My VW Life

Enter my 1960 Double Cab. So needing something to haul my crap across the country in I made a visit to the same person I bought my '57 from because he had this 1960 Double Cab treasure he wouldn't sell me at the time because he was hauling his matching golf cart back and forth to the golf course with it. Lucky for me he had since retired her and the two cars were once again reunited. - "and it feels so good"

The cross country trek begins...

It was 96 degrees at 10:00pm the September evening I graduated from college when we started our trek from downtown Atlanta. I carried two pairs of shorts, two T-shirts, a full six pack of commemorative Pepsi cans for my Mom's collection and a Texaco Gas card so I could gas up and buy food on the way. The internet had not been invented yet for me to know that:

1. It would be in the 30's by the time we hit the Dakotas...I needed pants!
2. Texaco is NOT nation wide and in every state
3. Cowboys still exist and
4. Parking a disabled vehicle on the side of the highway in Washington State was illegal.

...But we did get to see Mt. Rushmore!

 

This is what 2.5 days with no sleep and nothing to eat but rationing 6 cans of fruit flavored Pepsi between 3 people will make you look like. Sorry Mom, I had to open them.
Somewhere in Montana. We all reeked bad so we decided to jump in a river - Yeah, good idea... Mountain water is freezing!

 

Trouble out of the pass.

Contents of Truck:
1. One 36Hp engine - I put the truck's 40 horse in the Beetle and a 1600cc engine in the Truck to manage the load.
2. One personally made golf ball end table - don't ask.
3. One desk, One four post metal bed with canopy, one very large oriental rug.
4. Anything else I couldn't sell before I left Atlanta.
Total gross weight: about 2,500lbs.
Maximum load capacity of a 1960 VW Double Cab: about 2,500lbs.

 

This is the story of the first time I had ever seen a real-life Cowboy and how I lost my best friend.

I had never been out of the city before and I had planned on keeping it that way but someone forgot to tell my English friend to listen when I said that the ignition in the Double Cab had a broken spring and you had to turn the key back after you cranked the starter or else you would run the starter hot and burn it out. This happened right after filling up in Atlanta. We discovered this at the first stop. I just happened to have a roll of speaker wire in my stash so we 'hot wired' the truck by running the wire from the starter to the ignition switch. So now to start the Cab we had to push it while holding the end of the wire against the wire on the ignition switch and popping the clutch every time we stopped and turned it off. Did I mention 2,500 lbs of crap on board?

Did I also mention Roland? My buddy, my friend, my food sharing, housebroken, raised from three inches Iguana pal Roland? Seen here with my 'listening' English VW friend Danny.

 

Roland (RIP) enjoyed riding on the dashboard of the Double Cab soaking in the suns rays. 

Anyway, in addition now to the fun push starting while holding two hot wires together starting technique the clutch was beginning to show signs of slipping. We came up with a brilliant plan that when it started to slip bad we would ride the clutch and coast down short hills along the highway to dry the clutch plate out. But never too long. I should say that part again "but never too long" just in case my listening impaired English friend is reading this. Anyway, we were done with Mt. Rushmore and had finally crossed into Washington State now in day three of our trek. One last stop at a gas station to fill up with gas with the last of the money we had meagerly saved exclusively for gas by foregoing food before we entered our last mountain pass. There had better be a Texaco in Seattle!

Out of the truck to push. Now you know that pushing that much weight while holding the front door open to, at the last second, jump in and grab a dangling hot wire and touch it to an ignition wire underneath the steering column while popping the clutch is no easy task to do let alone articulate. In the frenzy of all of this chaos, Roland decides to leap off the dash and make a run for the outside. He must of seen some Montana Horny Toad run by or something. Avoiding the sparks of the hot wire out he jumps and as I try to block him he deflects off my stomach and dives underneath the truck. What is the stopping distance of 2,500 lbs in addition to the weight of the truck at manual push speed? I don't know, but not short enough. The rear tire traps poor Roland's tail just near the base of his body. He attempts to discharge his tail as a defense mechanism, but fails and only partially discharges it leaving it connected but now lifeless. I scooped him up and placed him back on the dash in hopes that he would be alright. 

Roland did fall into a state of shock and never came out of it before he died four months later on my birthday. (insert soppy violin music here}

So we shoveled on and it was Chris my listening impaired English friends turn to drive the Cab again. Driving through the pass and the Gorge at George, WA was beautiful. Yes, there really is a town named 'George' in Washington. Coming out of the pass was beautiful too until we hit the bottom and I looked in my rear view mirror of the '57 to see the Double Cab getting smaller and smaller and smaller and then coasting off to the emergency lane. I found the next exit and circled around. Here we were in territory I had never been before, before the age of cell phones, with a burned out clutch miles from our destination on the Olympic Peninsula. 

We had no choice but to drop the engine from the Cab and see what damage had been done to the clutch plate. Toast. That's' the best I can describe it. Not even good toast but the toast so black you could throw it off your porch and break your neighbors window black. Not even the squirrels would touch it black. So my friend Danny and I drove into the nearest town (on a Sunday) to see what we could find - A junkyard perhaps. 

Now today I can tell you that Ellensburg, WA is not the town I am about to describe. This old college town is quite the bustling little community when school is in session. But this was September and school was out. What was left at this time was not college professors eating lunch at the cafes in the quaint downtown they often avoided when the students swarm the town. Not the wives and daughters scurrying from shop to shop looking for that perfect dress to wear to church, but Cowboys! real life shit-kickin Cowboys! 10 gallon hats with belt buckles the size of salad plates, straw hangin from the side of their mouth Cowboys. The kind I only thought existed in those John Wayne marathons my roommate used to sit with a 12-pack of Pabst beer and watch all day Saturday afternoons. They're still alive! I never thought that an early century cowboy was still in existence. Remember - no internet, no reality TV, heck, not even cable TV. Just good ole Atlanta based Turner Broadcasting showing all those cowboy reruns.

So the only place that looked like I might find tools that was open was "something something...Feed Store". Feed store? - What the hell is that? I knew it was going to be a shot in the dark finding anything VW in this place let alone anything metric when every car in the parking lot was a Ford or Chevy pick up truck. In fact we didn't see a sedan in sight and thought we had just walked into an episode of 'The Twilight Zone' where no one was allowed to own anything but an American pick- up truck. I wonder what they would have thought of the Double Cab? 

We walked in, mind you combined weight of about 220lbs at this point, sullen eyes, ratty hair, and the place was filled with Cowboys. We learned in a few minutes there was a rodeo getting ready to happen. After milling around less than two minutes trying to look like we knew what we were doing a Cowboy walked up and asked if there was anything he could do for us "Outsiders". I had previously told my friend to let me  do the talking because I wasn't sure if a cowboy had ever seen an Englishman before and I was worried they might string him up. I kindly explained that we needed to find a junk-yard as our car had broken down. We were afraid that we might get sucked into this town and forced to buy a pick-up truck and never see the Double Cab or our listening impaired English friend again. It just so happened there was a junk-yard just up the road... but it was Sunday.

We went outside to find three Cowboys circling the Beetle. One even had the deck lid up inspecting the motor. I refrained from speaking the first thought that came to my head which was "Volkswagen, engine in the back - you know - German, Porsche, Hitler, WWII...Oh yeah, that hasn't happened yet in your world" before I remembered that we just might actually be in the Twilight Zone and I may never see my little German car again. We puttered off down the road, found the small building fronting the yard and pulled in. We were fully prepared to jump the fence and sift through all of the discarded cars that had been confiscated by the powers that forced everyone into an American pick-up truck but as we pulled up a greasy mechanic was stepping out of the building with a wad of keys in his hand. We pleaded with him to let us search the yard. After hearing our long tale he agreed and we followed him into the building as he flicked the lights back on.

Now I was only joking before but all joking aside, now I know we were in the Twilight Zone. The office was your typical junk-yard office; small, smelled of grease, length of case-line counter lining the back wall filled with the 'better' items pulled off of cars. A lot of 'Chevy' and 'Ford' emblems, some Mack truck top of hood bulldogs, even a jaguar. (poor guy probably driving an F150 now), an assortment of vintage hubcaps and bullet turn signal shells. But as the light came on a flash of reflection bounced off of the only object besides a broken clock hanging on the wall. We couldn't believe our eyes. There was no mistaking what it was. A Volkswagen clutch plate in all of it's used but  definitely better than the charred piece of toast we had glory. I almost fell to my knees. this was our portal out of this episode of The Twilight Zone. There is always a portal out and the forces that separate good from evil had made their move. 

Trying not to act like this thing was worth it's weight in Gold to us (and it was) I told the guy that I hated to hold him up while we searched the yard and although that thing hanging on the wall was not quite what we needed we might be able to make it work. We didn't have any money left at this point. My friend had a pretty crappy watch worth probably 10 bucks, but that was about it. The grease monkey behind the counter almost sensing this said "That thing? I don't even know what it is. I just thought it looked different than anything else so I threw it up on an empty nail when I sold that rambler hubcap that sat there for 25 years. You can have it" Have it? for free? The portal glowed as it opened wider for us to jump through.

So off we puttered back to the Cab free of having to turn the Beetle over to the yard guy as we drove away in our American pick-up truck designed to stall 20 feet inside any road out of town. Saved from the 10 gallon hats and salad plate belt buckles by a Volkswagen clutch plate hanging on a wall because the very man who guarded the countless cars of the misfortunate souls who happened to accidentally enter this town thought it looked "different". God bless the grease monkey living amongst the cowboys.

As we pulled up to the cab our friend was standing next to the dropped motor and he had company. A State Patrol Officer was scratching his head in disbelief as he stared at the engine sitting on the ground. We were read the riot act on our illegal actions and how dangerous it was for us to be disabled on the side of the highway, but he found it in his heart to move along and let us off the hook. We installed the clutch and drove off into the sunset waving victoriously as we passed Ellensburg... and it's cowboys, pick-up trucks and grease monkey guard of the confiscated sedans.

So three days later, Atlanta to Seattle, with a diversion to Mt. Rushmore, an encounter in a 'Twilight Zone' episode, and an Iguana in a state of shock, we finally landed at our destination on the Olympic Peninsula. The following day found us in the '57 headed for Vancouver Canada to drop our hearing impaired English friend off at a hostile and a trip to a vacant nude beach - It was 50 degrees out. Straight nonstop shot from Vancouver to Portland Oregon just to see it and back to the Puget Sound region that night where I will always call home.

One of the best VW's I ever owned. Since Volkswagen took too long to design an SUV, the Cab in it's new Krylon mint green color filled the bill.

 

This was given to me for parts. I stripped it and junked the rest

Almost caught up to present time. Click HERE to continue the journey...