I’m pretty sure that almost any kid looking for discarded piles of porno magazines in the forest (the woods were the leading distribution system for smut in the pre-internet era) has found old, rusted-out, abandoned cars wedged improbably in the woods. While I’d always wondered what it would take to actually get one of these old heaps going again, one guy actually went and did just that, to a 1955 Volkswagen Type II van, and it’s amazing to watch.
The story starts with a powerful reminder of the role chance can play in our lives, if we let it. Florian George, a vintage VW Bus enthusiast, restorer, and collector who works with the air-cooled enthusiast site AirMapp, was selling some furniture.
The guy who was supposed to buy the furniture didn’t show up for the initial appointment, which was annoying, but later came to Florian’s home, where he noticed some old Microbuses. He told Florian he knew of one, in the Chartreuse mountains in southern France, not too far from where Florian lives.
The man saw the bus about 15 years ago, when he was picking mushrooms – it was way up in the mountains, beyond normal roads, under a crude corrugated metal lean-to and serving as the home for some recluse.
Florian did detective work, hunted down the landowner, bought the bus, and went into the woods to hunt it down and tow it home. He had to be quick, as people were coming to cut down the surrounding trees, likely destroying or trapping the bus.
After Florian found the bus, he had an insane, grand inspiration: instead of just towing it out with a tractor, what if he could get the old bus (which had been sitting there for 40 years) going again, and drive it out under its own power?
It was a crazy idea, so, of course, that’s what he did. He got some friends and a lot of parts, and, well, just watch. It’s better that way.
That’s really, really satisfying, right? Now I feel like a candy-ass for bitching that I don’t have a garage to work on cars in.