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Attention doesn't 'Bug' car owner

December 28, 2001

Attention doesn't 'Bug' car owner



By ANDREA BROWN-HURLEY
andreabh@herald-mail.com


"The Chester" is a rolling hodgepodge of auto parts and industrial scraps: Spoilers, scoops, spinners, bumpers, louvers, aluminum mesh, plywood and plumbing pipes packaged in bright pink and lime green paint.

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Hagerstown resident Chester Magoun's automotive namesake screams for attention.

And Magoun, 51, is relishing his time in the national spotlight this month. His car is featured in the January edition of Car and Driver magazine as one of 10 vehicles with "Gawdawful Aerodynamic Add-Ons."

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime thing," Magoun said. "I like the attention. I'm sorry. I like the attention."

Why else would he transform the white, 1971 Volkswagen Bug he bought for $450 four years ago into a four-wheeled sideshow?

Magoun has spent about $1,000 on the add-ons that have drawn attention to him for the first time in his life, he said.

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"All the people who own 'Bugs' in the Tri-State area know my Bug," Magoun said.

He first removed the car's back seat and replaced it with a plywood frame to hold speakers. He crafted heating tubes from plastic plumbing pipes, drilling holes in the pipes and running them from his car's heat vents to the rear and front windows to help defrost them. Magoun lowered the Bug's trademark domed ceiling six inches with plywood.

"I wanted to make it all snuggled up, make it feel like my own," he said.

He blanketed the interior with $70 worth of black and white cow-patterned fake fur, and spray-painted the dashboard with a grainy textured tint designed to simulate rocks.

Magoun added a moon roof, compact disc player rack, new stereo system, low-profile tires and aluminum alloy wheels with spinners.

He covered the car's rear window with louvers from an old Datsun sports car, rigged a working air scoop on the hood from a scoop salvaged from a 1976 Trans Am, replaced the Bug's metal bumpers with plastic bumpers from a Chevy Cavalier and Ford Mustang, and made the car appear to be lower to the ground with panels taken from a Ford Escort.

He piled three spoilers from various autos atop each other on the rear of the roof, tinted the windows and attached aluminum mesh to the back windows with Velcro.

Magoun, who has repainted about 50 cars in his garage since giving his first makeover to a 1965 Dodge Dart 25 years ago, painted the Bug canary yellow before changing the hue to lime green and circus pink in an attempt to out-loud his son's green and purple paint job, he said.

"I thought, 'I can beat that,'" Magoun said. "I love bright."

He further adorned the car with the words, "Radical Bugs Rule." His license plate reads, "U Lookn."

And people do. Everywhere he goes.

Shutterbugs frequently snap photos of the outrageous car when it's parked in front of Magoun's Frederick Street home, he said. Local police give him the thumbs up sign when he passes in the Bug. Jealous teenagers throw rocks at it and deflate the tires, Magoun said.

His wife, Sharon, said she won't even ride in the car because it attracts so much attention.

"People stare. They laugh at it," she said.

Thomas Mooningham laughed all the way to the bank. He won $50 when his photograph of Magoun's car was published in "Car and Driver," he said.

Mooningham, a Volkswagen enthusiast from Hagerstown, said he saw the car many times before snapping a picture of it after reading about the contest in the popular automotive magazine.

"I said, 'Hey, this has got to be a winner,'" Mooningham said. "It's kind of a wild vehicle."

Magoun didn't know his car was featured in the magazine until someone else told him. He was happily stunned by the coverage and surprised - well, kind of - when he heard the article was titled "Gawdawful" add-ons.

His wife didn't point out that detail, she said.

"I thought it would just deflate him," Sharon Magoun said. "All he saw was his car's picture immortalized in Car and Driver. He loves that car more than he loves me."

Magoun, who is unemployed, now dreams of having his Bug made into a Hot Wheels model, he said.

"Maybe I can get rich."

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