Bitten by the bed bug
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Most folk seem to assume that the typical classic-car owner is a grey-haired codger with oily trousers. But the Ellerslie Classic Car show proved that’s not the case, by encouraging women to front up with their cars.
Emslie White not only brought her 1962 VW Beetle, but dressed in vintage clothes.
She started her love affair with all things Volkswagen as a teen. “I really liked the shape of the car, and that they just looked cool,” she says.
Then one day she was browsing online when she saw a convertible Beetle.
“I’d always wanted to own one so I started bidding against this man, and won the auction. I had no idea about car mechanics, or how to drive a manual.
“At the time I had a modern automatic, so I had to relearn to drive a manual.”
The car had been owned by the same family for two generations, and they were happy it was going to an enthusiast.
“I drove Ruby for five years, and man, did we have some good times.”
It was about this time that she became more interested vintage style, partly because of her swing-dance hobby.
“I feel like I live a bit of a vintage lifestyle, even though swing dancing and the VW aren’t the same era.”
But eventually her convertible became too rusty to keep, and it was sold for spares to keep other cars going.
She spent a couple of months in a modern vehicle, but “I missed the character and personality of the car, the sound of the motor, I felt a part of me was missing.”
So, she bought this one, now dubbed Betty, about 10 months ago. She found it on a a VW swap page.
“I went and had a look with my parents, and took it for a drive. It’s a good car, pretty solid, and it had been refurbished from the bottom up.”
Indeed it had — the owners had kept a scrapbook, sticking in receipts and photos showing progress from the sad beginning to completion.
“It’s pretty faithful to the era, apart from the seats, and the radio, and I’ve just had the tyres whitewalled.”
The colour — though not exactly standard, given the sparkle in the paint as the sun hits it — isn’t far from what the car sported before its restoration.
The seats introduce a touch of modern safety — not just seatbelts, but head restraints, too, possibly a good thing as it’s the vehicle Emslie uses to commute to work as a teacher aide, or into the city for dancing.
She took it north to Waipu for a holiday. “I was very nervous, how it would cope with the Brynderwyns? It got there okay!”
And she drove it to Cambridge for the VW Nationals.
Emslie says she isn’t super-mechanical. She changes the oil but otherwise her car doesn’t get much cosseting.
It is parked outside except when her parents’ MX-5 isn’t (her mother is president of the MX-5 club).
She has noticed that having a classic is a great social mixer.
“Even just driving down the motorway you get people waving, or chatting when you’re filling up with fuel.”
Often those who come to admire the car had one when they were a teenager, and Emslie enjoys hearing their stories.
“I often hear ‘Oh man, your car is really old’, and people always know when I’ve arrived.”
Her style definitely comes with a fashion edge. The back seat sports a vintage handbag and cushion, while Emslie bought her outfit at a vintage market. I feel underdressed as I climb aboard, and belt up.
Yes, the seats are modern, but otherwise we’re all 1960s, with the simple dash, and teeny glovebox.
It’s lucky we don’t have rear passengers as modern seats are bulkier than the originals, and leg room out back must be rather limited.
Emslie doesn’t know whether the steering wheel is original, though it’s bigger than the one fitted to her convertible which, given no power steering, makes the car easier to control.
The big change to 1962 Beetles was a mechanical fuel gauge in place of the tap.
This one wasn’t accurate when she got the car, but her dad fixed it. The speedo is fairly accurate, and the car effortlessly keeps up with round-town traffic, largely using the third of the four gears and with that instantly recognisable 1200cc Beetle soundtrack from the rear.
Emslie’s not sure what top speed was expected when it was new; nowadays she’s comfy cruising at around 70km/h.
There’s only one thing she would like to change. The front-mounted boot is so small she carries luggage on the rear seat.
“I’d like to get a roof rack and carry some old suitcases!”
Full, no doubt, of more period clothing finds, to ensure she stays as stylish as her car.