My first car was a 1957 oval-window Beetle that I bought from a neighbor in the summer of 1967. It was in excellent shape, other than a howl in first gear. Old cars weren't cool back then, and I was embarrassed by the little bitty oval window that just screamed "OLD CAR"
. I had a serious dent in one of my back fenders thanks to my dad backing into the car, so I went out to look for a replacement. The dune buggy craze had hit Southern California by then, and used VW body parts were easy to find. At a dune buggy shop I spotted a slightly newer VW body that had a serviceable fender. I asked them what they wanted for the fender and they said they would sell me the whole body for $35.00. A wild plan instantly sprang into my head
. I could swap the newer (larger rear window) body for my old oval, and voila! A newer-looking car would be mine for very little money.
We got the body home and I started to clean it up. It had no headliner and no lights, and the weatherstripping was either missing or rock-hard. My plan was to restore the body and then make the swap. Unfortunately, events overtook me and I wrecked my '57
. The whole front end was pretty well gone, but the collision hadn't damaged the gas tank. In fairly short order, we had the old body off the chassis and bolted on the newer one. Due to the front end damage, I needed to buy all new headlights, and the front part of the wiring harness was crushed and unusable. The howling first gear had been fatally damaged in the accident, so I had no first gear. Worse, I had no reverse either. Lacking funds, I couldn't afford to get the transmission repaired, but I did have to farm out the wiring work.
I got all the required lights, a new steering wheel and column, and all the various trim pieces to make my frankenstein VW look complete. I now had a VW with a 1957 chassis and drivetrain, a 1958 or 1959 body, a 1958-style steering wheel, column, and turn signals, and various parts from every year that would fit. I drove it like that all the rest of my senior year of high school...making sure to park in spots that didn't need reverse gear to get out of.
I learned a lot about working on VWs from that little car. After I graduated from high school I bought a brand new Beetle, but it didn't have any character!