Can you glam up a Beetle ? Apparently, it could be and was successfully done in the early 1950s.
Volkswagon engaged the Italian design house Ghia, and German coachbuilder Karmann to create the eye-catching VW Karmann Ghia, and started production in 1955. (up to 1974 in Germany). But the engine was still the venerable rear-mounted flat-four-boxer, air-cooled powerplant that drove all the Beetles. (Later versions had more powerful engines)
My first encounter with one specimen was in the mid-60s – it was all-white, owned and driven by a lady dentist who worked at the Butterworth District Hospital. (She used to do up the many ‘potholes’ on my teeth when I was a kid).
Sleekness and glamour notwithstanding, the signature “chug-a-chug” sound of the Beetle engine was unmistakable. A close look at the badge verified the car’s bugsy heritage.
As I was in the bath tub this morning, an old memory flashed by. Yea, I recalled seeing a very cute, stubby motorcar in my early primary school days.
It was a 2-seater, with a convertible top (at that time, I thought it was funny that the car had no roof) and the driver seemed to be yanking a stick that was stuck to the steering wheel (I did not know that was called a ‘column shift’ gear stalk).
The other interesting feature was that it had the spare wheel mounted prominently (almost ornamentally) at the back. Last but not least, the other four regular wheels were half-hidden by the body panels.
Even at that tender age, I had mischievously thought the car looked like a bath tub on wheels.
I later learned it was called Nash Metropolitan.
At the end of Standard One in 1962, my kampong neighbour and good friend, Mike, came over and asked me if I could pass on all my textbooks to him (he was one year my junior).
Well, we were all poorer than church mice then. However, the good old neighbourliness spirit kicked in, and gladly I passed him my early childhood inheritance (with full approval of my parents).
One good turn deserved another. After Mike finished his Standard One, he passed “his” textbooks to his younger sister (one year his junior), and lo after she was done, she returned the entire heirloom to my own younger sister. Of course by that time, many dogs had left their ears on many of the pages, with an occasional paw print here and there.
This Re-use and Recycle practice went on for several years
It is now unimaginable for anyone buying a car – new or preloved – that it would come without an airconditioner built-in. Yet, up to the very late 70s, airconditioning was an optional item.
And so, my very first full-size car (a 2-yr old Mazda 323 Hatchback) did not have one. After sweating it out for a couple of months, and with my hair blown into a bird’s nest after each ride (windows had to be down), I decided enough was enough.
A trip to a workshop, and about RM1,400 poorer, ah ha, got me a brand new Sanden kit installed, with the blower/evaporator unit mounted under the dashboard. Cool ! Wow, “to chill it out” had taken on a new wonderful literal meaning.
The first stop after that was to go over to my GF’s home and pick her up in cool comfort.
For kids of the 50s~60s, falling sick now and then – perhaps a bout of fever, coughs and colds — was commonplace. We just took some off-the-shelf oral medication and had some good rest in bed.
Of course, oftentimes, our appetites went awry for a season, and none of Mummies’ special delights could tempt us. No worries, though.
There was this Sweet Old Thing that came in a light blue tin – yes, Glucolin. It was principally Glucose – sugar that could quickly get into the bloodstream, without burdening the digestive system too much. It claimed to contain other nutrients – but who cared; it was sweet and nice. At least it made the sickness bearable…LOL
Photo here shows the packaging as I knew it when I was a kid. I have not seen Glucolin for decades – maybe it is no longer in fashion.