The Calgary Journal
The Calgary Journal
My parent’s 1996 dark green Ford Explorer had sat in two different driveways, been treated by three mechanics and traveled many kilometres to various campgrounds by the time I got the keys at 16.

It ran well enough, had sufficient seats for all of my friends and allowed me to jam-out to music on my three block drive to school — that was, for the first three months I could drive.

After a while, the stereo began to fail which contributed to the lack of appeal my vehicle had among my friends — a typical priority for teenage girls is rolling up to the school parking lot in a cute vehicle, with good music blasting.

As a teen, I desperately wanted to fit in and stand out which prompted me to begin the search for my perfect car. Little did I know, the car I chose would impact more than just what I paid for gas.

My mom found a Kijiji ad for a black 1999 VW New Beetle on a Saturday night in August 2015. The next day, we made the road-trip to nearby Lloydminster, SK. to look at the car. After the exchange of my hard-earned cash, I became a part of one of the largest, informal vehicle fan clubs in the world. According to Statista, Volkswagen sold approximately 10.9 million vehicles in 2018.

I posed with my 1999 New Beetle on my high school graduation day in 2017. Photo courtesy of Lauryn Heintz.I posed with my 1999 New Beetle on my high school graduation day in 2017. Photo courtesy of Lauryn Heintz

The Volkswagen Beetle has been well-known for several reasons since its inception in 1938 — among these, its appearance in cult-classics like Happy Gilmore and Footloose, a connection to the hippie archetype and the Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal of 2015.

Despite its popularity, Volkswagen made the decision to cease production of the Beetle in July 2019 after close to seven decades on the market.

Oliver Lay is the general sales manager at Northland Volkswagen in Calgary, Alta. He has been with the company for almost 12 years.

“Volkswagen as a brand is doing a massive push towards all-electric vehicles and has a highly aggressive strategy worldwide to introduce 20 plus electric models by 2022,” says Lay.

Lay says the Beetle “will always be the classic Volkswagen model” and has the potential to reappear in the future as an electric version.

A Google search for “VW Bug Fan Clubs” yields over 8.7 million results — a sure sign of the immense following, especially in our digital age.

Mark Brown is the media relations officer for the K-W and Area Bug Club based in Kitchener and Waterloo, ON. His fascination with VW cars stemmed from the interest of the man whose extensive lawn he maintained as a teen.

“Many, many, many years ago when I was a young fella, probably 13 years old, I started working for a fella. And this particular fella had a large number of Volkswagens in his backyard, maybe two or three hundred — it was a pretty big deal,” Brown recalls.

It is impossible for me to imagine hundreds of VWs in one place — but I was lucky enough to see numerous vintage Beetles when I spent a month in Mexico this past summer.

In English, “Volkswagen” translates to “people’s car” and as some people may be aware, the idea for a practical, economical and family-oriented vehicle was brought forth by an infamous individual.

Bernhard Rieger is a history scholar who wrote the article, “From People’s Car to New Beetle: The Transatlantic Journeys of the Volkswagen Beetle.”

“None other than Adolf Hitler had broached the idea of developing an affordable family vehicle in March 1934 — a scheme the dictator would treat as a personal prestige project,” Rieger writes.

Although the car wasn’t put into production during the Nazi regime, Rieger explains that it strengthened “propagandistic portrayals of Nazi Germany as a powerful, productive, and technologically modern country.”

When the Beetle was introduced to the American automotive market, it became a symbol of German-American post-war relationship.

Stopping production of the Beetle is not a new concept — exports to the U.S. began as early as 1950 and were discontinued in 1980 as the Cold War progressed.

Lucky for me, the New Beetle was reintroduced to the North American market in 1998 — the model one year senior to the car I purchased 17 years later.

As a result of the halted production, the amount of Beetles in the world right now is all there will ever be, my car included. Unless, as Lay mentions, the car reappears in the form of an electric model sometime in the future.

I have made many visits to my neighborhood mechanic to help with my issues (car ones, that is), and after over four years, my Bug is still running. However, I may have jinxed myself, as after I began writing this story, my vehicle decided it didn’t want to accelerate past 105 kilometers per hour.

A new car is not in my budget right now and my parents and I have made a mutual agreement to keep the Bug alive for as long as possible, no matter how many trips to the mechanic.

When I was a kid, I would play this game where I would pretend that the fronts of cars were faces. The headlights the eyes, the grill the mouth. From these faces, I would interpret the demeanor of a vehicle — sometimes I came to the conclusion they were evil.

With it’s big, round headlights and wide grill, I always thought the Beetle was grinning and content.

It’s crazy to think that a car can have so much meaning to different people — whether you first saw a VW as Herbie, or when Kevin Bacon jammed out to “Quiet Riot” as a way to alleviate his character’s agnst — we all have a connection in some way.

Bug2 1One of the most famous Beetles, Herbie, is emulated here with a replica on display during the “Bug Out” event in 2019. Photos courtesy of K-W and Area Bug Club.

Volkswagen connoisseur Lay reiterates, “almost anyone you talk to has at least one interesting story that relates to a Volkswagen Beetle, either old or new.”

My connection just happens to be that I constantly contribute to the “punch buggy no returns” phenomena — who came up with that anyway?

Editor: Sajan Jabbal - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.