Saturday, March 10, 2012

Of VW Beetles and The Beatles' Abbey Road

Thinking Small:  The Long, Strange Trip of the Volkswagen Beetle
by Andrea Hiott
Ballantine Books (January 17, 2012)
512 pages
ISBN: 0345521420

From Hitler to the hippies, Hiott takes us on the weird trip that is the Volkswagen Beetle.  Though originally manufactured to bring cheap transportation to the masses, the Volkswagen (the people's car) has long since transcended its humble origins:  It's come to represent freedom, adventure, escape, and a certain joie de vive.

Having lived through the sixties and seventies, I remember when every other car was a VW beetle.  Watch television shows and movies of the time, and you'll see the little buggers everywhere in the background shots.  We used to count them on long car trips--though we didn't engage in punching each other in the arm and shouting "Punch buggy!"  My favorite joke of all time comes from the sixties and involves a VW bug.  How do you get six elephants in a Volkswagen?  Answer:  Three in the front and three in the back.

One of the most famous bugs is the white one featured on the cover of Abbey Road with the license plate number LMW 28IF.  The significance of this plate involves the rumor that Paul McCartney was dead and had been replaced with an uncanny duplicate who could have been Paul's identical twin.  The VW bug's license plate number was yet one more clue that Paul was gone, as he would have been "28 IF" he had lived.

I've been in love with Volkswagen Beetles my whole life, though it has been an unrequited love.  In the early seventies, my family owned a tan VW microbus, the VW bug's second cousin, but I've never managed to own the real thing--unless you count my little pink and green Volkswagen Christmas ornaments.  I was always talked out of purchasing one as it would be too impractical, too expensive to repair, and offer too little heat.  There are a couple of vintage bugs around town that call to me:  a baby blue one parked a few blocks down the street that I stalk like a teenage girl with a crush, and a red one with a black rag top that gets taken out for the occasional ride.  Who is free spirited enough to still be driving one of these loveable bugs?  With a twinge of nostalgia I crane my neck to watch the little red convertible drive down the road and out of sight.

To order from Amazon, click on Thinking Small: The Long, Strange Trip of the Volkswagen Beetle or Abbey Road.

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