Friday, February 4, 2011

All You Need Is Love: 1973 VW Van

This particular Volkswagen van is not necessarily a screaming good deal at $3000. VW Vans can range from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands based on their condition and model hierarchy.  But this example is absolutely emblematic of the fun spirit of the eccentric VW Van subculture that I find so interesting. Sadly, it's a subculture that seems to be on the wane.

Truth be told, there are few places left in America where you can safely operate one of these vehicles. They are just too slow to keep up with modern (80mph+) traffic. They have wispy heat and zero crash protection. Both braking and acceleration require excessive lead time and input. And they rust so severely they can quite literally break into pieces. On the bright side- when they do break down, they provide for a reasonable place to nap.

Reading between the sparse lines of this van's Craiglist description, you sense a typical VW owner who is not bothered by much. It might need a battery, but who knows? Seems to run fine- I guess. Pretty good for a 1973-all things considered.  Things are sunny until further notice, and if that changes, then we will deal with it.

This van reminded me of a college buddy who bought a similar VW Van from a stereotypical hippy. The hippy was heartbroken in having to sell the VW, but saw a kindred spirit in my buddy and was at peace with the sale. The hippy listed the pros and cons of the VW with the same affection you might describe an old pet dog- especially when he disclosed that the reverse gear was inoperative.  He seemed rightly proud of his ingenuity in always parking the Van in situations that allowed him to drive forward, recounting the many years of ownership in which he overcame the shortcomings of his beloved VW. After money and well wishes were exchanged, the hippy stood in the window to see his old friend one last time. Without thinking, my buddy hopped in the seat, depressed the shifter to engage the lockout, backed the VW out of its parking spot and drove away. The hippy stood frozen and slack jawed in the picture window.

Arguably, there are few vehicles as iconic as the VW Van. Lets hope that as long as the Vans themselves survive, so too will the counterculture that embraces them.

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