Across the street from our house in South Vancouver, B.C., Canada in the early evening, Saturday, July 5, 2008.
© Copyright photograph by Cohen Isaac Scharnberg, July 2008
“The icing on the cake” beside our house in South Vancouver, B.C. in the mid-morning, Monday, December 22, 2008.
© Copyright photograph by Stephan Alexander Scharnberg, December 2008
Returning from a day of walking the West Vancouver Seawall, starting near Park Royal, between Ambleside Beach and Dundarave Pier. Here we are in Goldie downtown Vancouver heading east on Georgia St. shortly before 5:30 pm, Sunday, May 24, 2009.
© Copyright photograph by Stephan Alexander Scharnberg, May 2009
In the world of automobiles, I am partial to well-engineered, quality-built German cars (not all of them—I don’t like the Porsche except for the classic 356 Speedster, first cousin of the original VW Beetle; nor do I care for the BMW). I love the classic, vintage, air-cooled Volkswagen (the People’s Car) and the older Mercedes-Benz.
I grew up with Volkswagens. After I made my first appearance—the old King’s Daughter Hospital (now long gone) in Duncan, Vancouver Island, B.C.—father and mother took me home in the blue-green 1961 VW Beetle, bumping along the meandering Old Lake Cowichan Highway to Lake Cowichan, Cowichan Lake, Vancouver Island, B.C. In time I inherited the 1961 Beetle’s slightly rusty Hazet tool kit (still a complete set) that sat inside the spare under the hood.
In the summer of 1965, my parents purchased new from Volkswagen Pacific in Vancouver, a 1965 VW Type 2 (T1c) Model 231 (cargo doors right, left hand drive) Kombi (first generation, split-window), VIN 235 xxx xxx, powered by a 1965 53-hp 1493-cc (1500) four-cylinder, horizontally-opposed, air-cooled engine, engine number code starting with H and followed by seven digits, with Solex 30 PICT-1 carburetor, strangely enough, with Model 221 Standard Microbus colour scheme of exterior body colours, L289 (17) blue white above waistline, L512 (38) velvet green below waistline, upholstery in mesh grey (83), sporting 14-inch wheels, front signals in amber, basic interior of just a rear bench seat, no middle bench seat, no interior headliner or side panels, no carpet, just interior hardboard panels in the front cab section, covering the doors, roof, and behind the nose. (I also inherited the license plate wrap-around labelled Volkswagen Pacific). A week later mother tipped it on its right side as a result of over-steering—a problem with the first-generation Type 2s. Two empty glass milk bottles flew off the shelf under the dash and did not break!, my baby brother flew from his wicker basket on the back bench and quickly landed back in it!, and two pulp mill chipper trucks hauling full twin trailers in convoy, quickly stopped and pulled us through the driver’s door sliding window (for some reason the door wouldn’t open). Since then, all the body work and realignment couldn’t put the slightly warped unibody straight again.
In 1973 my parents replaced the Kombi with a white 1971 VW Crew Cab from Bowmel Volkswagen (official dealer) in Duncan. Father built a red plywood canopy and took the VW with mother and four children in tow, on a memorable road trip into Northern Mexico—one week down, two weeks in the states of Sonora and Sinaloa, one week back home—December 1973 to January 1974.
Late 1977, this pickup was replaced with an almost new white and egg yolk yellow 1977 VW Bus, from the owner of Bowmel Volkswagen (since 1972; formerly Maguire Motors) in Duncan, soon discovered to be a real lemon cursed with a multitude of problems. Nonetheless, a second road trip to Mexico, December 1978 to January 1979. The mechanical and electrical gremlins accompanied us on this trip but fortunately Mexico is a country replete with creative, industrious VW mechanics. Alas, this Bus soured my parents on VWs forever. Since then, they’ve driven a panoply of Japanese and domestic vehicles.
My list of favourites:
1961 VW Beetle/1962 VW Beetle
1968 VW Beetle
1971 VW Beetle/1971 VW Super Beetle
1965 VW Microbus, Kombi, Panel, Westfalia camper, Single Cab, and Crew Cab (Type 2, split-window)
1968 VW Bus, Kombi, Panel, Westfalia camper, Single Cab, and Crew Cab (Type 2, bay window)
1971 VW Bus, Kombi, Panel, Westfalia camper, Single Cab, and Crew Cab (Type 2, bay window)1985 Mercedes-Benz W123 model, 300D Turbo Diesel
Of all the cars I’ve owned since my very first at age 21 in March 1983 (1968 Chevrolet Chevy II Nova, powered by a 250-cu.-in. 6-cylinder engine with 2-speed Powerglide automatic transmission, 4-door sedan, avocado green, Series 13, body style 69, no power brakes, no power steering, no A/C—what a great car she was!, I named her Cisca after a Dutch woman I knew), my favourites are all German.
In order of ownership, some at the same time!, they were:
1972 VW Super Beetle, forest green
1974 VW Kombi, white
1972 VW Super Beetle, white
1970 VW Kombi, white and sky blue
1973 VW Beetle, yellow, named Buttercup
1971 VW Super Beetle, baby blue, named Kathleen*
1968 VW Westfalia camper, ivory, named Sophia**
1985 Mercedes-Benz W123 model, 300D Turbo Diesel, champagne, named Goldie, current vehicle
*denotes my two favourites: The 1971 VW Super Beetle, bought her in Delta, B.C., great condition, beautiful speciman.
**the early-1968 VW Type 2 (T2a, “Early Bay”) Model 238 (sliding side door right, left hand drive) Westfalia (second generation, bay window), VIN 238 xxx xxx, powered by a 1971 60-hp 1584-cc (1600) four-cylinder, horizontally-opposed, dual-port air-cooled engine, engine number code starting with AE and followed by seven digits, with Solex 34 PICT-3 carburetor, colour scheme of exterior body colour L567 (46) ivory, upholstery in 45 medium grey 68, 4-speed manual transmission, sporting 14-inch wheels, double CV-joints, low front signals just above front bumper, with original model SO-68 Westfalia interior of rear bench seat that pulls out to become a ¾-wide bed, rear deck mattress, storage locker under rear bench seat, clothes closet with vanity mirror and hanging rod and shelves aft of sliding door, adjoining linen closet, rear ceiling shelf cabinet, ceiling and walls insulated and wood-panelled in baltic birch, yellow vinyl seat coverings, vinyl-tiled floor, hinged folding dinette table, front rear-facing bench seat with storage area immediately aft of driver bucket seat and walk-through divider, 1.6-cubic foot cabinet with ice box and drain, white plastic sink with drainage and venting system and hinged lid/counter surface, 7.5-gallon water tank and manually operated faucet pump, catch-all shelf unit, front lid mosquito net pop-up roof with canvas tent, rear wall with zippered flaps and zippered screen openings, cot bed inside pop-up roof, rear luggage rack, removable children’s hammock for over front seats, two ceiling lamps (one each over sink and dinette table) of three 10-watt bulbs each, small ceiling light in centre of compartment, transistorized 12-volt 110–125 volt electrical receptacle with double outlet, 15-ampere AC cord for plugging into campsite receptacles, original bay window privacy curtain, original yellow and brown checkered curtains for all windows, and fully-functional louvered side windows with removable screens. She was purchased new from the official VW dealer somewhere in or near downtown San Diego. I still have her original sales receipt, owner’s manual, and service manual—regularly serviced and stamped. She appeared to be based in Indio, Coachella Valley, California, while in my possession still sporting an AAA (The Automobile Club of Southern California) decal in bottom right corner of the windshield. She was a member of some surf club based in San Clemente, California. Imported up to Victoria, B.C. in the early 1980s, legend has it this camper drove to the famous 1969 Woodstock Festival in Bethel, New York and back to the West Coast; and that John Muir, VW mechanic extraordinaire and writer of the famous manual, How To Keep Your Volkswagen Alive: A Manual Of Step By Step Procedures for the Compleat Idiot, once serviced and tuned my baby’s 1600-cc motor. I took her camping many times (southern Vancouver Island, Saltspring Island, Hornby Island, Alice Lake up past Squamish, Hicks Lake near Harrison Hot Springs), including a road trip to Grande Prairie, Alberta in August 1994, up the Coquihalla Highway and Summit from Hope, Merritt, Kamloops, Blue River, Valemount, Jasper, then Hinton through Grande Cache to Grande Prairie on Highway 40 (at the time still known as “the Highway to Hell”, the last year it was sand and gravel surface strewn with the debris of blown tires, pieces of wood, and branches, before a proper paving) to Grande Prairie, back by way of Dawson Creek, Prince George, Quesnel, Lac La Hache, 100 Mile House, Clinton, Cache Creek, Ashcroft, Spences Bridge, Lytton, down the Fraser Canyon, Hope, and back to New Westminster. Alas, after owning her from 1992 t0 2000, I gave her up to a VW enthusiast-restorer-collector in Coquitlam, B.C., wanting to give her one more good life. At the time I was broke. I couldn’t afford the $10,000.00 or $15,000.00 restoration she needed and deserved. I sure miss that camper. One day I’ll search for another fine specimen of the bay windows.
I won’t bother mentioning the other half dozen or so cars I’ve owned and driven into the ground in the last twenty-six years!
My dream VW is the 1971 VW Bus (deluxe model with chrome trim and sliding sun roof). It is said this was the best year for the Type 2 model. My dream Bug is the 1971 VW Super Beetle, like the baby blue I had.
Our current vehicle, Goldie, is a 1985 Mercedes-Benz W123 model, 300D Turbo Diesel sedan (4-door), powered by a 123-hp OM617.952 five-cylinder diesel engine with 4-speed automatic transmission (standard in turbo diesel models), colour scheme of champagne exterior, MB-Tex (Mercedes-Benz Texturized Punctured Vinyl) upholstery, interior wood trim, passenger side exterior mirror (standard on T models), power windows with rear-seat switch cut-outs, vacuum powered central locking, Standheizung (pre-start timer controlled engine heating), self-locking differential, sun roof, air conditioning, climate control, “Alpine” horn (selectable quieter horn), Tempomat (cruise control), power steering (standard after August 1982), power (vacuum servo) assisted disc brakes (standard on all W123 models).
The North American W123s differ from the European W123s due to United States Department of Transportation requirements. Notable exterior differences included: Larger bumpers; round, sealed-beam headlights/fog lamps. Early cars were delivered with clear fog lamps through to model year 1979, later units with yellow (our Benz has these); location of ID-tag on A-pillar; emission control devices. Production of the W123 model was based in Sindelfingen, Baden-Württemberg, Westdeutschland.