I bought my first car when I was 15 years old.  I mowed lawns for spending money so when I found a deal for a 1965 VW Bug for $150, I had to buy it.  I called my Dad who was at work and asked if he could come home early that day to sign for the title since I was not old enough to sign.  Later that day I was the proud owner of my first car! 

A few years earlier, my older brother Johnny had dragged home a dune buggy project that someone had started but never finished.  The only part of that car was the pan (frame) and the transmission of a 1958 VW Beetle.  Johnny said I could have that project, he had lost interest when he got his driver’s license and took over Mom’s old 1963 Valiant.  Mom had recently bought a 1973 Vega for her daily driver.  When I started working on that old dune buggy project I knew I needed parts…. a lot of parts in order to finish. I got the idea of buying a complete and running car for the parts.  That is when I found the ’65 Bug and bought it.  The main thing I needed was the engine.

I have no fear of taking things apart to see how they work.  Most of the times I could re-assemble them and they worked.  Not every time however.  It was satisfying to start up a lawn mower or go kart engine that I had taken apart.  It was like breathing new life into the mechanical being.  Now I had a whole car I could take apart.  I drove the car under the largest oak limb I could find in our front yard.  Found a thick rope and tied it to the limb and attached a chain hoist to the rope.  I took longer pieces of rope and ran it through the open doors of the Bug and attached the chain hoist.  I took out the car seats, and removed all of the bolts holding the body to the pan. I disconnected and removed everything that attached the body to the rest of the car then pulled on the chain hoist.  The body lifted off the pan.  It was so exciting to watch the body pull away from the pan with each pull of the chain hoist.  I got the body high enough to clear the rear engine so I pushed the bottom half of the Bug back onto the driveway.  I was so excited to have the parts I needed for the dune buggy project that I left that Bug body hanging from the limb of that tree in our front yard for a few days.  I eventually lowered the body to the ground and it stayed there for a while.  A friend told me that his brother has a rusted out Bug and wanted to know what I was going to do with that body. I said that they can have it if they haul it off. One day I came home from school and that Bug body was gone.

The engine and transmission came off the pan easily and I bolted up the assembly to the dune buggy pan. My dad, brothers and I had welded a tube frame under the cut down pan earlier so with the new engine and transmission the dune buggy was a rolling project. 

For new parts of this project, I shopped from a catalog called JC Whitney. One of the first things that caught my eye was a three spoke steering wheel that had three holes in each spoke. I bought one for $13 and it was shipped to our house.

One day, my younger brother Donny was sitting in the driver’s seat of the dune buggy in the garage. Somehow he got his finger stuck in one of the holes in the steering wheel.  My dad tried everything he could think of to help Donny get his finger out with no luck.  Dad said that we might have to cut the steering wheel off his finger.  I was upset that my new steering wheel was about to be destroyed.  Mom called our Doctor to see if he had any ideas. He said to bring Donny to his office and he can get his finger out.  I unbolted the steering wheel so Mom and Dad could take Donny to the Doctor’s office.  When they pulled out of the driveway, I knew the next time I would see that steering wheel, it was going to be mangled. Dad told me not to worry about it, if they did have to cut it up he would buy me another steering wheel.

About an hour later the station wagon pulled back into the driveway.  I walked out to learn the fate of the steering wheel.  Dad handed it to me.  It was in perfect shape.  I am not sure how they got Donny’s finger out, and I didn’t care, I had my steering wheel back. 

A few weeks later I had the dune buggy running and the threat to the steering wheel had been long forgotten. Now all I needed was to turn 16 years old so I could get my driver’s license so I could go out cruising our town in that dune buggy.

Mom sure put up with a lot in raising three boys.  It is a wonder we three still have all of our fingers and toes, all still functioning.