enough to strain everyone’s patience.

One friend said that the reason homeless people end up on the street is that they run out of people to stay with, and I am heading in that direction, at least locally. I’m not in any danger of ending up on the street — I’m not destitute and there are such things as motels, after all, but without a car, I would be trapped.

I suppose it’s good for me to be temporarily embracing such a lifestyle as this, humbling though it might be. Since I have chosen to believe I am where I am meant to be, there could be a reason I am supposed to be hanging around. Or not. It could simply be an ill-fated wind blowing through my life.

Oddly, despite the lengthy restoration process (and the even lengthier wait for the restorer to get started), I still trust this guy. I think he’s an artist who knows what he is doing. And one cannot hurry art. So will this mess end up as a workable piece of art? Only the auto body guy knows.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.