Beetles, Buses, and a cool book

A few days ago, I happened to cruise past The Cabbage Patch, a legendary bar among the local Harley crowd. Parked outside was a very early (round taillamps) version of the Volkswagen Transporter pickup, with its drop-down side gates and windshield panels that hinged outward. Without paint, it had received the slammer or lowrider treatment, dragging its rocker panels, fat tires on Halibrand-type “kidney” wheels. It’s an ancient vehicle, produced using technologies of the past. But it’s a Volkswagen, of the air-cooled, flat-four variety, and that means it’s got a following. If you need any more proof that the original Volkswagens still exude magic, here it is.

Volkswagen Beetles and Buses: Smaller and Smarter is a cool way to examine the enduring popularity of this uncommonly cool cars. In 176 hardcover pages, the U.K. motoring journalist Russell Hayes examines the basic history and enduring popularity of the Beetle and its rear-engine siblings. It’s not really an accuracy guide, the kind of book that traces year-by-year changes to the vehicles (like when the Transporter and Kombi switched from round to oval taillamps), but it does a lot to explain the unwavering affection that so many have for this unassuming conveyances. The text broadly tracks product changes, and describes the Beetle’s place in both the counterculture and in motorsport (I once built the EMPI Bug from a Revell glue kit). And any book that mentions both Chuck Poole’s Chuckwagon wheelstander and the green Beetle seen repeatedly in the Bullitt chase scene is good with us. It retails for $40.00 via the Motorbooks imprint at Quatro.

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