Tell us about the history of your ’67 Beetle?
I’ve wanted a classic Volkswagen since I was a kid. I’m not certain where the influence came from. I found very quickly that I was not going to get more than the rusted remains of a classic VW Bus in my price range, so I started searching through Beetle listings out of financial necessity. We test drove a handful of them across California and none of them were really right. They were all molested, with big bassy stereo systems and funky junk going on in the engine. I didn’t dig it. I wanted something original, but not in showroom condition as I wasn’t up to such a responsibility. I figured I might bump into a few curbs along the way. I wanted something more on the hoodride side but also something semi reliable that wouldn’t fall apart. I was pretty particular about it.
We were worn out after a few weeks, and my budget was beginning to dwindle when I finally found Walter listed on The Samba. We drove to Palo Alto, and instantly when I saw him I knew he was perfect. Love at first sight.
It was a very short transaction – we drove around in a little circle down University Avenue.
“This is absolutely the one.”
We handed the guy $2,750 cash, he handed me the keys. He mentioned he was the second owner. He had several project cars in his driveway and said he was selling it to free up some space.
Have you done any restoration work on the car?
Not much to speak of. Walter was in pretty original condition when I picked him up. Rough around the edges, but very original. I’ve done everything I can to keep it that way. He could certainly use some restorative maintinance, but I kinda love to see the age on him. Sometimes I want to get him clean and shiny, back to showroom standards and then I don’t. Why? because that really isn’t me. I have holes in my shoes and snags in my sweaters, hair unbrushed, hands dirtied. My ’67 matches me on a cosmic level; paint fairly oxidized, speedometer busted, offensive phrases etched into layers of dust. I wipe my hands on my clothes and I dunno if I could ever be comfy in something I’d be stressed about spilling a soda in.
How reliable has the car been over the years?
Walter works for me. I’ve led a bit of a strange life since buying him. He only gets irritated in July. It seems to be an annual snapping-of-the-fan belt tradition. I don’t know if it’s heat-related or I’m a complete dunce (probably both). But anyway, a snapped fan belt is incredibly minor.
Have you had any major mechanical issues?
Last Summer I had to replace the generator. It’s the only engine issue I’ve had in four years. Other than that it’s all fan belts and oil changes. I replaced the brakes shortly after I bought it; and eventually the tires and a handful of minor things that had worn down with age.
What makes the ’67 Beetle so unique?
It’s the only car I’ve ever owned and the only car I know how to drive. That makes it one of a kind to me.
You’re a photographer. What is it about the Beetle that works in terms of subject matter for your ideas?
It’s the stuff of my life basically. It’s the only possession I can be sure of. In the years that I’ve owned it my life has been rather unstable – moving from one place to another with a day’s notice. That little car is my only sense of stability. When I see it I feel home no matter where it’s parked. I tend to take photos of it mostly because it personifies me that way – “That’s Manda, and that’s her car.” Everything else is more or less inconstant.
What do you enjoy most about owning a ’67 Beetle?
It appeals to my nature. It’s incredibly idiosyncratic. Predictably unpredictable. I love the way it handles, I love the intamacy of how little space there is, I love the simplicity of its levers and dials, I love the way it sounds and smells. Mostly, I can’t stand new things. The newer a thing is, the less real it seems to me. Older things are more tangible. That might not make sense but it’s really very important to me. A thing has to have survived years and seen things. It’s character.
What do you think about the VW German engineering of old?
It’s the only thing I’m acquainted with – works wonderful for me! I’ve attempted to drive my sister’s 2010 Jetta and I have to wonder, how do people get around in a car that drives itself? It’s highly unnerving to me. I like to know I’m the one in control, moving my own tires without the help of any mysterious electronic impulses.
Thanks Amanda for sharing your story with 1967beetle.com.
All Photography: Amanda De Vito