If you can’t fix it with gum or duct tape, it’s not a real VW bus

image When I first heard about Volkswagen’s plans to bring back the Microbus, I immediately decided it would become our new family vehicle. That’s because no mode of transportation offers the same level of excitement as riding in a VW bus.

Except maybe riding in a runaway mine car.

But that was always part of its charm, just like the seat belts that had to be double-knotted to the door handle; the innovative heating system that blended engine heat and exhaust fumes with just enough outside air to keep occupants from blacking out; and a horn that never EVER worked — and when I say never-ever, I don’t just mean on mine. To this day, I have yet to meet anyone who has actually had (or witnessed the existence of) a working horn on a VW bus. Remember, this was way before side-impact bars, breakaway bumpers and so many air bags popping out of places that, last year alone, false sightings of Pamela Anderson rose by as much as 64 percent.

It used to be that comfort didn’t have to come at the expense of safety. In fact, the total cost of safety features on an average VW was about $6, which was the price of a bracket for mounting a spare tire on the front. Once it was put in place, that circle of inflated rubber became your vehicle’s most important safety feature.

Because, technically, it was the ONLY safety feature.

Admittedly, this doesn’t take into account the bus’s aerodynamic body design, which was modeled after a standard ACME brick, and therefore created enough wind resistance to keep the vehicle from climbing any grade steeper than, say…

A speed bump.

Because of all this, I was shocked to hear that Volkswagen described their new Microbus as “a vast improvement over the 1950s design.”

This is like saying you have somehow improved on the design of your favorite pair of old underwear; sure, maybe they’re not much to look at, and maybe the muffler’s worn out, but at least you know you’ll get a comfortable ride. At no time since parting with my own VW bus 14 years ago have I ever driven a more comfortable vehicle. And at no time since then have I managed to get in or out of a vehicle without resembling someone failing a yoga exam. That’s because the VW designers of old didn’t see a need to fill every available space with some kind of special feature. Aside from the essentials needed to steer, accelerate, shift gears and slow the vehicle down enough to allow the drag of your foot to bring it to a complete stop, there was nothing else getting in the way of your driving experience.

There was literally enough room in the front for a driver, a passenger and a pair of square dancers to all lock elbows and do-si-do, just as long as they avoided bumping the gear shift.

Not anymore.

You see, the new and improved Microbus has things like an on-board multiplex theater, a DVD/video game console and seven-inch TV screens built into the seats — which, by the way, are covered in white leather. How can THAT be an improvement over the old seats? At least when THOSE cracked they could be fixed with a strip of electrical tape that not only blended perfectly with the seat, but also matched many accents in the black plastic interior.

And if you think you can still save money by working on the engine yourself, you can forget about it. The new and improved version is a computerized, 5-speed, 230 horsepower V6 engine with “Tiptronic” clutch-less shifting. Now, I don’t know what all that means exactly, but I’m pretty sure that my standard VW repair kit, which consisted of gum, duct tape, a beer tab, three rolls of kite string and a copy of VW Repair for the Complete Idiot, won’t do me much good.

So, to set the record straight, we do not plan to buy a new Microbus. At least not until they introduce a new, UNimproved version of the 1950s design. I’d like to stir up a grass roots movement for this idea, so I’m asking anyone who’d like to see the return of the old-style of bus to please honk when they see me.

Of course, if you happen to actually be driving an old VW bus at the time, then you’ll just have to wave.

But don’t forget to swing your partner first.

(Ned is a syndicated columnist with News Media Corporation. You can write to him at nhickson@thesiuslawnews.com, or at Siuslaw News, P.O. Box 10, Florence, Ore. 97439)

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Ned's Blog

I was a journalist, humor columnist, writer and editor at Siuslaw News for 23 years. The next chapter in my own writer’s journey is helping other writers prepare their manuscript for the road ahead. I'm married to the perfect woman, have four great kids, and a tenuous grip on my sanity...

180 thoughts on “If you can’t fix it with gum or duct tape, it’s not a real VW bus”

  1. Many memories your post brought. hahahaha Never had one, but followed one many miles in our broken down Dodge when hubby was traveling musician in the 60’s. The keyboard player had the VW bus, and it looked well worn, but hardy. Great post.

  2. I own a ’75 Riviera and I have to say, my horn works pretty well – perhaps a bit TOO well, since sometimes it sticks and I have the devil of a time getting it to stop!

    1. Lol! I should have been more specific in terms of a “working” horn. My second VW van had the same problem. It would go off for no reason. One time, it went off while I was on the freeway behind a group of Hells Angels. I’m lucky to be alive…

  3. Caught this on Freshly Pressed. Sure brings back lots of memories of riding in neighbor’s VW Bus (she called it a van). I also remember seeing them everywhere in when I was living in Germany, usually as delivery vehicles (excellent platform for bread and milk). One thing you may not know is that going downhill on the Autobahn, they are faster than a 1972 Plymouth Belvedere doing 120. Sure, we passed them on the way up, but they crept by us on the way down the other side.

    1. Hahaha! What I wouldn’t give for video of that car chase! Yeah, I always referred to mine as a “bus.” Sounded more in character with how it was used: to haul all my friends around in! Thanks for sharing your memories, and for reading 😉

    1. Hey, I’m glad you stopped by too! If I can make someone laugh without baring anything but my observations, my work is done. Thanks for stopping in 😉

    1. Imagine the marketing impact you’d have showing up to meet clients in a tricked-out VW bus? It would be worth the investment. And duct tape.

      Thanks for reading!

  4. O! how I loved my ’73 green and white VW bus! We owned it for 13 years and sold it for about as much as we had originally paid for it. Many memories, like tootling down the highway and the man in the pickup driving by tells me my muffler is on fire. My first thought was, “But the muffler fell off two weeks ago!?!”
    It was a great car for our family with four children. Rubber mats that you could hose down when a drink got spilled (and the holes in the floorboards would let the water drain). Two kids in the rear seat would use the middle seatbelt to play “Feeding the Homeless” on trips home from church. And nothing beat the informal bus owners’ club where we’d wave to each other on the road (remember: horns don’t work properly!)
    We’ve since owned a 2004 diesel Jetta. Not the same VW experience!
    Thanks for the trip down memory lane!

    1. What great stories and memories. The best thing about making this post has been the trip down memory lane, not just for me, but with so many people and their experiences. Thanks for reading — and sharing yours 😉

  5. HHAH. Great post. Love your sense of humor. You forgot to add zip ties to your “fix it” tool kit. 🙂

  6. My first car was a VW bus, ’74 model with a working horn, but there was so many other things that kept me busy about the car. It was the most fun vehicle I’ve ever owned.

    1. It seems pretty simple, doesn’t it? I say we protest by circling our VW vans like a wagon train outside of VW’s corporate headquarters, then honk all our horns. It’ll be a silent protest, but still…

  7. Hello, I am new to the blogging world. I see that you have a good audience on your blog. I am an author and I just published my autobiography. I self published so I need to market it on my own. I want to raise awareness about my book so that it can reach and impact as many people as possible. If you can put this on your blog for your readers I would greatly appreciate it. I see that you have quite the following and it would really help if I had somebody with experience to help me promote my book. Thank you!! If you can even go to my blog and ‘reblog’ my post about my book that would be awesome thank you so much!! Even if you can support me by reading my book that would be awesome!!



  8. Ned, awesome post. So awesome that I now follow thee. I wrote a post recently about picking up a VW beetle with my friend when I was in my 20s and rippin’ muscular. You might like it. Have you see my gig at BigBodyBeautiful? The post is on there. Oh, and thanks for liking my post on Black Box Warnings. So glad to be in your orbit now. 🙂

    1. Thanks, Liz! I’m planning on spending part of Saturday o n the blogosphere — and you’re one of the stops I am looking most forward to.

      I’m glad our orbits intersected as well 😉

  9. Reblogged this on Father Says… and commented:
    When I came across Ned’s account … I just had to reblog. He is absolutely right. You can’t experience the joy (?) of a VW bus ownership unless you had one. Ours was red and white with a side door that rolled on the rail without benefit of the rollers. They had rusted off years before. And the only time you got heat was in mid-summer in the Midwest. It was a trooper, though, which came to a 200,000 plus end when we (I) blew a rod and left pieces parts on a quarter mile stretch on Route 39 in Illinois. It was best remember for a shift fork that kept slipping out of place. It was an easy fix, positioning pudgy fingers down the shift lever to force it back into place. The most notable time was in New York City entering the Lincoln Tunnel during dinnertime rush. I heard plenty of horns that day as I attempted to slip the fork back into slots … but Ned is right, my horn never worked. Glad Illinois didn’t have yearly inspections back then.
    THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: If everything is coming your way, you’re in the wrong lane.

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