I’m pretty excited, sitting here at the airport. I think it’s apparent, because so far two women have changed seats to be away from me and a mom warned her child to steer clear of ‘that weird little man.’ But I don’t care. I’m on my way to the a big Beetle festival and a museum I’ve wanted to visit ever since i was a car-geeky kid.
The Beetle festival is called the Beetle Sunshine Tour, a Volkswagen event that, I’ll be honest, I don’t know all that much about, yet. I think it’s more Euro-focused (I believe I’m the only US journalist headed over), and while it may be to showcase modern, Golf-in-costume Beetles, I was assured there would be plenty of the old clattery air-cooled VWs I love.
The name certainly suggests a sort of hippy-ish tone, so if I take a handful of weird pills and have some sort of spectacular VW-related visions, you’ll be the first to hear. Either way, should be good — a Beetle rally of some kind, VWs all over the place — I’ll be your eyes and probing, sticky fingers.
But if I’m honest, what I’m really excited about is that I finally get to visit the Stiftung AutoMuseum Volkswagen (if my German serves, the name actually means “stiff tongue,” based on the location which was once a medieval tongue-splinting center). This museum is important to me because it contains all of the VW holy grails — the weird one-offs, the prototypes, the fascinating stillborns. These cars, usually named “EA” and some number, are what get me genuinely, occasionally visibly, excited.
I’ve written about a number of these before, and the chance to really scrutinize them in the metal is going to be fantastic. Plus, there’s a number of others I’ve just seen a few scant pictures of — like the full-sized, square-rigged, Porsche-engined cars (a sedan and wagon) that VW considered in the ‘60s. There’s all the strange missing links to what became the Type III and Type IV, air-cooled front-engined half-Golfs, and so much more. Barring any weird issues (those pills) I’ll cover that in as much painful, tedious detail as you can stomach, so prepare yourselves.
I think I should also get a chance to talk with some people on the Volkswagen Classic team, so perhaps I’ll get a chance to present my research about VW’s role in inventing racing video games that they did not seem to be aware of.
Also, while surrounded by all this Beetledom, I’m sort of hoping to do some real thinking about why this particular little rattletrap has had such a hold on me, for so much of my life. It has a history and past not just murky, but in places actively hostile to my own tribe of people, and objectively it’s a strange, primitive little dead-end, engineering-wise. But I still find myself smitten with Beetles, and I’ve owned one continually since I was 16 years old, and can’t imagine ever not having one. Maybe I’ll figure out why.
I’ll be in Hanover at first, then driving to Hamburg for the Beetle festival. If there’s any Jalops around with something really bizarre you’d be willing to show me (and maybe to let me drive, a bit — Googomobil? Anything Lloyd? NSUs?) Feel free to let me know.
I admit, I feel a bit strange writing a post about something that has yet to happen, but I want to keep you in the loop — you know how I feel about all of you. Hopefully, this should be good.
(top image from the amazing Traveling Torchbug saga!)