Start, Dam BUG!

Filed in Restoring The Bug by on March 2, 2014 9 Comments

Bug Spot

 The June Bug has reduced me to reciting Shakespeare. Someone just run over me, PLEASE!


On Saturday morning, the Bug was supposed to take a field trip out to Fox Valley Volkswagen to meet the president of the dealership who graciously agreed to add his autograph to the Bug.  I was up at the crack of 8:30 a.m., dressed down to my toe warmers and ready to head out the door by 9 a.m. The Bug looked sharp after a week of cleaning her rust spots with Coke and steel wool, washing her down and completely cleaning the interior. I was confident she would start. Why wouldn’t she?

I turned the key…and no good morning groan came out of the engine. I charged the battery. Nothing. I added gas. Nothing. After some investigative work, I determined the problem was the starter.

There is the old car trick called “popping the clutch.” First, you turn the key to the “on” position. Second, you push in the clutch and put the car in gear—preferably first gear. Third, you get the car moving. This can be done by either having someone push the car or by letting it roll down an incline. Once the car is moving at a decent speed, you let out the clutch and the car should “pop start.” This might have worked if the June Bug hadn’t been in the garage and the alley covered with slick ice. My mom has been a very good sport throughout this project, but I knew asking her to ice skate down the alley while pushing the Bug would put her over the edge. And while popping the clutch is a good emergency maneuver, it is not a reliable way to start a car. Of course, using the word reliable to describe the June Bug is an oxymoron to the greatest degree. Installing a new starter was not on my already very tight, down-to-the-wire senior project to-do list.

First, I grabbed a baseball bat and made good use of it clearing the ice from the front of our garage. Next, I canceled our morning outings for the weekend (we had plans on Sunday, too), and finally I found someone who could help me install a new starter. The June Bug will have a new starter installed this weekend, and then all I need to do is install the carpet, seats, dashboard, make a video, tie up a number of loose ends and practice my 45-minute presentation.

While it might seem like I put a lot of things off until the last minute, the reality is that you work on cars when the funding and parts are available. It’s a fool’s paradise to believe you can work ahead when you restore a car—unless, of course, you happen to have lots of money and time…and ironically, those lucky ones don’t make up the bulk of the people who want to restore their own cars. The cold weather has also been a big factor this winter. Parts arrived slower, and test-driving the Bug has been tough, with over 70 inches of snow accumulating between December and the first couple of days of March.

Fortunately, working in the garage hasn’t been too bad. I was able to borrow an outdoor propane heater, which makes the well-ventilated garage warm and toasty. One unexpected benefit to restoring and driving the Bug in single-digit and below-zero weather has been learning how to dress for polar vortex cold. The learning with this project just never stops! It’s just been one curve after another.

The upcoming week will be a big one. Besides completing my project to-do list, I’ll sit in the audience and cheer for my classmates as they present their projects (click for a list of the projects), and on Friday, March 7th, I will turn 18, give a 45-minute presentation on American car culture, show off the June Bug, and at about 9:30 p.m. I will arrive at my final destination—DONE! Well, except for my plans to paint the Bug in the spring, of course. It would be fun to drive her to graduation, wouldn’t it?

Thanks for going along for the ride





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  1. Shakespeare meets VW BUG - Odd Loves Company | March 2, 2014
  1. irene says:

    Sorry to hear Miss Bug didn’t cooperate this weekend. Much luck this week…..a busy one. What determined the order of presentations?

  2. Cole says:

    We could pretty much choose when we wanted to give our presentations based on when it worked best for our families. I also thought it would be cool to give mine on my birthday. I got enough done to be able to crash in front of the Oscars and the Bug should be up and running by tomorrow night.Things are looking up.

  3. Mike says:

    Hang in there Cole. Your struggles this week will make your presentation stronger at the end of week. Wow, I was wiser than I intended to be…write that one down. Keep us posted. In your spare time.

  4. Liz says:

    Cole, I hope you don’t mind that I laughed hard at your cartoon. MacBeth at it’s finest. There is always a storm before the silver lining. You and June have been through so much together and I am sure it was frustration on Saturday but it’s just a piece of the process, Easy for me to say, I know. I’m not the one working on her in 0 degree weather. Dam Bug. Hang in there, sweetie.

  5. Chuck LaMantia says:

    Pretty cool and good luck with your work! Me…became a “car guy” at a late age of 40 something when I bought a 1988 911 Porsche. Did my first brake job ever when a week before a high speed track event I had notice brake fluid all over the garage floor. Brought calipers in for a rebuild and then put new rotars and pads on by myself. When I asked a friend how I would know if I did the brake job correctly, he told me “by turn 3 I should be able to tell”.

  6. Debbie says:

    Cole, what a memorable adventure this senior project with June is turning out to be! I’ve learned a lot from it and taken a stroll of my own down Memory Lane — our Bug had ALL KINDS of starter issues. Must have been a weak spot in their manufacturing or design.

    Best of luck with the presentation on Friday — I know you’ll do a wonderful job! Choosing a project that you’re interested in long-term was a wise decision.

    Have a slice of cake for me on your b-day — I remember my 18th with special fondness, as I was a first-semester freshman at college then (yes, I have a “late” birthday!)
    Debbie recently posted…Hurry up, Spring!My Profile

  7. Isabel Liss says:

    That was a lovely post. What an amazing and wonderful project you have undertaken — I think everything a Senior Project ought to be. Perseverance, dear my lord, Keeps honor bright (Troilus and Cressida III,iii ;) )

  8. That darn bug! What was she thinking? I guess she knew that you and your mom needed yet another adventure in your lives and she wanted to contribute. So glad that the end is in sight and that you and June will be happily riding off into the sunset (and sleet and snow and ice) together. You have done an amazing job. Beep beep!
    Beth Ann Chiles recently posted…Teapot TuesdayMy Profile

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