Monday, April 18, 2011

The New New Beetle

Today is the day Volkswagen announces its "21st-century Beetle" design.  It's not a secret; pictures have been all over the Web for a while now.  But have you seen it yet?

It's not round any more. 

Like this.
 It's sort of more...what? I've seen the new shape described as Mini Cooper-like, BMW Z3-like, even "kinda-sorta-Porsche-like."  To me it looks a little like a Kia Soul with the corners sanded off.  I don't know yet whether I like it.  My main question is:  Does it still combine a hatchback trunk with non-folding rear seats?  Because it would be nice for Beetle owners to be able to carry something larger than a desktop computer in back.

Brief history of my love affair with the Bug:  I feel in love with the Beetle around the time I fell in love with those other Beatles.  I was 12, and as soon as I saw that famous white VW on the back of Abbey Road, I was hooked.

You can have a Bug when you're 28, IF they're still being made.
Bestest Friend had an orange Beetle when we were in high school, which is the only reason I hung out with her.  Or maybe she was the greatest person on the planet and a dork like me was lucky to have her as a friend and the Bug only made her cooler.  I forget these little details with the passage of time.  Anyway, we loved her little stick-shift Bug, and it took us everywhere.  (I think her brother finally drove it into a ditch many years later...RIP, Orange Bug.)

A Beetle was my dream car.  At one time I wanted one that was white with a yellow interior, so it looked like an egg.  I told you I was a dork.  But as the years went by, I found myself driving a series of decidedly non-Beetlesque vehicles:  a 1980 Chevy Citation, a 1988 Pontiac LeMans, a 1984 Subaru station wagon.

I know, right?
Then, in 1998, the New Beetle was released.  Oh, how I wanted one!  It was round and adorable and had the engine in the right place and was available with an automatic transmission!  I had never let my notable mediocrity at driving stick interfere with my fantasy of owning a Bug (in those same fantasies I was taller, thinner, and cuter than real life, too, so the configuration of the transaxle was not a major concern at the time).  But now I didn't have to.

The only thing that could stop me from getting a New Beetle was the near-impossible task of getting a baby carrier in and out of the back seat.  But so what?  I didn't have one of those whadyacallem, babies, in 1998.  Then, in 1999...

Lolcat rendering of the miracle of birth.
So when Beloved Spouse and I bought a new car to transport our not-yet-Precocious-but-tiny-and-cute Daughter, it wasn't a Bug.  It was a Buick.  A sturdy, comfortable, smooth-riding, four-door Buick.  BelSpouse was in heaven (he's had a thing for big American sedans ever since he pulled up for our first date in a powder-blue 1978 Ford Thunderbird).  I loved my little girl more than any car, of course, and it was just as well, because it turns out babies cost even more than car payments. 

So I waited.  And waited.  And in the fullness of time, two things happened.  First, the Buick got paid off.  Second, PDaughter got old enough to clamber in and out of her car seat by herself. 

Meanwhile, a Carmelite nun in South Texas decided to sell her two-year-old New Beetle, which had 9,900 miles on it and presumably was used only to drive the other nuns to Chippendales on their days off.  (Note to self: 10 Hail Marys, stat.)  That car ended up on a lot in Houston, where the used-car manager put it up for sale on eBay. 

And that's how I finally got my beloved buying it on eBay.  Because you should always buy a cute car in a cute way.

I love my Bug.  He's got a few creaks and rattles now, and his upholstery is looking a bit worn, but as long as there are daisies in the bud vase and the stereo still plays loud, I love him.  PDaughter is old enough to ride in the front seat these days, which I find amazing and wonderful and a little sad.  Still, I'm going to keep driving him as long as my indifferent maintenance and poor driving habits will allow.

Will I consider buying a New New Beetle at some point?  I don't know.  There is that lack of cargo space - just once I'd like to go to Ikea and buy something larger than a spatula.  And I hear rumors that the 21st-century Bug has no bud vase (gasp!!).  Then there's that whole German engineering thing, which is wunderbar but means that you can't change a burned-out headlight in your own garage.  It makes me seethe that BelSpouse can casually screw in a $4 bulb on his car, while I have to go to the dealership and fork over $55 to remove the entire headlamp casing.  It's a pretty high cost for the cute factor of a Beetle.

Anyway, practicality and economics dictate that I'm going to be driving my Bug for a while, and BelSpouse is next in line for a replacement vehicle.  I'll have a few years to examine this asymmetrical VW and consider my options for the future.  But right now I'm thinking maybe it's best if a dream comes true just once in a lifetime.

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