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Joseph's 1970 Beetle

I saw this Poppy Red 1970 VW Beetle convertible for sale on of all places, a FORD new car dealership about 75 miles from my home in New Jersey, USA. I had actually been surfing the Internet looking for a "winter beater" as they say here in the USA; that is a low priced 4 wheel drive truck or car that gets you to and from work in snow, ice, sleet etc. either because your "other" car is too nice to get ruined by the road salt and liquid salt brine the road departments put down when it snows . . . or your "other" car is only 2 wheel drive . . . or both. In New Jersey, the road departments throw salt, sand, and liquid salt on the roads if it is predicted to snow ¼ inch or more it seems . . . and since snow is seen as a nuisance, and not good for business, like in Vermont or other New England states near New Jersey where skiing is popular, the roads need to be cleared. A "winter beater" therefore is allowed to get nasty, dirty, rusty and otherwise encrusted with the road slop . . . because it cost you pennies on the dollar to buy!

So, in the deep throes of a typical bone chilling, gray, dreary abysmal January 1st of 2012, there I was for hours on the popular websites of car searching . . . www.autotrader.com and www.autoshopper.com to name a few, along with the prerequisite searching of eBay and Craigslist, looking for a winter beater and not wanting to spend over $2,000 when . . . it appeared. It being the Poppy Red 1970 VW Beetle convertible! How the heck did I find that? By accident? A stroke of Beetle luck? Or both? Well, here's exactly what happened. I would search many used car websites putting in a price range, but not as many possibilities came up, as many dealers do not list the price, but instead post "Please Call". Of course, that is because when you do, they will tell you they have to "find the information" and call you back, thereby snagging your telephone number. Once they have your number, you are doomed. You could be looking for a silver 2010 Audi A4 convertible, they will call you and tell you they don't have it, but they have a real nice ______________. Fill in the blank! Doesn't matter if it's a Fiat, or green, or has been in 78 accidents and has no floor due to rusting out a la the Fred Flintstone mobile, or it's a Schwinn bicycle with a 350 small block strapped to it . . . they will CALL CALL CALL. It's enough to hurl yourself off a large building.

So . . . what I did to avoid that was simply searching by price, setting the dropdown box to search by "year, oldest first" and ignoring the "Please Calls", figuring well, the older it is, the less expensive it is . . . and eventually the bottom of the barrel would come up, then get progressively higher in age and price. I would quickly scan over all of them, because it was not possible to narrow down by truck, SUV, pickup, make, etc. I would then rule out those that seemed not practical or not 4 wheel drive. THAT'S WHEN IT HAPPENED! After exhausting the used car dealer's listings, I decided to try new car websites. My rationale was that I would hope to get that oldie but goldie that some lucky guy just traded in, treating himself to a new and shiny model. When I got on the Winner Ford of Cherry Hill, New Jersey website, and searched under "pre-owned" (by the way, doesn't that make the cars seem so much nicer . . . "pre-owned" instead of used " junkboxes" . . .maybe I should call my ex-wife pre-owned instead of used!) the first one that popped up by oldest year was the 1970 Poppy Red Beetle convertible. I thought I was nuts, especially I figured that who the heck would trade in a 1970 Beetle convertible on a New Ford in the dead of winter . . . and why would the dealership take it? I can't imagine many things more difficult to sell as a car salesman than a 1970 VW Beetle convertible in 15 degree weather at a Ford new car dealership in the dead of winter.

I called the dealership the next day, as January 1 was a Sunday, and there are no Sunday sales in New Jersey on Sundays due to antiquated "blue laws." I asked to speak to used car . . .oops, I'm sorry, I meant pre-owned sales, and was connected to a great young salesman. He explained that the Beetle belonged to the owner of the dealership, and that it had been on the showroom floor for the last 4 years as a conversation piece. The owner no longer wanted it, he said, and the owner had told the salesmen that it was taking up space in his 6 car garage at home. I wish I had so many cars I had that problem. After questioning him about the car, he informed me that just prior to placing it on the dealership sales floor 4 years ago, the owner had it completely restored, and the salesman had a file of bills and receipts enough to choke a horse. Repainted the original Poppy Red. Completely undercoated. All original mint interior. New carpeting however. New original style exhaust. New rubber seals all around. New convertible top and padding. Rebuilt original engine. Never cut up . . . or pimped . . . or lowered . . . or bagged . . . etc. original seat belts . . . glass . . . even the water deflector under the engine lid still there. It had never seen rain, or snow, or even wind since being completely restored. Holy smokes Batman. Too good to be true. There was one problem. I needed a winter beater. A nice, used rolling pile of slightly rusted high mileage 4 wheel drive mobile. Not a 1970 VW Beetle convertible. Poppy Red . . . with an immaculate white interior. Completely restored. In the past, I had owned a 1959 Porsche Speedster replica, made on a 1973 Beetle frame and engine/transmission, but that was the only time I had ever owned anything VW.

The salesman said that he was low pressure, and that if I came down, I would see it was everything he said, and I could take it for a spin. He also threw in, "Don't worry about the price, he wants to get it out of here." So, I thought about it. I convinced myself I was nuts. I needed a 4 wheel drive junkbox. Even if I bought it, I wouldn't be able to enjoy it for at least 4 months until it warmed up in the spring. I didn't have the money to buy it, even if he dropped the price a ton. My wife would send me to be committed. I would look like a fool at the dealership even ASKING to see it in the dead of winter.
Of course, I waited until I was already in my car driving down to the dealership after work before I had these thoughts.To bring closure to this saga, I went down to the dealership and met the salesman. The car was not exactly as he described it . . . it was even nicer in person. On his desk was a three inch folder bulging with all the receipts for the extensive restoration. He had added up the numbers for the cost of the restoration. $21,000 and change.

He opened the large doors for the showroom and off we went on a test drive through their large parking lot, as the other salesman just shook their heads laughing. It ran a little rough, which I attributed to the gas sitting there for so many years. He acknowledged that was most likely the problem, too, and offered that if I would come back the next day, he would have the gas tank drained and new gas put in. All he asked was a good faith deposit of $100, which I gladly gave him. I drove home rehashing all the reasons not to buy the car. The next day, I was supposed to be at work. Ahh, sick day here I come. I went back to the dealership, and as promised the Bug had new gas in it and drove great. I played the game, and said I'd think about it, had to ask the wife, explained how I wasn't even looking for a Beetle, didn't have the money, etc. The price dropped quite a bit ($12,000 asking versus $7,000). How could I resist? I stepped outside to make the all important phone call most married men have to make under these situations. She, being a wonderful woman, said yes. I then called my bank for a small loan, got approved, and went in to finish up the deal. When I went back in, the salesman was quite popular. He had all the other salesmen crowded around his desk, asking him if he was lying. Seems like not only did he sell the first car of the new year for the dealership . . . it wasn't even a Ford! To top it off, he said the owner had offered a bonus for any salesman who sold the first car of the new year. The Beetle, he had checked, qualified!

As I was waiting for the paperwork to be signed by a manager, another salesman came over to me, seeing me leaning on a brand new gorgeous black 2012 Mustang. He said, "You're going to love this car, it really moves" admiring the 'Stang. I pointed to the Bug and said, "I know, but I bought the Bug and I'll race you if you want." He couldn't believe it. My salesman came over and asked why I bought it now, in the winter of all times. I told him that I hadn't even been looking for a Beetle, but it was love at first sight. Plus, I will be the first one tooling around when it gets warm in the spring. So, I finished the paperwork, and the next Saturday I rented a car trailer from U-Haul, went with a buddy and his pickup truck to the dealership, and towed her home . . . which is a large concrete block building on another buddy's farm. You see, I have no garage. Not even a 6 car garage. She sat under a car cover, on a trickle charger, until the spring, where I chugged her out. To this day, my wife says it is the most fun car she has ever been in . . . but she hates that she doesn't drive a stick shift, and won't learn! To make things even out, I eventually did find that "winter beater" two weeks later. No, all those days and hours searching the Internet didn't help me. I found an old Chevrolet Suburban about 20 seconds down the road for sale . . . in a neighbor's driveway!

Joseph Paglino

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