Joy Car The Volkswagon Bug

Filed in Car Culture by on January 30, 2014 6 Comments


The  Volkswagen Bug was originally named Kraft durch Freude Wagent (“Strength Through Joy Car”) when she was first manufactured in Germany.

A Joy Car the June Bug is not. And, in fact, not one Bug owner that I have talked to has described his or her Bug as a “Joy Car.” Bugs are cute, fun and full of personality. They live up to their nickname of “the People’s Car,” but they are no joy…more like a pain in the bumper and temperamental to boot. However, June and I currently are on speaking terms. I’ve promised not to drive her in below-zero temperatures, and she’s promised not to leave me stranded someplace in those below-zero temperatures. Bug ownership is all about compromise.

While the weather has been polar vortexing, when it comes to the working on the June Bug, I’ve been in the midst of writing and rewriting the research portion of my senior project paper, titled “American Car Culture.” Mrs. Goodwin, one of my teachers at the Chicago Waldorf School, has been invaluable in helping me build a strong story around the research I’ve collected. Naturally, she points out the errors one would expect a teacher to catch, but she also has taken a genuine interest in helping me strengthen the paper, paragraph by paragraph. My mom has listened to me read portions of the paper over and over again, challenged my assumptions, encouraged me to start again, and kept the cookies and milk coming my way into the wee hours of the morning. Rewrites have not been easy, but the results have been worth the effort…and the paper is almost to the point where I can pronounce it DONE.

As I have researched car culture, I’ve felt like an anthropologist digging through history to find out how cars have reflected the way we think and live. The stories of cars and of the people behind the wheel are full of surprising twists and turns. Cars draw out powerful emotions, experiences and memories. Hardly anyone keeps the purchase papers for his or her first computer, or gives the device a name—but many Americans do both for their first cars. The Beach Boys sang a song called “Shut Down,” about a drag race, but nobody has yet recorded one called “Download.”

I hope you’ll come along for the ride over the next few weeks while I share some of my research with you. Can you imagination a Russian car designer being successful in America during the Cold War? No? Well, then just ze wait until I tell ze about Zora Arkus-Duntov. And while I share my research, biases and opinions with you, I hope you’ll join the conversation and share your knowledge, bias and opinions with me. I’ll even try to respect the opinions of Prius owners—no small feat on my part.

Do you have a keepsake from your first car or the first car you loved?



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  1. Annie says:

    I would have to agree that while my Rosie was a lot of fun I would not have associated the word joy with her. I have my first set of keys after starting to driving on a Snoopy key ring. My parent gave them to me on my 16 birthday after I passed my driving test. The keys were to my Mom’s car it took a year before I had my own car but it was still a great feeling to have my own set of keys. I think I also have the window sticker for Rosie in my car file.

  2. Sue says:

    Your “American Car Culture” project sounds very husband Ron was always in the car biz so cars were and still are a big part of our life. He does not have a dealership anymore but now he sells dealerships . Car restoration is a big part of the business now. I don’t know what your plans are for June after the project is completed but you could probably sell it for big bucks.
    Good luck .

  3. Christine says:

    Cole, congrats on all the hard researching and writing part! You can’t go wrong with Ms. Goodwin! So proud of you and excited!!!

  4. Millie says:

    Looking forward to reading more. I kept the licenses plates from my first car. A Bug. They have hung in our den for years and I guess they always will. And your right my Bug was no Joy but I remember her very fondly and we had a ton of fun together.

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