It is kind of easy to tell the extent
to which someone is a VW fanatic when they see my 1950 Sunroof Beetle.
The non enthusiast most often asks "what year is it?" (even though the
license plate says "VW1950"), but the avid VW junkie usually asks
"where did you ever find this car!?". So I thought I would take the
time to write up exactly how I came about this little jewel (as many people
have asked), and what drove me to even look for one. So lets rewind
the tape a bit, back to the fall of 2000. And yes, like any account of
VW stuff from me, this is long…..
was driving my Diamond Green ’57 in the DKF Fall Foliage cruise.
New Hampshire, Columbus Day weekend. It doesn't get much prettier
than that. My wonderful wife was with me and actually enjoying a
VW event as much as I was. I was near the end of my first summer after
an 8 year long restoration of an Oval. I had done well in shows in
the previous months, the car had been photographed for a magazine feature
a couple months before. Life was great. My hood sparkling in front
of me, this car was everything I had ever hoped it would be. Running
like a dream. But some little sub-cell in my mind was beginning to
process some other thoughts. As I logged the miles that fall weekend,
staring at a procession of split windows sprinkled among some other ovals
in front of me, and a few more in the rearview, I was getting a strange
feeling. My eyes were fixed in a numb stare on the back of a Bill
Collins split window ahead of me. Giving up my Oval was never considered,
but I was feeling a weird emptiness inside. 20 years ago, I wanted
an Oval. 10 years ago I got one. A year ago I finally finished
restoring it. I was now driving it. But I also wanted a split,
I decided. Not now, not next week, not next year or the next.
But in my lifetime, I decided, I wanted to have a split window Beetle.
While the bill at the lavish Mt Washington Hotel was a real eye opener
at checkout time, I'm not sure my wife realized at the time the real
cost of that weekend…..
spent the next few months mulling it over. Of the DKF cars in the
cruise, Geoff Aldridge’s black ’50 sunroof was one of my favorites.
No, it was my favorite. And I had always wanted a cloth
sunroof car, so the logical assessment was to get a split sunroof.
But what year? First year for sunroofs was ’50, and in ’53 the Ovals
came along. Since I already had an oval, an oval dash split (a “Zwitter”)
wasn't all that appealing to me. So it was either a ’50 or ’51.
“Well, if you want old, then get old” I thought. Not too much difference
in the production numbers for ‘50 and ’51, but a ’50 definitely has a bit
more vintage value. ‘51’s on the other hand have those one year only
“crotch coolers”. Hmmm…
I spent some time surfing on-line classifieds,
reading Hemmings and posting on the aircooled newsgroup. I was almost
afraid to “officially” claim that I was split-shopping, for fear that something
might pop up and I wouldn't be in a (financial) position to buy it.
But I basically quietly turned the split “radar” on.
I also spent time periodically on eBay, watching
auctions for split parts. I saw split parts for sale on on-line classified
sites. And I came to the conclusion that if I bought anything less
than a complete or near-complete and correct car, I might spend years looking
for the right parts to finish it, and certainly would be at the mercy of
a very high market for these split parts. In short, it was clear
that it would cost WAY more to complete a split by buying parts for it,
than it would to just find one that was complete and write a fat check
for it. That, and I have found that as I grow older, my ambition
to tackle Herculean projects is waning. I've earned my "mega-resto"
badge, time to move on.
But was it even conceivable to find such
I saw few things go by that caught my attention.
One was a ’50 standard that was for sale in Arizona. Basically a
solid and complete, but dusty “barn split”. Price was right at about
$6500 if I recall correctly. I think it needed only a speedometer
or something readily available, but everything else was there. Numbers
all matched, a VERY complete car. And standards were kind of interesting
…but it had no sunroof.
I mentioned it to my wife, and she made a
comment that really stuck with me. She said “If you get a standard,
you are still going to want a sunroof.” She was right. But
more importantly, she was "talking" splits…
I saw an early split sunroof go by on eBay
and watched the auction closely. It went for something between $9-$10k
and was pretty complete and pretty solid. Not sure if it was a “driver”
or not, but it came close to meeting my criteria. But the fact was
that I was still in no position to make a purchase.
Of course I "networked" with the old Beetle
enthusiasts. At one point I visited Bill Collin's place at lunchtime,
to toured his incredible "stash" of early cars and accessories. I
told him that I really wanted a '50 sunroof. He gave me that Collin's
smirk and said "Well, good luck. I know at least 5 other people who want
But the radar screen continued to sweep….
Tax time was painful. We got
burned for two reasons, one was some capital gains for some stock sells
the year prior that, as I had done before, I just ignored the tax liability,
the other was our 10 year mortgage on our house was starting to sting.
3+ years into it, the interest deductions were fading away very quickly
and it was hurting. In 10 years time, we had paid into the house
very aggressively, and the housing market was up appreciably. All
of a sudden, we were talking about refinancing, taking equity out, buying
another house, a vacation home, a kitchen remodeling, a new minivan, all
sorts of “asset reallocation” ideas were coming up. And after a few
days of these discussions, something popped up in my head too. This
was my chance.
Now I have been married for 11 years as I
write this, and the spousal negotiation skills are pretty well honed.
As I know my wife will invariably read this one day, I'll have to be careful
what I say. But my technique was to keep bringing it up. And
I did, but I don't think she took it too seriously at first. Then
the day came when we actually sat down at the computer to make a spreadsheet
of the refinance "re-allocations". Of course I had already developed
a massive spreadsheet prior that determined loan payments, balances by
year, contrasted them to our existing loan, etc. And I had run the
numbers before hand, tried all kinds of scenarios, and had a well rehearsed
strategy. It was time to launch…
I clicked down the column, as though I was
coming up with things on the fly. "Well, as we had talked about, you need
a new minivan, 20K for that, we need a new roof 6k, yada, yada yada,…"
then at the end, I launched the first strike. "…aaaannndd, 'Split
window Beetle', uhh 13k."
I had no idea what her reaction would be,
but I was pretty sure it would lie somewhere between "Over my dead body!!"
and "Ok. What color do you think you want?". And I was right.
I was met with a "OOOooohhh NO. No. No way, mmmm..mmm. Forget
Court is now in session, we are ready for
the opening arguments.
First off, I left it alone right then and
there. Left "Split Window Beetle" on the spread sheet. Simply
pointed out that the loan structure that the spreadsheet instantly generated
was well within our limits, saved the file, closed the application.
that's all for tonight. The initiative has been launched, now let's
execute the plan.
Now I'm not going to transcribe every conversation
we had about this, nor will I even pretend that others might employ the
same approach. But to try and scope out the "flavor" of the discussions
I will say that they went on for a many weeks, voices were only
raised one or two times and nothing was thrown at either human being.
With gentle spousal diplomacy I pitched my case day after day. I
had thought out plans for where to put the car, could demonstrate that
the financials would work out and my ace in the hole was the premise that
in the 10 years we had been in our house, I had done some major home improvements
amounting to man-months of hard work, and since those improvements had
raised the value of our house, "aren't I entitled to take that sweat equity
out and enjoy it?". It was a hard one to ignore.
"So where is this car? This $13,000
"I don't know. You see, all I'm trying
to do now is allocate some funds so when I do find it, I am in a position
to buy. Nothing could be worse than having a super nice split pop
up for sale somewhere and not be in a position to buy it…."
"Well Ok. As long as you sell your
Uhhhhhh, now that's going to be a problem.
Of course, in the back of my mind I had thought this just might come up.
I couldn't sell the '57. It wasn't that the car was
worth all that much, or that it was one of a kind. It was just that
there was so much of me in that car. Eight
years of taking apart, finding parts, welding, patching, sanding, wiring,
assembling, painting….. that car was me. Selling it
would be like selling my right arm. I couldn't part with it.
I told my wife that she would bury me in that car.
The negotiations continued. I never
wavered, continued to just restate my case. But I neither did I ever
just say "I am going to buy a split no matter what you think". It
was just quiet, consistent diplomacy.
Then one day Peter Cook, founder
of the Bay State
VW Owners Club sent me a couple pictures via e-mail. I had sort
of let on that I wanted an early sunroof split in some internet forums.
"Here's a real nice '50 Beetle, and it has a sunroof. It's for sale
for $20,000. Let me know if you are interested, I know the guy who
is selling it." At $20,000 I knew I was going to be looking at a
pipe dream as I clicked the mouse to open the attachments. Up popped
a beautiful burgundy colored split, parked apparently at a VW show, in
the bright sun. It was truly beautiful, a shot from the back
showing tiny correct taillights, split window, ribbed bumpers and nice
new black top, rolled back. Wow. But twenty grand was twenty
grand. Too far out there to even consider. I closed the pictures,
but didn't delete the message. I sent Peter a quick reply,
"Nice. Very nice. Thanks. Too rich for my blood though".
A few days later, my wife was down in the
basement office. She has her own computer and we share a long work
surface with two chairs. I logged on and was scanning my e-mails….
"Hey, check this out, it's for sale" I said as the pictures loaded.
Before she could say anything, the burgundy split popped up on the screen.
"Woowwww!" she said, immediately followed buy an overbearing and authoritative
"Twenty grand" I replied. "Ha.
Forget it" She said. "You're right" I said, and closed the
window and went off to read other e-mails.
A week or so later, I got an e-mail with
the title "'50 Sunroof search", and I didn't recognize the senders name.
"Peter Cook gave me your e-mail and said that you might be interested in
this car. Have a look, let me know if you are interested and how
much you would be willing to offer". I clicked on the attached pics
and lo and behold, there was the same front and back shots of that burgundy
'50 split sunroof. "The car is currently overseas" the e-mail went
on to say.
"Hmmm. I keep hearing about these wonderful
cars that the 'heavy hitter' enthusiasts are finding in Europe" I thought.
Could this be my chance to get one of these rare cars? What kind
of shape is this thing in? How much would it cost to ship it?
I hit the reply button, feeling somehow that
my destiny was obliged to at least make an offer on the car. So I
did. I made an offer much less than that twenty grand.
<Send> "Ok, there. I made an effort".
A couple days later, a message pops up again
in the Inbox. "RE: '50 Sunroof search". The seller says, "Add
$1000 to your offer for shipping and you can have it." I just stared
at the screen for a good minute. I felt my heartbeat increase a good
The weeks that followed were filled with
e-mails, pictures, personal visits, Word Document editing, re-editing,
date negotiations and more e-mails. Wayne (not his real name) was
an avid VW enthusiast, and very well connected, worldwide, to the hobby.
He had a VW at his home, and a few back in his home country, but he seemed
to have little interest in this '50 sunroof. In fact, he had only
recently purchased it from someone else, along with another hobbyist friend,
only to "broker" the car for sale in the US. And I had no problem
We agreed that we needed to sign some kind
of contract or agreement, and that it needed to specify delivery dates,
inclusions, exclusions, non-performance clauses, deposits, import fees,
and on and on. Writing one from scratch seemed like a daunting task,
I had no idea where to start. So off to the internet I went, and
in a few minutes had scared up a very nice "P&S" (purchase and sale)
form from a boat dealer in Florida. "Excellent. Delete that,
change the header, add that…" In few days time I had a draft, we
kicked some dates back and forth, and then agreed to meet in person and
sign a couple copies.
I was surprised that Wayne didn't want me
to make a deposit on the car prior to him shipping it. All he asked
for was that I establish an account and place 50% of the purchase price
in the account and show it to him. I looked into 3rd party escrow
account services, but they involved some hefty fees, and usually a law
firm. So I simply went to my bank, opened a separate checking and
savings account in my name, deposited the funds in the savings account,
and supplied Wayne with a copy of a balance statement. And he was
fine with that.
We signed the agreements on Memorial Day
2001, just days before I left for a 9-day family vacation. I felt
pretty good about the whole deal. I had asked tons of detailed questions
about the car, and without fail Wayne got back to me with the answers in
a day or two. The P&S was written in such a way that if the car
arrived and was not as he had represented (that every e-mail and photo
he sent would be held as a representation of the car) I could refuse it
and be out nothing but a disappointment.
A week or so after I got back from vacation,
I got a good news/bad news e-mail from Wayne. The car was ready to
go into a container in the next day or two, but he had found that a couple
things on the car weren't as he had represented them. Specifically,
the front fenders were later year fenders, with the oval grill holes filled
and then re-cut for circle grilles, and that there had apparently been
some patchwork done on the lower rear quarters, and that the paint wasn't
perfect there. Of course I immediately had all sorts of bad images
of wavy panels, doors hitting B-pillars and not closing right, bubbling
paint, etc. Wayne and his colleague overseas had offered some extra
split-era parts as "compensation" for this oversight. But I wanted
more detail and many pictures of the rear quarters before I was willing
to re-sign a new agreement, so I sent Wayne an e-mail to that effect.
Wayne replied that the car was actually already
in the container and that taking pictures were not possible. He assured
me that the rear quarters were very near perfect, and that the doors closed
full and flush, and that he and his partner were willing to strike $1000
off the purchase price as an allowance for these issues. I took the
offer, we re-wrote the contract and re-signed it.
The 1950 deluxe split sunroof was on its
In late June, Wayne told me that
the container was scheduled to arrive in Boston Harbor on July 5th, and
that he would go into Boston on July 6th to get the cars; and that he could
use help. He still hadn't worked out all the details about how he
was going to transport them to his house (and one to mine?). Only
the '50 was more or less driveable, and while he believed that he could
legally drive it here (it was registered and insured in the foreign country
and had some odd looking plates). I offered my help, and got a little
more excited. July 4th was a Wednesday, and I had decided to take
the following Thursday and Friday off work anyway.
But by late Thursday, there were problems
getting a hold of the customs broker, and the arrangements with the trucking/warehouse
company weren't all worked out. So Friday was ditched, and pushed
out to Tuesday of the next week. Then on Monday, more calls weren't
returned and we were rescheduled for Thursday. Yeah, Thursday, definitely
Thursday. Wayne had reserved a U-Haul truck and trailer and worse
case was planning to make 3 trips into and out of Boston to get the cars.
I was ready to bolt out of work on a moment's notice and blow a half day
of vacation. U-Haul (nor Ryder) will let you put cars in
the trucks, but for some more money, you can rent an "auto transport" trailer
that the truck can pull. Thursday AM rolls around and it is determined
that there is not enough time in the afternoon to make three trips, so
out until next Monday, July 16th. For sure. July 16th.
Sunday night, Wayne called me and told me
that he had given up on the idea of renting a truck and making three trips,
and instead had hired an auto transport truck and driver that could carry
all 3 Beetles at once. He would have them all taken to his house.
I told him to ask the truck driver, who was hired at $65 an hour flat rate,
if he could drop two of them off, then take the '50 out to my place some
45 miles away. I would be happy to pay for the extra time.
That is unless Wayne could drive the '50 to my house as he had offered.
I was very skeptical about the MA registry allowing him to drive the car.
But he said he would call the registry in the morning and ask, and if they
said no, he would have the auto transport guy bring it out. You see,
I was not actually buying the car until it was at my house. I had
no financial stake in the car at all, nor did I have any insurance on it.
So I had to be very careful about exactly when it became mine. Yes,
there was some risk in Wayne driving it to my house, but financially it
was all his. I would only be out one huge disappointment if I was
behind him when he got T-boned at an intersection……
Monday morning Wayne and I connected and
a plan was in place. The MA registry had confirmed that he could
drive the car, so he would go down with the auto transport guy, get the
three cars, bring them to his place. Then I could meet him there,
follow him and the '50 to my house where we would complete the deal.
Then I would give him a ride back home.
In case you may be wondering what exactly
it takes to get a VW from overseas and into the US, here's the details.
As it turned out, in the end, four companies were involved (and all paid
by Wayne). The first was the shipping company, and as best I can
tell, they were paid, made a container available, put it on the ship, watched
the ship leave the harbor, and that was that. On the receiving end,
a "Customs Broker" was hired. I suppose it would be possible to wade
through all the paperwork and red tape yourself after about a year and
half of self-study on US Customs Policy and Procedures, but for $125, you
can hire a broker with all the know-how, contacts and forms who takes care
of it all.
Now the customs broker gets the container
released for you. Then you have to deal with it. And as it
turns out, it isn't as simple as standing on the dock yelling up at the
crane operator "Uuuh, yeah! That one RIGHT THERE! YEAH! Just
put 'er down right here and let me get those cars out!!". No, in
fact, you can't even open containers on the dock, you have to transport
them off the docks. And unless you just happen to own a Freightliner
C4000 (or equivalent) with 45 foot latching flatbed trailer you are out
of luck. And even if you did own that truck, you still aren't getting
it anywhere near the ship unless you hold a freight handlers Union Card.
So you hire someone else.
A union freight handler with a truck, who
picks up your container at the dock, drives it to his warehouse, opens
up the back of it on his loading dock, and rolls out your VW Beetles (Wayne
shipped 3 Beetles in the container). Service with a smile; for $450
clams. Oh, and if the ship just happens to come in 3 days before
the ETA on the papers they give you, your container is assessed a $50 a
day storage fee. All under the watchful eye of a union freight handler,
of course. $600.
So now you have 3 cars sitting in the yard
of a freighthandler's warehouse, and they basically have given you until
the end of the day to get them out. Time to hire someone else.
The auto transport truck. $65 an hour flat rate, no mileage charges.
Perhaps the most reasonable of them all. U-Haul as it turns out,
gets $30-$50 a day, but 60 cents a mile from the time you leave the lot.
One trip into Boston, for one car, would have cost about 2 hours
of the big transports time. And you don't even have to drive yourself.
So in all, I figure Wayne and his buddy dropped darn near close to $2000
to get these 3 cars to Wayne's driveway.
Wayne got the three Beetles to his house
and told me to come by around 4:00pm. He would then drive the '50
to my house, I would follow him in my '91 VW Cabrio to my house, we would
close the deal, then I would drive him back home again. It was a
plan, and I was finally going to actually see the early split sunroof I
had waited so long for! I got to his house a few minutes before 4:00
to see a '62, a '57 and beautiful '50 Sunroof in his driveway. I
quickly got out and started circling the car. I opened the door,
the engine lid, and just kept walking around and around. It was beautiful.
The paint was nicer than I had imagined, a very "deep" color. The
interior wasn't as bad as it had looked in the pictures (one of my friends
upon seeing the pictures called it "early college porch couch" fabric).
I sat down in the driver's seat, it was very comfortable. The springs
didn't grind or groan like they did in my '57. I stared at the dash,
early gauges, funny little pointed knobs....
Wayne interrupted my stupor, "And now we
some gifts for you", and he handed me a set of ribbed running board moldings
in a plastic sleeve. "They are reproductions, but they are correct"
he said. The ones on the car were the later model "smooth" kind.
"And we have this for you too" he said, handing me an engine crank.
No not a crankshaft, but the hand crank for the early cars. "It is
from an industrial engine and will have to be lengthened though to be correct"
he said. Very cool. I scrambled to the back checked the rear
engine tin in the engine bay for the little "flip up" door that allows
the hand crank to come through. It was one detail that I couldn't
see in the pics and hadn't asked about previously. But it was there.
Another pleasant surprise.
We spent the next hour and a half trying
to get the car ready for the 40 or so mile trip to my house. Per
regulations, it had to be completely drained of gas for shipping, so we
went down to the gas station around the corner from Wayne's house, plunked
down a deposit for a gas can, filled it and headed back. We dumped
it in the tank and went about trying to start the car. The starter
sounded a bit less than enthusiastic, and Wayne had told me that he didn't
have a charger. We pulled the choke knob up (months later I discovered
that the choke cable was not properly routed and connected and it wasn't
doing anything at all back at the carb) but for a while the engine sounded
like it had no plans of starting. Finally, it wheezed and sputtered
and came to life, but would barely keep itself running. Suspecting
a vacuum leak somewhere, I examined the engine bay to find an open port
on the upper part of the intake, with nothing connected to it. I
found a loose rubber hose nearby and, not having any idea at that point
what it went to, I connected it to the port. Now the engine started
and ran a bit better, but still would not idle.
We had also noticed that the fan felt was
extremely loose and went about trying to loosen the generator nut to adjust
the belt tension. But with a large channel lock pliers that Wayne
had, we could not get the belt loose. So we decided to drive the
car back to the gas station where they had a service bay and ask them to
spin the nut off with their air wrench. We got there just minutes
before 5pm. Their mechanic was
meticulously wiping his new black Firebird down after washing it outside
the service bay. I approached him and asked him if he could take
a minute to loosen the generator nut on the Beetle for us. I don't
really recall what he said, or if he even said anything. He never
looked up, just kept wiping his car down. Wayne went inside and returned
the gas can and retrieved his deposit, then came back out with some water
for us. I asked the guy again. Without looking up, he said
in an annoyed voice "I WILL, after I finish this".
In no particular hurry, the mechanic guy
spent another 10-12 minutes wiping his shiny black car.
Then he asked us to back the Beetle up near
the service bay and got the impact wrench. He spun off the nut and
I slid off the outer flange to remove some shims. With one
shim left between the pulley halves, it was still too loose. No shims
and it was too tight, the engine would barely turn over. So we went
back to one shim. And then back to Wayne's house.
loaded up some collateral parts in my Cabriolet and headed out. It
was really cool following a split home, knowing that it was going to my
house and was going to be mine. Wayne slid the sunroof back at one
of the lights, and I watched the semaphores pop in and out all the way
winding through towns along Rte. 62. Once at my house, we closed
the deal. Payment was made, paperwork was handed over. I drove
Wayne back to his house and thanked him for all his hard work.
Later my wife and kids came home and the
kids rushed to see the new VW. Our 6 year old daughter ran back to
my wife and said "Mommy, come see daddy's new car. It has a couch
in the back!". I popped the semaphores out for them a few times,
our son said "COOL!!".
Months before, I had ordered a vanity plate
for the car from the Massachusetts registry. I struggled with the
choices of a "Year of Manufacture" plate like my split said, an antique
vanity plate or a regular vanity plate. The YOM was cast out quickly
because between something like 1948 and 1962, MA only issued plates in
even numbered years. In odd numbered years, you got a sticker for
your windshield. They would allow me to use a 1949 plate, but I didn't
see the point. The antique vanity plate was limited to four characters
and, like the regular vanity plate which could have six, the first character
had to be a letter, not a number. I wanted something that would identify
the car as a 1950, and since "VW50" was kind of vague, I opted for a regular
vanity plate, "VW1950". The MA registry actually has a very good
website. On one page you can see all of the vanity plates that are
currently registered. There was a "VW1951" (the guy who has it has a '51
split and lives a few towns over from me) but "VW1950" was available, so
I ordered it. Geoff Aldrich of NH has the only other '50 sunroof
in the New England area (that is on the road anyway) and his plate is also
"VW1950". And later I learned that many years ago, his car was owned
by non other than Bill Collins, and when Bill had the car registered in
MA, its plate was "VW1950".
Literally within a week of getting the car,
the letter came from the registry that my plate was ready to be picked
up. Now having been through hell and back trying to get my '57 registered
(see the "Paper Chase") I started doing the
groundwork to get this car registered long ago. I called the registry
a total of 6 times, and each time asked them the same question; "I am buying
a vintage car that is coming over from Europe. What EXACTLY do I
need to register it?". Five out of the 6 times, the answer was the
A bill of sale
An RMV-1 form, stamped buy your insurance company
The title for the car from the country it came
The Customs form showing it has been stamped
and cleared US Customs
I had contacted the antique
vehicle insurer that insures my '57 and had them add the split to the
policy. A few days later I had the RMV-1 form from them. I
had everything but the title. In negotiating the deal for the car,
I specified that as required paperwork, but Wayne's accomplice in Europe
hadn't yet produced it. He assured me that it would be mailed quickly.
The day I got the letter that the plate was ready, I started getting panicky.
I just needed that one document to be able to drive this car!! I
called Wayne for a few days and just left messages. Then, one day
he answered his cell phone. He sounded far away. He told me
that he was in Bermuda vacationing with his family, but that he would call
his friend and get it sent right over, priority mail. And sure enough,
2 days later it arrived.
Now I had all the stuff the RMV told me I
needed. But just for the heck of it, I called them and asked them
again what I need. Same 4 documents was the answer. So I left
work on a Thursday afternoon and headed for the same registry that I had
made many trips to for my '57. I got there at 5:45, they were open
until 7:00 pm on Thursdays. I was pleased to find only a dozen or
so people in the waiting area. I took my number and sat down.
A woman at a window in front of me was getting
harassed by a customer who didn't like the RMVs policy on something. The
next guy up to her window, although polite, kept pressing her about something.
She put her head in her hands and just repeated the same answer.
then my number came up. I remember hoping I wouldn't get the woman
at window B7 who was pulling her hair out, but I did. I walked up,
she looked up to me with a tired weary face and said "how can I help you?".
I said "Now are you ready for something really different?" Her expression
I told her what I was doing, that I had called
many times and asked what I needed, thrust the pile of paper work at here
and waited. I felt like a rookie boxer, waiting for the first punch
to be thrown at me. Although I was hopeful, I was very pessimistic
about this whole thing going through. She immediate went for the
RMV-1 form, as I think it was the only one she recognized. She scanned
down it following her eyes with a capped pen. She stopped, "You didn't
sign this. Here.." she said sliding it back to me. Ok, signing
stuff I can handle. I scribbled my signature and slid it back.
She shuffled through the other paperwork, her eyes glazed over at the title
spewing a foreign language that even I couldn't make out a single word
"Just a minute" she said, and headed off
to another RMV worker at the window on the end.
"Oh boy, here we go" I thought. She
shared the paper work with another woman, they both squinted and grimaced,
then she looked up and yelled back down to me "You need the Customs clearance
form..". I shouted back "Its there, right behind the bill of sale..."
They shuffled the paper work around some more, then she started walking
back. "You're getting a vanity plate?" she asked. I nodded
"Yep.". "Did you get a letter saying it was here?" she said.
I quickly rifled my manilla folder and whipped out the letter and handed
it to here. She paused, then said "Just a minute" and went off into
the back room.
I felt like I had dodged the first few punches
thrown at me. I was feeling pretty good. She came back with
a thin paper envelope, I could see the plates inside and the "VW1950".
My heart quickened. She put the plates on the counter and started
typing at the computer terminal, entering my name, and other stuff from
the forms. She stopped, squinted at the foreign title, then typed
some more. "How many miles does it have on it?" she asked without
looking at me. "4356" I replied. She started typing then stopped,
"Uh oh, this isn't going to work" she said, "that is in kilometers, right?"
Man, they are trying pretty hard to shut
this down I thought. We can put a man on the moon buy entering kilometers
into a field that is meant for miles is way to difficult a problem to solve.
"No, those are miles" I said, "I converted them". She paused, then
continued typing. All of a sudden the little dot matrix printer started
buzzing, she wrote a big number on the RMV-1 form, circled it and said
"Sixty-five dollars please." I was stunned. Could it be this
easy? And sixty-five dollars was just the new registration fee, they
didn't even charge me any sales tax!!!!
just a shade less than 45 minutes, I was walking out of the RMV, new registration
and plates in hand. I attached the rear plate when I got home to
the neat custom bracket I had made. As it turns out, the decklid
was drilled for the very wide and flexible European plates, and I didn't
have the heart to drill more holes into this early split decklid.
As it also turns out, just as I was beaming about my new custom bracket,
I realized that you couldn't open the decklid without hitting the plate
with it. (I later made yet another custom plate bracket that spanned
the "Euro-holes" and allowed the fixation of the US plate under the popes
nose. Then I realized that with this one, I couldn't turn the locking
decklid handle upright!!).
The last thing was to get the car inspected,
but that didn't keep me from driving it. Legally, I had 7 days anyway.
But eventually I did take it to get it inspected, a Mobil station near
me run by an armenian family. Not the most technical people, but
they do seem to be careful with the cars, and they had done the inspections
on my '57. I watched them closely after I drove the car into the
bay, I was anxious to see if they were even going to ask about the turn
signals. On the way over I had been thinking about the things they
would check (the car is exempt from emissions testing due to its age, for
example) and I remembered that the front end link/king pins were a bit
sloppy. I also remembered them jacking up the front of every car
and checking for play. Sure enough, I saw they guy grab the floor
jack. I rushed in there to make sure he was jacking at the beam and
not the floor. Soon afterward, I saw him putting a big, fat "R" (rejected)
sticker on the windshield. "Your ball joints are worn, this car is
unsafe" he told me. I told him "this car has no ball joints".
He said the front end is very loose, and he was right. I really didn't
care, I had 60 days to fix it and have the car re-inspected at no charge.
Later, at home, I tightened up the link pins and got some of the play out,
but as of this writing, I have not had it re-inspected.
So pardon me if I sound like I'm bragging, but I now have TWO
of the most beautiful Beetles I ever though a person could own. I
am in the process of building a special additional storage space for one
of them, and have no plans of getting any other VWs. For now.
My wife and I have taken both cars out to a couple VW shows, and
to a local ice cream stand, and I truly enjoy owning and driving these
pieces of history.