I woke mid day, groggy and thinking of Boo. I dove into different VW books and went online searching for information that matched his condition. I found little to nothing, so I decided to perform a major tune-up in hopes of solving Boo’s problem.
It wasn’t but two days after we returned home that the VW mechanic from Grants Pass called to make sure I made it home. I told him we did and that I was getting ready to change the oil and adjust the valves. Hearing this he sent me a diagram that explained how to crank the flywheel in order to adjust the valves properly.
After changing the oil and adjusting the valves, starting points and idle, I replaced the oil in the oil filter, fuel lines and coil.
I started the engine and it sounded great idling, but would shake violently when I’d put it in gear and try to move. With all of the changes and checks that failed to deliver I went with my gut. I was itching to take off the fuel pump. It was just a hunch, but I believed this was where the fuel was being restricted.
I took the fuel pump off and found the problem staring me in the face; the fuel rod was bent and the plastic housing that holds the rod inline was cracked and chipped.
I took the bent and broken parts to a place that is fading in digital America, a specialty store for air-cooled Volkswagens where questions, concerns and the purchasing of parts are handled in person. I walked up to the counter holding the parts with clenched fists then laid the bent fuel rod, fuel pump and plastic sheath on the counter palms down.
The store clerk picked up the fuel rod, squinted, cocked his head and said,
“That’s to long.” He then turned around and walked to a shelf picked up a part and walked back to the counter and handed me a rod.
“This is what you need.”
“Can you tell if the fuel pump is damaged?” I asked.
He picked up the fuel pump walked outside, put it up to his ear and turned it over three or four times.
“Yeah, it’s still good, I can hear suction in there.”
I bought a fuel rod, plastic sleeve and gasket along with light bulbs and sockets for the dials and a rubber chrome window blade for the left window.
After installing the new sleeve and fuel rod Boo started up and drove as if he had just rolled off a factory assembly line. We drove up hills, on highways, and through the city. To ensure he continued to drive well I replaced the gear oil, breaks, packed and replaced the front bearings, then finished it all up with a wash and a wax.
There is something about driving Boo that helps me to relax. For me, driving an obsolete car in a tech obsessed society is a strange escape from the modern world.
He’s not the type of car you can just jump into and take off. It takes a bit of time to warm him up. His small engine keeps me from speeding and weaving in and out of traffic and has made me more conscious of the thing that people don’t have enough of; time.
When it’s hot outside I roll the window down or open a little glass triangle that swings horizontal in front of the standard window. When it’s cold out I pull a lever arm next to the emergency break that lets hot air in the cab from the heater box. Put it all together and you have functional simplicity at it’s best.
One day I was driving down the highway and a rock shot up from underneath a truck and hit my front windshield creating a crack in the shape of a small webbed circle.
A cracked windshield means little to most men, but to me it was a tale connected to bottles. It’s said a drunk Frenchman dropped a flask of whisky wrapped in cellophane. Upon impact the cellophane safely contained the sharp shards of glass. The epiphany turned into what today is known as safety glass, which was first developed by bottle baron Libbey and Owens.
Owens understood the importance of flat glass and its need due to the popularization and affordability of the automobile. Understanding the demand he perfected a machine that made more than flat glass for houses, but automotive safety glass for Ford’s Model A, making the company LOF (Libbey Owens Ford).
I was driving Boo back from Seattle on Interstate 5 when I felt his peddle flutter and a strong smell of gasoline. I looked out the rearview mirror and saw giant yellow and orange flames coming out of Boo’s engine. I took my foot off the gas peddle, coasted into the shoulder, lifted the emergency break, grabbed the fire extinguisher, ran around back and popped the hood to putout the fire.
A man pulled over and stopped in front of Boo. He got out of his truck and walked towards me while talking on his phone. I walked toward him as he yelled over the cars whizzing by,
“I GOT THE FIRE DEPARTMENT ON THE LINE.”
“OH, THANK YOU.” I replied, “BUT THEY DON’T NEED TO COME, I PUT OUT THE FIRE.”
“WHAT?” exclaimed the man.
“I PUT OUT THE FIRE.”
“HE SAYS THAT THE FIRE IS OUT…OKAY. SHE WANTS TO TALK WITH YOU,” then handed me the phone.
“Yes, a man called in about a car on fire,” said the dispatcher.
“YES, THAT WAS MY CAR.”
“Is it still on fire?”
“NO, I PUT IT OUT WITH A FIRE EXTINGUISHER.”
“So your car is not on fire anymore?”
“CORRECT, MY CAR IS NOT ON FIRE.” I then hung-up and handed the man his phone.
We walked to the back of Boo where the engine sat smoldering with the hood up.
“MAN, I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU PUT THAT OUT. I SAW THAT FLAME SHOOT OUT AT LEAST 30 FEET. I THOUGHT FOR SURE YOUR CAR WAS A GONNER.”
“30 FEET!” I replied.
“HELL, IT DOESN’T LOOK AS BAD AS I THOUGHT IT WOULD,” said the man.
“YEAH, I SMELLED FUEL THEN SAW THE FLAME OUT OF MY REARVIEW MIRROR. I TURNED THE IGNITION OFF AND COASTED OFF THE HIGHWAY, GRABBED MY FIRE EXTINGUISHER AND PUT IT OUT.
We exchanged a few more words before saying our goodbyes.
About 30 minutes later a fire truck pulled up and I explained to the Chief that I told the dispatcher I had put it out.
“YEAH,” he yelled, “WE DECIDED TO COME OUT AND MAKE SURE BECAUSE CAR FIRES ARE RARELY PUT OUT AND BY THE TIME WE GET ON SCENE THEY ARE NOTHING BUT A HOT PILE OF METAL.”
The firemen all got out and walked around Boo, then got back in their large red fire truck and drove away. As the tow truck driver was loading Boo the sun was setting in the west and when we reached my house to unload Boo a happy moon was rising over the hill in the east.
The next couple months were a tedious bore. In short, my insurance company paid for the damages to Boo, with exception to the carburetor because it was what caused the fire. Though Boo is now fixed he is the type of car that will never be without problems or care. He has taught me a lot, not only about cars but people. I still see cars as machines that are supposed to work for humans, but like many things that surround us, we internalize them turning something like an automobile into much more than a machine, but a complex extension of our self.
Just last week my wife and I drove Boo into the city and parked in a garage. When we returned I found that Boo’s battery was dead due to a slow electrical drain. As I pushed Boo towards a downward slope to jump-start the engine an older man seeing me enthusiastically asked if he could help. I accepted and as we pushed Boo I jumped in while rolling down the decline and away from the elderly man who I saw grinning ear to ear in my rearview mirror. I put Boo in gear, popped the clutch, turned the key and just like that…we were gone.