Bugsy – an odyssey

1 Sep

The start of a beautiful friendship

On 5 November 1989, before I had even passed my driving test, I bought myself a pristine white 1971 VW Beetle.  After resolutely deciding that would be my ideal dream car and hankering after one for years, I searched the local papers (because there were no online auction sites or even internet back then) desperately searching for my Beetle.

Dad found the listing in the Friday Ad and on his way back from work one cold wet day all those years ago, he phoned the owner and went to view the car.  In his words, when the garage door was opened, he gasped in amazement at this thing of beauty and he knew right away his daughter had to have it.  He immediately paid the £100 deposit and promised I would be back that weekend to pick her up.  Deal done. ’80s style!

So with my best friend in tow, and mum the designated driver, I went to Crawley to collect my Beetle.  It was dark, raining again and I was beside myself with excitement.  I handed over my hard-earned pounds from the summer job I had relentlessly undertaken a few months before, and mum drove us all home.

My life in Bugsy

Since that day Bugsy and I have been inseparable.

During my college years before I got my full driving licence, as long as someone was in the car who had passed their test I could drive her.  My friend Jenny was a year older and had passed so four of us usually crammed in and bombed up and down the A23.  I also held down two part-time jobs and Bugsy was my lifeline. Then at University Bugsy became my symbol.  My friends knew I was around when they saw Bugsy parked up.  I adored her and my friends have happy memories of her too. Nev, you know who you are.

Naturally, we joined a posse of various like-minded young things in their VDubs and vans to enjoy Bug Jam and Run to the Sun from 1991 to 1995.  Those were my formative years and Bugsy was my entry ticket to the cool crowd.  She was always reliable; she never ever broke down.  Sometimes I had to park her on top of a hill in order to bump start her on cold mornings when the battery was getting old but that was part of being a penniless, but fearless student.  She was a magnet for interested, cool young dudes who wanted to impress me with their knowledge of Beetle working parts, and I let them! Why not enjoy the attention?  Bugsy certainly did.

My poor, tireless dad also spent many hours tinkering with her in the garage, when I wasn’t meticulously washing, T-Cutting and polishing her.  I spent many hours at various VW shows and drooling over Volks World magazine at what Bugsy could become if or when I had a bit of money to spend.  Mum pleaded with me not to lower her or mess with her as she was perfectly unique in every way.  I secretly agreed, whilst protesting that she could look “so cool” with EMPIs and a massive sound system.  Thankfully lack of funds put paid to my project dreams and she remains just the same as she did when she rolled off the production line all those years ago. Although all her wings, the bumpers and doors have been changed over the years due to various scrapes we have been involved in.

The worst was in 1996 whilst I was at law school.  Some dickhead, distracted whilst putting out his cigarette, rammed into the back of her at a roundabout.  I got severe whiplash whilst Bugsy was almost written off by the insurers.  I pleaded with them to repair her and they eventually agreed.  It’s amazing what a mother will do to protect her child!   Before that, in Coventry, a bus clipped her wing at a junction, but that was easily repaired in no time.  Bugsy is indestructible.

The saga continues

Whilst I lived in London I didn’t often take Bugsy up there. There was no point since I travelled everywhere by bus and tube.  Plus she got broken into in the ghetto of Balham, so I garaged her at mum and dad’s and kept her cosy whilst I lived out my dreams in the capital.  On occasion I would take a road trip with the BF and we enjoyed a lot of happy times together, struggling up steep hills, having picnics in fields, changing flat tyres and holding up traffic on busy motorways.

Inevitably I moved back to Sussex and Bugsy was waiting for me, good to go.  I bought a house with a garage specifically for her.  I continued to use her as my daily runaround for a couple of years, until my age and sensitivities persuaded me to get a more modern car.  Yes, I discovered power steering and air conditioning!  But my love for Bugsy never died.  I carefully wrapped her up in a specialized blanket and stowed her away in the garage.  Always with a thought at the back of my mind that her time would come again. Someday.

That day came in late Summer 2016.  Don’t ask me why but I decided to contact someone a friend recommended to me years before who knew how to repair old VWs.  Fully expecting such expertise to come at a price I just held my breath and hoped for the best.  To my utter amazement she didn’t need a lot of work to get her fully street legal.  A couple of hundred quid and she had a new battery, something with her clutch, probably some other mechanical jiggery-pokery, an MOT and she was back on the road again!  With hardly any rust and tyres still in working order, I was back to bombling around my neighbourhood. Hearing that familiar engine ring, and the oh so familiar smell of the interior, a heady mixture of petrol,greaseand well worn metal, immediately brought the years of happy memories flooding back.  I am so profoundly happy when I drive her again now.  Other people turn at the roar of that engine and smile.  She is a happy car. She brings joy to everyone.  Well, maybe not the boy racers, who just want to zoom past in a hail of dust and pumping music, but everyone else.

Long live Bugsy

You can follow her now on Twitter @BugsyAdventures. She has entered the 21st century!





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