Why Is There A Penny Welded On My Gas Tank?

Since today's the first full day of Jalopnik's new discussion system, Kinja (a portmanteau of kinky and ninja, I'm guessing) I wanted to treat today's Car Hacks as something of a test. I'd love it if these posts could become their own discussion groups of sorts, as commenters and us writers can talk about ideas, share pictures, give advice, berate, flirt, whatever. Like this is our big, communal garage where we all show up to work on stuff, get help, or show off what we've done.

I'd like to kick off today's discussion with a question about an old car hack: why did somebody weld a penny on my '73 Beetle's gas tank?


The obvious answer, to plug a hole, just brings up more questions than it answers. On an original, standard Beetle, the gas tank forms the floor of the trunk. More so than almost any gas tank I can think of, it's pretty well protected from the elements. Below it is a good two feet of suspension parts, chassis, and air before you get to the ground, and above is about a foot or so of trunk space. So it's not like a rock can puncture a hole in it, unless that rock is a meteorite, and if that was the case, something tells me I wouldn't have the car. And, the tank's not plastic or some crap. It's steel, and pretty substantial 70s-era German car steel at that.

Which leads me to believe that the tank was punctured by something loaded in the trunk. But here's where that gets tricky. The standard Beetle trunk isn't exactly huge. It's useful, and having one as long as I have, you can learn to load a surprising amount in there. Surprising amount, not a huge amount— it's not a Tardis. You also learn the ideal things to load in: they're usually soft and malleable, to take advantage of the funny-shaped space. Heavier is better, too, to balance out the rear-heavy weight distribution.

That said, the hypothetical ideal cargo for a Beetle's trunk would be a big duffel bag full of ball bearings. Aside from that, what object could anyone consider loading into a Bug's trunk that would be heavy, strong, and sharp enough to puncture a steel gas tank? I do have a theory— hear me out.


According to my theory, the original owner of my Beetle (whom I never met, and know nothing about) would have been an artist who made reproduction sculptures to order. A client requested a 4x scale copy of Man Ray's famous found-object joke, Gift. At four times original size, the spiked iron would just barely fit in a VW's trunk, and, if made out of cast iron to match the original, would weigh an awful lot. And, of course, it would have 13 iron spikes.

So, my guess is the artist had the Gift replica wrapped in paper, and while loading it in the trunk, he let one end fall, heavily, onto the trunk floor/gas tank. In doing so, he punctured a hole in the corner of the tank. Already late for the opening, he quickly fished a penny from his pocket, then grabbed his mobile acetylene torch and plugged up the hole. He was so badass he didn't even think to drain the gas or anything. This guy lived on the edge, hence his purchase of a yellow semi-auto Beetle.


That's the best theory I can come up with. Now, let's try this discussion dealie out. Any better ideas how this could have happened? And, what I really want to see and hear, have you bought a used car and found any weird car hacks from past owners? Let's see some pictures of your car hack archeology! I'm nosy, and I bet there's some stuff way weirder than a penny on a gas tank.

Have at it.

Share This Story