- The Washington Times - Friday, September 21, 2001

In 1969 a young George Wilcox was living in Tampa, Fla., driving a Plymouth Fury III convertible.
As his job with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration took him hither and yon, he kept moving his old Plymouth along with him for more than two decades that is until he moved to a house in Oakton that had no garage.
Reluctantly, he sold his Plymouth to someone who could give it the good home he could not.
Since then, however, he has moved to a house in Vienna with a spacious garage. The only problem he has nothing of an antique nature to fill that space.
Realizing that her husband still missed his old convertible, Phyllis Wilcox late in 1996 urged him to find a replacement.
With such a splendid suggestion coming from his wife, Mr. Wilcox would have been remiss if he hadn't begun looking for a convertible to replace his Plymouth. He had no inkling that his search would lead to a 1969 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia convertible.
The 13-1/2-foot-long car was in York, Pa., when he first saw it in February 1997. After giving it a quick once over, money changed hands and Mr. Wilcox rushed home to tell his wife the good news that her suggestion had borne fruit. What was surprising was that the replacement car was a diminutive Volkswagen Karmann Ghia convertible instead of the typical American lead sled of that long-ago era.
The next weekend Mr. and Mrs. Wilcox drove to York on icy roads to take possession of the convertible that had caught the eye of Mr. Wilcox.
"It was as pretty as can be," Mr. Wilcox said upon sighting the red Volkswagen with the black vinyl top.
Mr. Wilcox drove his new old car home without incident. The nimble 1,848-pound convertible rode comfortably on a 95-inch wheelbase.
Volkswagen manufactured 80,877 Karmann Ghia convertibles from 1957 through 1974. Mr. Wilcox learned that his car, one of 6,518 produced in 1969 was purchased new in Marietta, Pa., and, although well cared for, it had been driven more than 100,000 miles.
The 1.5-liter, four-cylinder, 44-horsepower air-cooled engine (mounted in the rear and topped with dual carburetors) breathed through the 38 slots in the engine hood.
By November, nine months later, Mr. Wilcox decided to give his Volkswagen a thorough updating.
Bumper-to-bumper, the car was freshened mechanically. Then a new, lined top was installed along with the curved glass rear window with seven wires embedded in the glass to aid in defogging.
A typical Volkswagen Karmann Ghia malady, that of a rust-weakened floor pan, was found and a new one with healthy steel was welded in place.
Along with the floor pan, a new dashboard, bucket seats and a new interior were installed.
The 5.60x15-inch spare tire, mounted at the nose of the car in the luggage compartment, has the tried and true Volkswagen connection hooked to the valve stem using the air pressure in the spare tire to operate the windshield washers.
In a nod to modernization, Mr. Wilcox installed an AM-FM radio with a weather band. Additionally, Mr. Wilcox opted to replace the original generator with an alternator to provide more power to spin the starter faster.
With the car rebuilt, Mr. Wilcox has added about 2,000 miles to the odometer.
As for the engine, Mr. Wilcox said, "It just runs and runs and runs." The odometer now has recorded about 124,500 miles.
Each wheel has eight slots to allow air in to help cool the brakes.
"I feel very comfortable driving the car between 50 and 55 mph," Mr. Wilcox said.
Driving this small convertible faster than that is out of the question. "I don't want to put strain on the engine," Mr. Wilcox comments.
Since the front end has been rebuilt, the car tracks sure and steady all of which suits Mr. Wilcox just fine.
"I just want to tool around a little bit," Mr. Wilcox said.

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