For the love of Herbie

Reading an article with my breakfast cup of tea today, the writer mentioned an old VW Beetle car, and that took me whizzing back to my younger days and the two cars that I loved so much.

My very first car was a Mini, Little Min I called it, so original. Pale blue and very old I spent hours cleaning it and polishing it. Dad taught me to check the oil and water and to always make sure the indicators and brake lights were working properly. I went through this routine religiously every week.

Dad also told me that I should never, ever, have less than half a tank of petrol on board, You never knew what might happen and there should always be enough fuel to get home. Wise words that stuck, time has moved on and I’ve been the owner of a few cars since but I still hold to the half a tank rule.

My parents bought me that Mini and I thought they were incredibly generous. They were generous but I have a sneaking suspicion that it was to make sure I didn’t ask for driving lessons in their Vauxhall Viva that only left the garage on a weekend.

I will always carry happy memories of that car, first learning to drive in it and then bombing up and down the A23 to Brighton with my friends. Goodness what a world opened up to us, we discovered that the discos actually stayed open until quite late. Previously we had to rely on the train and the last one was at half past ten which meant that we had to leave wherever we were by ten past. Now we had a car we could party all night long. So we did.

The time came to sell Little Min and rather sadly I waved it off into the distance with its new owner. But then I fell in love. With my VW Beetle. You will have gathered by now that naming cars with quirky fun appellations is not my forte, and there were some films made in the 60’s about a Beetle car called Herbie, so that was what he became.

I remember quite clearly paying £120 for him, and then spending a further £150 for a respray. My parents thought I was mad throwing good money away, but oh Herbie looked beautiful with a sparkling white coat of paint.

He took me safely everywhere and I lavished love and polish on him to keep him well and shiny. I loved the running board, the huge steering wheel, just being in him and bowling along even with no where in particular to go was so fabulous. I bought a leather half bonnet cover, put carpet in the foot wells to protect him and if I could have slept in him I probably would have.

Our greatest moment was also our final one — my wedding day. Mum had said that I needed to have a proper car to take me to become a bride. I looked at her with hurt in my eyes, Herbie was a proper car. He was my car. And I was giving him up for a man I loved but he and I had to have our last hurrah together. Surely she could understand that.

Fortunately for me my Mum and Dad have always been amazing and so Dad adorned Herbie with white wedding ribbon and a huge bow across the front (I still have that ribbon in the glove compartment of my current car) and the four wheeled love of my life carried me to the two legged love of my life.

As newlyweds we moved to London and we couldn’t afford to run a car and so Herbie had to be found a new home. My Dad managed all the transactions for me, I couldn’t face doing it myself, I felt like a real low life letting him go and many tears were shed. But something tells me that somewhere, probably in the Southeast of England, he is still lovingly polished every weekend and taken out for a run amongst the vintage brigade. I really hope so.

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