Me and My Car: bitten by the Volkswagen Beetle bug
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We chat to superyacht crew member Kris Ward about his beloved VW Beetle
What are you driving?
It’s a 1963 Volkswagen Beetle, packing a mighty fine original 1200 with a four-speed manual. It’s original colour was turquoise blue but someone did a rough lime-green paint job on it many years ago and it has well and truly stuck.
Where did you find it?
My eccentric father deals in antiques and has a motorsport and vehicle ownership career. He went to buy some “junk” from an elderly gentleman and came across the car under cover in a shed. The guy had driven it into the shed but then became sick and could no longer drive it. So, Dad negotiated for me. I’ve always wanted to find an air-cooled Porsche or VW.
How much work did it need?
She was in good nick. With the help of my father and a few classic VW enthusiasts we got her running well, warranted and registered. A few new parts, brakes, tyres and wheel balance and basic tune. I said: “I’m off to explore the South Island, Dad.”
What do you like about it?
Classic VWs have an aura about them. Some days it won’t start and some days you can’t turn it off. Everywhere I go, people laugh and point. Apparently her previous name was Bubbles but I call her Miss Beetle.
You’ve been on a road trip?
Last summer I took off from home near Wellington, bound for the South Island. We’re originally from Christchurch so I wanted to visit friends scattered around the south. I did 1300km between Picton and Nelson as far south as Queenstown and Dunedin. This summer I headed north, packing a few upgrades like a refurbished gearbox and engine all timed and balanced.
Highlight of your trips?
Making friends with other VW enthusiasts and hearing people’s stories about VWs they have owned. Another highlight was putting her on the car ferry to Waiheke and exploring the island.
And something broke almost every day?
Battling with the 6V headlights led to me driving only during the day. The wipers flew off at one stage in a terrible rainstorm and I’ve had countless strange roadside stops along the way. These cars have relatively simple engines so there isn’t too much that you can’t fix on the side of the road with your tool box and a fix-it manual.
How much can you fit in it?
The “boot”, which is in the front, is usually packed with spares and tools, the back is the engine bay, and the back seat has my camping gear, summer attire and usually a friend or two and our surfboards on the roof.
What do you keep in your car?
Cable ties, tow rope, spare tyre, screwdrivers and spanners. UE megaboom, teabags for a smoko and a cold beer for the finish line.
How does it fit your lifestyle?
I spend a lot of time overseas with my job so when I come home I love having the Beetle ready to go and hit the beach.
Who else drives it?
My dad when it goes for its warrant or is off for some TLC. I bet he drives it around and doesn’t tell me when I’m away.
An 86 Nissan Sunny 1500.
Who taught you to drive?
I got my learner licence when I was 15, my dad taught me to drive on the road but Mum would let me back her BMW out of the garage from a young age.
I love the Beetle but maybe a Kombi is on the cards? One day a Porsche 356 speedster will be parked in my drive.
Favourite driving songs?
Old-school surfy tunes from The Beach Boys but if I need to get somewhere then the Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd albums come on.
Favourite movie car scene?
Has to be the newer Herbie movie when he wins the IndyCar race.
And your thoughts on electric and driverless vehicles?
The electric engine conversions people are putting in their classic cars in the US are cool but you can’t beat a throaty air-cooled blasting down the road. I think I prefer my own hands on the wheel until they test driverless vehicles out.
— Donna McIntyre
●Follow Kris on Instagram @Krisowardo