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From a Car to a Family Member

Tristin Willoughby

I’ve always had an obsession with Volkswagens, and it started at an early age. When I was around one or two years old, my grandma would watch me when my parents were working. One day when she was watching me I was constantly crying. She tried everything she could but I wouldn’t stop. She finally decided to put on a movie, that movie happened to be “The Love Bug” and I was instantly drawn into it. I fell in love with the original four movies, we would have to watch them all at least once a day. I became obsessed with anything dealing with vintage Volkswagens.

Fast forward a few years to the early 2000s and my grandma was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer. She decided to try getting treatments done but by the time she found out, it already spread throughout her body. She decided that her last wish was to get me my own Herbie. So my grandpa and grandma searched through dozens of Volkswagen Beetles and she finally found mine and claimed “this is the one”. My bug started out as a work car for my grandpa's coworker but when it developed fuel leak in the tunnel he parked it. When my grandparents found it, my grandma said she didn’t care how much it cost, she wanted that one. So they bought it and flat bedded it to my parents house when I was around six or seven. It was the coolest gift I’ve ever gotten, but at the time I didn’t realize why I received it - a few months later my grandma passed away.

Being seven and having a car it becomes more of the neighborhood club house than a car. I spent hours in that car, taking stuff apart, messing with it, and making it my own, I even finger painted 53 on it. My poor bug got pretty beat up having so many kids climb on it and jump in and out of it. When I became an early teen I kind of fell out the Volkswagen phase, so my bug got pushed to the other side of the property and left alone. After being left alone for a few years, my neighbor was having a garage sale. She had a gentleman offer her $2,300 for the bug that was covered in dirt and didn’t run. She said the bug was mine and he needed to talk to me. Well I told him I didn’t want to sell it and it was special to me, and he told me if I change my mind to call him. After some contemplation I decided someone should give the bug the love it deserves instead of rusting away. But I decided I was going to fix it and bring it back to its former glory.

After attempting to try getting it running myself, I found the last air-cooled mechanic in my area. His names was Steve, and he restored Volkswagens and old Dodge PowerWagons. He took my bug in and started taking it apart. Steve and I became very close, he became like a grandfather figure to me. And after having my bug for eight months, he passed away from a brain aneurysm. It took two months for me to get my car back and when I did it was in pieces. So we got it at least rolling and I took it home. From Steve’s passing I lost $7,000 and couldn’t do anything about it. But I wasn’t going to give up again. I posted an engine core I got on The Samba to try saving up money for a new turn key engine. A few days later I got a message from a guy named Thomas who owns a 71 bay window bus and he said he wanted the heaters off my engine. I told him he could take whatever he wanted as long as he could get the car running. We made a deal and we moved my car to my boss's garage and started working on it.

A few weeks in and we finally got it running and drove it for the first time in 20+ years. Thomas and I quickly became best friends and started working on our Volkswagen together. It was around this time I found out my bug was special... on my first road trip my girlfriend at the time mentioned how she thought we should trade my bug for a bus. Well my bug ended up getting really upset about that and the oil drain plug fell out and the oil pressure switch wire disconnected and I drove up the road not knowing that in a matter of minutes, my bug would be dead again. After my bug died, it took a few months to get going again. I ended up finding an engine in a barn and literally had to pull hay out of it. It was a great engine but it smoked really bad. But at this time I made my bug my daily driver and I decided to run it. I ran that engine for months before spinning a bearing on the interstate. I got a new engine and the adventures continued, but more strange things kept happening to me with the car.

Anytime someone would insult it, it would break down within 24 hours. It became a very expensive and interesting time. But it didn’t start getting real to me until little kids were drawn to my bug saying “someone is in the backseat waving at me” and mediums were telling me that something kept drawing them to my car. After some more “experiences” I just came to the realization something is with my car. It does fun quirky things like I joke with my girlfriend about him liking me more than her, he’ll lock my door and won’t let it open first. Or if we’re in an argument and it’s getting too bad, he’ll stall and won’t start until we say sorry to each other. I know it sounds crazy, and it’s ok. But I believe there is something special about my bug. I named my bug “Fidem” which is Latin for faith, because I believe I’m the only one who has full faith in my bug. I now daily drive my bug 365 days a year, my family and I just did a 1000 miles in the last week. He’s become part of me and my family. I went to college for Automotive Technology because of my bug. It’s changed my life in more ways than I can express. This is only part of our story, and to this day it still continues.

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