Updated: Oct 22, 2020
There’s nothing egotistical about a 60's Volkswagen, kind of. You don’t do anything more than anybody…there’s nothing to brag about. It’s not faster, it doesn’t slow down faster. It doesn’t go around corners faster, it doesn’t accelerate faster. It does nothing fast. The top speed isn’t even fast. I think most older Volkswagens…like my 1969 Bug…it would go 80 miles an hour. That was the highest I ever got it to go. ‘Cause it’s just…it only had forty-five horsepower motor. Forty-five. What’s normal? A Subaru Outback has about a hundred and eighty. A Toyota Forerunner has about two eighty. Sports cars have like four hundred horsepower. Volkswagens have like..four-ty. There was nothing arrogant about it.
And now you take into consideration the name of the company…Volkswagen is the people’s car, it’s totally socialist. Then the company came up with different models. So, the Beetle was the first model. And the name of the Beetle is very un-arrogant, too. It’s just a little itty-bitty tiny little thing …it’s a Bug! It’s a very humble, little bug.
And Volkswagen just milked the bajeerbers out of that in their advertising. They were really well known for their ads. They’d have this fancy American muscle car going around and all of a sudden you have this little “Beep Beep!” and they would draw, it would be like this little itty-bitty cartoony-kind of images of a little Beetle going around going “Beep Beep! Beep Beep! Beep Beep!” and then messing with the big powerful American muscle car. Then you have “Herbie the Love Bug”, remember Herbie? The love bug... love... the sixties...love...humble. And that was just a little…the whole Herbie the Love Bug story was about a little itty-bitty humble vehicle that actually became a race car.
Volkswagen came up with different models of vehicles. They came up with a van and a wagon…I can’t remember what they called that. But the VW Van was referred to as either a transporter or I think it was really kind of affectionately known as a “combi” which also kind of tells me that it’s like “combining.” Combi. Combining. Transport. Transporting many people, too. Because VW Vans came as campers (outdoor). But they would all hold a lot of people. You know, like, the transporter was like a bus. It was basically a bus, a little minibus. They were also called VW Bus. And I think there’s one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight…seating for eight, which back in those days was really big. And you wonder why Volkswagen was the big sixties hippie-mobile. The whole thing about the company was inclusive, not arrogant. It was adventurous…anti-establishment, too, because you could fix it yourself. You didn’t need help. I mean, you did a little bit, of course, everyone needs help, but they were so easy to fix. Four bolts and you take the whole engine out. Comparatively speaking, they were a very easy vehicle to fix, pretty simple, which made them super bitchen, too, which meant self-sufficiency. And they’re all down in Baja Mexico. And they’re very rugged, too. They’re tough as nails for some reason. They’re simple, but they’re really tough. People even made a Volkswagen Beetle called the Baja Bug.
And then this is where the story flips. The humble little car starts to build a reputation of a not-so-humble rugged vehicle. In Mexico, they figured you could take them and “hot rod” them up a little bit and make them very suitable for driving off-road. And "the people" created their own version, a model called the Baja Bug, which originated in Baja, Mexico. For such a cheap...no wait, strike that... an affordable, simple vehicle, they were really frickin’ tough. They were like little tanks. Matter of fact, the Bus, they made them like one-tons. A full-sized Ford truck…those are one-tons. The VW Bus is a one-ton. It will carry a ton of stuff. That’s 2,500 pounds of gear it’ll carry inside of it.
And so Mexico adopted the Bug. Have you seen the taxis down in Mazatlan? Those are VW bugs. You can unbolt the top, and it would come off like a cap, and the underbody was complete. You’d have the engine attached to a body, and then you just take another fiberglass top and bolt it over the subfloor, put a steering wheel on it, and now you have a world-famous Matazlan Pulmonia Taxi. And Volkswagen kept building Bugs and Volkswagens in Mexico until the 90’s or something? Because they were affordable; they were the “people’s car.” They were the people’s car for Mexico now. Not just the car for the rich…this is a car that everybody can afford. That’s why they are the people’s car…simple and affordable for everybody.
Not only were they were popular because they were cheap, affordable, fun…all that other stuff. They were also really rugged. The suspensions on them were really tough. And because Volkswagen's engines were over the rear wheels, they had really good traction in the sand and the snow. They’re almost as good as four-wheel drive. I used to take my Bug up to mountains, and it would drive up icy roads without chains all the time.
Mexico loved them because they were tough. And they figured out “well, why not let’s have fun and race them?” The Baja 1000 was happening at some point back in the ’60s (whatever the history of that thing started). And it was all American…VROOM…Ford Broncos and stuff like that. And they had one category, which was totally stock, which you just took a regular stock Volkswagen and put a little bit bigger tires on and you could race it. And it’s funny because it only has forty-five horsepower or maybe during the ’60s, it went up to sixty (a whopping sixty horsepower!). But then they figured out “well, heck, if this is so bitchen stock, how bitchen could it be if you supe it up?” What people did is they ripped the fenders off.
Because the whole thing was so simple, you could modify it really easily. You could unbolt the fenders. Most cars these days…it’s one big piece of sheet metal. You don’t unbolt anything. On a Bug, you can unbolt all the fenders over the wheels (the arches over the wheels), and unbolt the bumpers. The whole thing can be taken apart. And then, they were putting fiberglass fenders, take the hood off the back so you could get better airflow, change the motor…they would supe up the motor…take the motor out…supe the motor up…and you might get a hundred and twenty horsepower…you get double the horsepower, which was a big deal for such a light vehicle. You’re making it light with the fiberglass. And you’re putting a bigger motor, suping up the motor…putting dual carbs and exhaust and heck, you might even get two hundred horsepower. And then, that became the Baja Bug. Put big tires on it and you can go through anything.
Well with every good story there is a struggle. I guess this one starts with a humble little bug and ends with a racing monster. It seems that nothing stays the same for long. In the end, I don't like to think dualistically...in the either/or... but instead maybe both. Ultimately, maybe the Volkswagen is both humble and egotistical. And maybe that's OK.