Want to Love a Beetle? Restore it.
Owner: Lalo Gutierrez
Year, Make, and Model: 1965 Volkswagen Beetle
Location: Napa, California, USA
Photographer: Andrei Astafyev
It’s hard to say how I became interested in cars. I’ve always been curious about mechanical things, and cars (old ones in particular) have always caught my attention. As a little kid, I loved to go to classic car shows and was intrigued with how classic cars looked in comparison to the new cars I saw everyday. It was puzzling to me at a young age how such beautiful cars were no longer being built or being driven as much. For someone my age (nineteen), it isn’t common to be interested in old cars. Most people my age are off doing things with computers and making apps on their iPhones and what not. I feel like the odd one out when I would rather choose to spend my weekend in my garage working on something rather than going out of town. When I enter my car in shows, I’m usually the youngest entrant. But people there understand where I’m coming from. It’s nice to know I’m still carrying the torch and keeping the flame alive for a dying hobby and art.
In my final year of high school, we were required to undertake a final senior project that would be year-long and had to focus on a peronsal goal and interest. Some of my classmates chose to skydive, write poetry, learn guitar…I chose to do something I always wanted to do–restore a car. I began my sympathetic restoration in September when I found the Beetle and I had to complete it by May. It’s still amazing to me that I finished a restoration in such a short time span. I spent those nine months working in the garage 24/7. People thought I was crazy for taking on such a big project, and most of the people I talked to said I wouldn’t finish it in time. I completed the car just in time (I was still bolting things on the car hours before it was due) and drove it to the final presentation, which was a huge relief. I also learned how to drive stick in this car (it’s crazy to think that most people my age don’t know and probably will never learn how to drive a stick-shift car). I kept a blog on my progress restoring the Beetle, here.
When I began looking, I needed to find a cheap, easy-to-restore car for an amateur like myself. I found that Volkswagen Beetles were stylish and easy to work on, so I jumped to find the perfect candidate. It seems that everybody has a Volkswagen story, whether it’s “Oh nice bug! that was my first car….” or “Oh a bug! I drove one of those things to Alaska and back…” or even “I used to have ten of these things parked in my barn, one thing I regret today? Don’t get rid of em!” Each owner connects with their Volkswagen in a certain way, and I feel that by restoring one myself, I’ve come to appreciate it.
I knew that I wanted to find an early style Beetle for my restoration project, so each day I would search around the Bay Area in search for a 1960s Bug. It took awhile, but after searching craigslist for a couple of days I found this Bug in Fremont, California. It ran fine yet the interior was falling apart, but we managed to drive it home the same day.
It’s a standard Beetle, featuring bright red paint on the exterior enhanced by a white and black interior. It is fully restored to make it as original as possible, so it still runs on the stock 1200cc engine with new six-volt electrics. Most of the chrome is original, which gives it a subtle aged look that I enjoy.
There really isn’t anything I don’t love about this Beetle: its looks, the chirpy flat-four engine in the back, the wimpy suspension that makes you feel like you’re driving a golf cart on the freeway, the list goes on and on. Even though driving it can sometimes be intimidating, everything about a Volkswagen just feels right. It’s really easy to work on and if something goes wrong, you can easily diagnose and fix it yourself. I also love all the looks it gets when I drive around. I get smiles, random honks, and thumbs up from people I don’t even know–it makes me happy that by driving my car around I’m making other people happy. It’s a strange effect that only a Volkswagen Beetle can produce. Furthermore, I love my car because of all the work I’ve put into it. Sure, it may have its defects here and there, but the truth of the matter is that I restored it myself, from the paint and interior to the electrics and suspension. And I don’t think I’d ever sell this Bug.
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