My mom’s first car was a pretty typical one for a 20-year-old growing up in the suburbs of Munich in the 1980s. It was a 1972 Volkswagen 1302 Beetle (essentially a Super Beetle) with a beige paint job, 1300 cc air-cooled flat-four engine, four-speed manual transmission and a heater that never worked.
[Welcome to Jalopnik Mother’s Day, where we celebrate the wonderful moms of the Jalopnik staff whose automotive choices led, no doubt, to the band of miscreants whose words you read here every day.]
In a way, it was the quintessential German car for much of the second half of the 20th century, which is why it was so easy to find a used one for dirt cheap: 1,100 Deutschmark, to be exact, or just about a couple grand in today’s money.
At the time, my mom was going to college and working at a bakery in Munich. Because her classes were at such odd hours, and because catching a bus from her small town to the big city was terribly inconvenient, she needed a car. Her dad helped her out with that, though I’m not sure how he knew what to look for since he’s still to this day never driven an automobile.
Before she could get behind the wheel, though, my mom had to pass her driving tests. And as you might imagine, a German driving test is nowhere near as useless as an American one. The theory wasn’t difficult, my mom says, but the driving test was rigorous, taking several months to complete, in part due to a minimum requirement of 25 hours of driving with an instructor in the car. Not to mention, driving instructions weren’t cheap—in fact, her driving lessons were more expensive than her car.
Once she passed the tests, my mom drove her 32 kW (43 horsepower) “Du-Du” (as she called it) to and from the train station almost every day. It was a great car, making that fantastic sound that only a Beetle can make, and looking classy all the while.
Still, the little Kaefer wasn’t perfect. Not only did my mom have to scrape the ice off the inside of the windshield while she was driving, but any incline at all made driving the Beetle feel downright sketchy—those 42 ponies behind the rear seat just couldn’t overcome the weight of those thick, round steel body panels.
Despite its flaws, though, my mom looks fondly upon her old Beetle, which was a reliable, fun-to-drive little car that could handle both city driving and highway cruises with aplomb. Even today, when she sees a Beetle, she’s reminded of her Du-Du: the cute little beige bug that she used to cruise through Munich.
I wonder where it is now...