Advocate J.J.R. Edwin closed a deal for a sparsely used contemporary sedan. The next day, accompanied by his son Rufus, he went to pay the dealer and take delivery of the vehicle. The rest of the family was hugely surprised, when the two men returned without the expected car.
Instead of the sleek and fuel-efficient modern sedan, they drove home a bulbous 1970 Volkswagen Beetle. At the showroom, Rufus had been captivated by the deep-yellowish German car, irresistibly immaculate and shimmering in the glory of its past. The dealer, a close relative of the Edwins, informed them that the car once adorned the garage of Indore’s royal family.
A royal touch to a people's car (the reichsmark-pinching Beetle was born, when Hitler commissioned a car that the least in his Third Reich could afford) was a sharp contrast that appealed immensely to Edwin. But, with a lawyer's mind that can't leave anything to chance, Edwin wanted a go-ahead from 80-year-old Rajan, his trusted mechanic and one who is clued into cars as old as the 1950s.
“Looking at the Beetle from a distance, Rajan raised his right hand in an encouraging thumbs-up gesture,” recalls Edwin. “After thorough examination, he concluded that except for the rear view finder the Beetle lacked nothing.” Each component of the car worked like a charm. The two doors opened smoothly, without the faintest hint of a creak, suggesting that royal family had employed a full-time helper just for this lucky car. But it was the 1100cc engine that settled the issue. When Rajan pulled the Beetle on to the road, it moved like silk through fingers and sounded like a whisper.
In the two years between then and now, the Edwins have maintained the Beetle in the best possible way. The father generously credits his son for this. The 21-year-old Rufus, now a student of medicine, fills petrol only at outlets with an established reputation for dispensing clean fuel. He keeps the lever of the retractable sunroof sufficiently greased, despite sunroofs serving only as cosmetics add-on in a largely hot climate. He promptly attends to minor rattles in the doors. And if the engine makes any adventitious sounds, he hurries to Rajan.
Most importantly, the youngster resists the temptation of driving the Beetle every day to his medical college. The institution lies in the exurbs, and he knows it is cruel to subject a car with an air-cooled engine to such rigours. “For Rufus, maintaining this car is a reward in itself. He does not have to drive it to love it,” says the admiring father.
The Beetle has a cloistered existence and does ridiculously little work for the Edwins. On a Sunday, Rufus takes out the Beetle to ferry the family to the church, hardly three kilometers from home. Other than this, it is pressed into action for weddings and parties.
On such occasions, wading through dreadfully knotted city traffic is not frustrating for Rufus. With a steering enhanced by a hydraulic damper, driving this 1970 Beetle is not much challenge. If the drive is in the evening, the vent-windows effectively counter the absence of air-conditioning.
“For a small engine, the pick-up is amazing,” says Edwin. “And this is why we have never regretted not going in for the modern sedan.”
Keywords: Volkswagen Beetle