- The Washington Times - Friday, August 14, 2009

A Hayward, Calif., man in 1972 paid the sticker price of $2,224 for a brand new Volkswagen Super Beetle because, in those days, there was no negotiating on Volkswagens. Then just one year later in 1973, John Morrissey’s father bought the slightly used Beetle for his college-bound daughter.

Even though the orange-colored Volkswagen had an air-cooled, four-cylinder engine that delivered 60 horsepower, she wanted something “a little more sophisticated.” That is how John inherited the car from his sister, which he drove until he graduated from high school in 1975 and then through his years at the University of California at Berkeley.

“It was me,” he says. He learned the intricacies of driving a manual transmission on the VW.

Mr. Morrissey continued driving his trusty 13-foot, 4.5-inch-long Super Beetle until 1983 when, he says, “I sold it to a buddy’s mom for a bit more than we originally paid for it in 1973.”

Twenty-five years passed, and Morrissey now resides in Ridgefield, Conn. He has stayed in touch with his California buddy and asked him if his mom still had the VW.

Mr. Morrissey was told that she sold the car “years ago,” but that he would attempt to learn the fate of the 1972 Beetle.

“Six months pass by, and I get an e-mail from a college student at Sacramento State,” he says. The student had Mr. Morrissey’s old 1972 Super Beetle and wanted to know if he wanted to buy it?

Once Mr. Morrissey determined that it was, indeed, his car, he says it was an easy sale for the student. He purchased his old VW back in the summer of 2008.

A trucking firm soon picked up the 1,918-pound VW and headed east. Mr. Morrissey and his wife anxiously awaited the arrival of the VW, sharing the excitement.

When it arrived, he was relieved to find a mostly rust-free car. “There wasn’t a lot of rust, but there was a lot of work to be done,” he said.

The car sat for a couple of months while Mr. Morrissey agonized over what to do with it. Finally, his wife encouraged him to “do it right.”

That is when he took the car apart and began the restoration. He discovered that VW Super Beetle parts are readily available and finding needed parts online was relatively easy. Mechanically, the most involved task he ever performed on the VW the first time he owned it was replacing a fuel pump. He viewed a total restoration as a daunting project.

He replaced all the rubber seals and ordered both bumpers new from a distributor in Los Angeles. A mechanic tore down the engine and found the internal parts in very good condition. Mr. Morrissey suspects the original engine has not yet reached the 90,000-mile mark. Perhaps regularly cleaning the oil filter screen on the bottom of the engine aided in the longevity of the engine.

Mr. Morrissey replaced the well-worn foam rubber in the seat cushions before installing the new black upholstery. The carpeting is also black while the headliner is off-white. His wife came to the rescue when the upholstery problems were mounted. “Kathy was an active participant in the restoration,” he says.

The metal floor under the right rear seat, where the battery sits, needed some attention, but the remainder of the floor pan was in good condition. Before the car came back from the paint shop, he had the 15-inch wheels stripped and painted a silver gray. That is also when he installed upgraded aluminum running boards.

Mr. Morrissey remembers the reliability of the car. “It never let me down,” he says.

As the restoration neared completion, the carburetor was not functioning properly. His attempt to rebuild it proved unsuccessful, so a new one was installed. The difference was like “night and day,” the owner says.

He declared the project complete in June 2009 and now recalls some of the features on the Volkswagen that he found so endearing, such as a dual-braking system, four-wheel independent suspension and flow-through ventilation. Standard features include seat belts for the driver and passengers, two-speed wipers with pneumatic washers, swiveling sun visors and a folding rear seat.

Mr. Morrissey is the first to admit that his car is a “plain vanilla” version VW. He dislikes the buzzer that sounds a warning if the seat belts are not in use. He enjoys driving his VW, which is nimble in traffic because of the 95.3-inch wheelbase.

“It’s meant to use and have fun in,” he says. “I didn’t want a show car.”

If you would like your Out of the Past review to be considered for an upcoming article, e-mail us your car’s jpeg image, plus brief details and phone number. Type “Out of the Past” in subject box to info@ motormatters.biz.

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