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Homepage. This page: John looks back at his brief ownership of a Volkswagen 1200 saloon.

My 1960 Volkswagen Beetle.

The catalogue of motoring memories in this section of oldclassiccar continues to build up nicely, so thanks to everyone who has contributed so far. John has already recounted his experiences of owning a 103E Ford Pop, and now continues with a slightly later episode, this time featuring a 1200cc VW Beetle, that suffered the attentions of a careless Ford Corsair driver ..

John's Volkswagen Beetle prior to the crash

The destruction of the 1960 Volkswagen 1200 Ė 534 BAB

"Following the saga of the Ford Popular MDA 378, I bought a 1958 Vauxhall Victor, which had covered a fairly remarkable 26,000 miles in about 9 years, but while it remained reliable mechanically, it started rapidly to self destruct with galloping tin-worm. It very soon became time to scrap the Victor, which had produced the comment from the technician who did its last MoT test ďIím amazed but itís passedĒ.

As I was still travelling on my daily 40 mile commute a replacement car was needed and a colleague at work had for sale a 1960 VW 1200 Deluxe which had recently been fitted with a reconditioned engine and was generally in good condition. The car changed hands subject to the return of the vendorís leather rimmed steering wheel, which his girlfriend had given to him, when I sold it on. It caused few problems to me in the next year or so beyond a broken throttle cable and the fan losing a blade which required an engine out repair. It also had a habit of slipping out of fourth gear and I still to this day have to remind myself not to hang on to the lever on any car I drive, but in those days that sort of fault did not really cause any problem and a repair was completely beyond the purse strings.

Returning to the office from a local visit I was travelling down a narrow street containing a right angled bend upon which stood the workshops of the BMC main agent for the district. The near side of the street was lined with parked cars and as I passed a new silver coloured Ford Corsair 2000E the elderly driver pulled out from his parking space, clipping the car in front of him, and hit my nearside front wheel and mudguard causing me to cross the road and run into a conveniently placed lamp post opposite. My car started to climb the lamp standard, falling back onto the expensive and recent exhaust system, which was wrecked. I had been well strapped in to the VW thanks to the Kangol magnet seat belts with which the car was fitted, and had not been hurt in any way.

As the Corsair, the registration number of which is still burned in my memory, but with which I shall not bother you further, made no attempt to stop but accelerated down the street, I legged it in hot pursuit. What followed was one of those tales which we all relate and do not expect to gain credence of, but happen it did.

The Corsair reached the bend in the road, but made no attempt to turn, instead entering the garage workshop car park over a dropped kerb and a section of footpath. A new BMC 1800 and an equally new MGB GT, presumably on pre delivery inspection, both collected minor dents from the Corsair as it failed to pass cleanly between them. Crossing the footpath and entering the car park, the Corsair was faced with a row of cars parked side by side at ninety degrees to its direction of travel and hit the first one, an oldish Hillman Husky, so hard broadside on that it was shuffled sideways into the next car, I think a Viva. The Husky was left about three feet wide!

I had now caught up with the Corsair as it had finally been forced to stop its process of destruction and mayhem. The elderly driver had hit his face on the steering wheel and was bleeding from the mouth, so I opened the door to enquire after his health, and the reason behind his actions. (Sort of) He looked at me and the steaming wreckage of his Corsair and said ďAre you the driver of the blue Volkswagen?Ē I said that I was and he responded ďItís all your fault!Ē

By this time the lads from the garage workshop had come out to find out what all the banging and crashing was about, and the owner of the Husky was considering increasing the blood count on the face of the elderly driver.

A little while back, Ray, another regular correspondent, sent me these two photographs that he took during National Service in the Hanover area. They were taken in 1960, the same year as John's VW saloon was built, so it seemed appropriate to feature them on the same page as John's story.
"I took these two pics of the VW factory Hanover Germany while on National Service. The factory site was close to an army depot where as a sapper driver on Bedford RLs I used to make regular trips picking up rations and various other military hardware. I wonder if any of these motors have survived to the present time?" Thanks for the pics Ray.
VW factory in 1960
Volkswagen factory photo 2
Someone called the police and they sent a motor cyclist who was followed quite quickly by a Land Rover and trailer onto which they eventually winched the Corsair. It turned out that the driver of the Ford had said that the car was his sonís firmís car, the property of the Ford Motor Company, and that the accelerator had jammed wide open and the brakes failed, causing the accident. The police had therefore decided to take it away for examination prior to deciding whom to prosecute and for what. The car was also automatic and was fairly powerful for the time and my theory was that if the old chap wasnít used to driving it the vehicle could have run away with him.

Fordís insurance company would have nothing to do with me until the police had decided upon their course of action, and then informed me that they would wait until after the court case was heard. I was therefore once more without wheels, and of course without funds of any substantial nature, so began the search for some extremely cheap transport until money was released by the insurers. My replacement for the VW Beetle turned out to be a 1954 Austin Cambridge, which cost £15 and lasted a few months until its test ran out. The previous owner had been a chef, which was proved by the fact that the rotted rear wings had been repaired with metal taken from liver tins! The old Austin was a reliable starter and ran very well if you ignored the bottom end knocks and the piston slap but finished its days on the local scrapyard, who knew me quite well by then.

My Godmother had decided that she should give up driving and very kindly allowed me use of her 105E Anglia, until the legal requirements were sorted out, after which I was to sell the car and give her the proceeds. She passed away a long time ago and I am still thankful for her consideration and kindness.

Despite the old boy being found guilty of driving without due care, it took thirteen months in all until payment was received, and I had to employ a solicitor to get that, which caused further worry and grief. The wreckage of the VW was made over to the local agent, in lieu of a storage fee, and the Anglia sold as promised. The solicitorís account was paid by the insurance company, and my pal got his steering wheel back, but could not use it as it was far from circular after the crash.

Having now reached a rare state of having some cash in the bank and no stain upon my insurance record I starts to look for a new car and the result was ownership of a white Lancia Fulvia 2C Berlina, which was a glorious car but one in which I nearly died, but thatís another story ... "

Thanks again to John for putting pen to paper, or in this case, finger to keyboard. If anyone has is willing to contribute their memories of motoring in the pre-1980 era, please drop me a line and I'll add them to the Motoring Memories section. More firsthand recollections of motoring VW style, in this case a '53 Beetle, can be found here, one of several contributions sent in by Don, another regular visitor and contributor to the site. Beetle restorers may find this paint colour chart for 1961/1962 Beetles of interest.

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