Whatever Happened to Simplicity

Whatever Happened to Simplicity

Those of us who are in classic car clubs, regardless of model or make, decide to become members for any given number of reasons. Perhaps we owned a particular car in our youth that brings back fond memories of cruising the streets on Friday nights. Maybe we remember going to Drive-in movies with our date s head resting on our shoulders. Perhaps it was simply the sound of our particular car s engine, which could range from anything to a soft purr or a horsepower-laden monstrous growl as we rolled down the highway.

Perhaps some of us are too young to have experienced the era in which these cars roamed the earth, but we have nevertheless been influenced by our elders and appreciate what once was. Whatever the reasons may be, there is nothing quite like finding others who share these feelings and enjoy the camaraderie and rewarding experiences that are all part of being in such a group.

My particular love is old Volkswagen Beetles. I have been a member of the Chippewa Valley Volkswagen Club, based in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, for over three years. We go on many cruises, and other outings, and hold our own show annually. During the original Beetle s lifespan, which ran from its infancy in 1938 Nazi Germany up until 2003, when the very last “Bug,” as it was lovingly called, rolled off the assembly line in Puebla, Mexico, over 21.5 million were produced. As a result, there are still thousands of them on roads today, and clubs such as mine are dedicated to the preservation of these unique cars. We also support other clubs throughout the states of Wisconsin and Minnesota.

The Volkswagen Beetle defined simplicity, something that is quite lacking in today s cars, regardless of model. There is no question that certain items such as airbags and side-impact crumple zones have accomplished much in the way of saving lives.

But let s go back forty years for a few moments. Air-conditioning was considered a luxury in those days, and only select cars were equipped with it. Nearly every car manufactured today has air-conditioning as standard equipment. In Wisconsin, I use it in my 1996 Volkswagen Golf maybe ten days out of the year. While someone in, say, Phoenix or Miami would beg to differ, I pose the following question: Does somebody in Fairbanks, Alaska really need it?

Power windows and locks have also become the industry norm. Have we as a society evolved into such a lazy species that we are incapable of rolling a window down or pushing in a lock? If a power window fails, you re looking at a repair that will cost around $400. Manual seats have given way to 8-way adjustable power seats. Is this really necessary? Hand-operated levers work fine for a fraction of the cost. While we’re on the subject of seats, what s up with heated seats? My solution? Wear a coat.

Cruise control is a nice feature to have if you travel frequently on desolate stretches of Interstate somewhere such as the Dakotas or Montana, but it s impractical in heavy traffic, which is increasing as each day goes by. I can t count the number of times I’ve had to hit the “cancel” button as I gain rapidly on somebody in a Buick Lesabre who has been in bifocals since the Kennedy Administration going fifty miles an hour. I can live without it.