Every Volkswagen Bug has a story.
Hindsight: I never should have agreed to let Cole buy a Volkswagen Bug to restore for his senior project. Honest to God, it didn’t seem crazy at the time; looking back, it seems like I lost my mind.
Idealism: My kid sold me on the idea that he could restore a Volkswagen Bug after a couple years of supervised Active Transportation Club at school. He not only wanted to restore it but also to replace the engine and turn it into a fast Bug. He had people to help him. Men like people. I didn’t really know any of these people, but he did. You don’t expect a 17 year old to have an imaginary pit crew.
I Do: I agreed to the project and signed the title on the June Bug in June of 2013. Cole brought her home and enjoyed tinkering with her over the summer. He taught himself a lot about cars over the summer, but help never materialized, and there was a steep learning curve. Everyone tells you that a Bug is a great first car to work on because you can put it together in your sleep. Everyone lies. You never sleep; you wonder where you will find someone to work with your kid on his Bug. Learning to fix a Bug requires working alongside a car person who knows what the heck they’re doing. Duh.
Updated Goals: It was clear by the fall that the goal was no longer to turn June into a fast Bug; it was to turn her into more than a push toy. We did find a Bug mentor, and Cole put in many hours bringing June back to life. But it was clear from day one that she never really wanted to be reincarnated. She reminded me a lot of those toys cars you pull back to power up and then let go of—they run for a while and then they die. I know how to pop a clutch, but I never dreamed I’d be doing it at my age, in all kinds of weather, on a day-to-day basis.
The cost: This was several thousand more dollars than Cole had anticipated. There were more than a few times when Cole approached me to discuss the next costly repair that June needed and I wanted to scream, “You’re fired!” However, after a few deep breaths, we would rework his ideas for finding more June Bug sponsors. Fortunately, he had many generous benefactors, and he worked hard to deserve their trust.
The Ride: The first time I drove with Cole in the Bug for any distance, I realized that his plan of attack was to drive her as fast as he could so that he’d be closer to his final destination when he had to get out and push. He had no concept of riding a clutch or easing into different shift positions. It was a lot like riding with a Kamikaze pilot who, thankfully, failed in his mission and reached his final destination. Alive.
Moving Forward: June was fairly reliable by winter 2014. Cole could drive her to school and only have to push her the last mile. He was staring to clean up the inside of the car too, and most importantly, she had cup holders to put your Starbucks in. Unfortunately, according to Cole, driving a car without heat during a Chicago winter makes you feel like you have been exiled to Siberia. I bought him wool socks and toe warmers. I’m a good enough Mom.
Grand Finale: Cole presented his senior project in March of 2014. I still look back on that day and tear up. God, I was glad it was over, and I was over-the-top proud of my kid.
Follow Up: After the conclusion of the senior projects, Cole’s classmates felt enormous relief. For Cole, however, as the owner of a 2000-pound Bug, the project wasn’t over. He debated a lot over the past six months about the Junes Bug’s l
ack of potential. However, when she up and left him stranded again several times over the summer, he decided that he wanted to dump her—for the right price. He was committed to a gallery opening that included the Bug in October but planned to sell her the moment the gallery showing was over. When she had to be towed home from the gallery because of yet another battery issue, her destiny was sealed.
The End: November, 24, 2014. Cole sold the June Bug to a young man not much older than he is. The buyer likes to work on cars, so he and June should be very happy together. I picked Cole up after the sale, which took place away from our house, and he was overjoyed. He said that when he saw June drive off, he knew his senior project had really come to an end. He also had a fist full of cash. He felt the pleasure of completion.
Me: I cried. I’m going to miss that rotten little Bug. Goodbye, June Bug! We will always remember you as the little Bug that Cole pushed uphill to school, both ways.
Odd Loves Company,
One of my favorite Bug Videos.
P.S. My teen is planning to rework his blog and start again. Look for a post coming from him soon.