VW Beetle back in town

March 31, 1998|By LAURA ERNDE

by Ric Dugan / staff photographer

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VW BeetleVW Beetle back in town

The next thing you know, people will be playing "punch bug."

New Beetles have been spotted tooling around the Tri-State area, touching off a wave of nostalgia that has car-buyers signing three-month waiting lists.

Chad Collins and Amy Foley got one of two New Beetles delivered last week to Sharrett Inc. in Hagerstown.

The Hagerstown couple has been turning heads ever since, even when they took the retro black car to Washington, D.C., where people are usually accustomed to unusual sights.


"Ninety-five percent of the people were smiling," said Amy Foley, 24. "It's strange. It's like being a celebrity for a week."

Sharrett Manager Gary Knode has ordered a dozen Beetles for people in the area and for someone as far away as Florida, he said.

At Shively Motors Inc. in Chambersburg, Pa., Sales Manager George Harglerode has two pre-sold cars in his showroom and 14 more on order.

People are willing to wait for three months to take the wheel, and yellow and red are the most popular colors, he said.

"I've never seen an unveiling like this," said Harglerode, who has been selling cars for 47 years.

The Bug seems to appeal to all age groups, from Collins and Foley, who are both in their 20s, to a Jefferson, Md., man who is close to 70, Knode said.

Perhaps it's because so many people have some kind of connection with the original Volkswagen Beetle.

Many remember playing "punch bug," where the first person to spot a Beetle won the right to give a friendly punch on the arm to a companion.

For others, the Beetle was a practical first car - inexpensive and with no frills.

Today's Beetles are more high-tech - and also more expensive - than the popular old VWs.

A 1965 Beetle cost about $1,600, which is about $8,000 in today's dollars.

A new Beetle costs about twice that much, area dealers said.

But the price doesn't seem to be scaring off buyers.

Andrea Baker, 30, of Chambersburg, Pa., said she was "born and raised in VWs." Her father has been a VW mechanic for 30 years.

Until two years ago, she had been known around town for driving a 1972 Beetle painted yellow, pink and blue, she said.

Baker thought she wanted a yellow Beetle until she fell in love with a white one that was available.

Baker has agreed to let the dealership keep her car on display until May 1.

Meanwhile, Collins and Foley are being stopped on the street by people with all kinds of questions.

One of the most frequent: "Does it drive well?" The answer, according to Foley: "It's fun. It's like you're at home."

Even diehard fans of vintage Volkswagens are pleased with the new model's updates.

"I think it's going to add to the charm of the old Beetles, really," said Adrian Beattie of Berkeley Springs, W.Va.

Beattie, 36, has 13 vintage VWs, including a 1973 Bug that he converted into a truck.

Both Beattie and Michelle Graham, 38, of Chambersburg, Pa., belong to the People's Car Club for area VW-lovers.

"I know when I see one I just get excited," said Graham, who helped to found the group about six years ago.

Graham has been riding in Volkswagens since she was a little girl.

"It was a family car. We brought the Christmas tree home on the top," she said.

She has a restored red 1968 Beetle that she kept in the garage and never drove. Now, she takes it on her house cleaning jobs, loading it with bucket and mop and other cleaning paraphernalia.

The car still draws looks and sometimes she'll see someone deliver a "punch bug."

"You always put a smile on people's face," she said.

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