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The last Volkswagen Beetle recently rolled off the assembly line. The Bug is being discontinued.

It makes me sad.

I've owned three Beetles in my life: a 1965, 1973 and 1977. I've also owned a VW Golf, and my wife now has a VW Passat. Apparently we have some sort of DNA-level attachment to the brand.

While Beetles are hardly what you would call luxurious, they are steady, stable and reliable. And for someone whose knowledge of car mechanics is limited, they also are pretty easy to fix.

The 1965 was handed down to me by my mother about 10 years after she bought it. No air-conditioning, but it had an eight-track player, so I could listen to my Beatles, Deep Purple, UFO and Uriah Heep tapes at volumes that rivaled live concerts.

some text Shawn Ryan

It had a six-volt electrical system and eight tracks needed 12, so I installed a converter to jack up the voltage. Toward the end of the Bug's life, the generator was going bad, so at night, when the headlights were on, if I flipped on the converter, the car would do something of a Grrrrrr! nose dive until the generator caught up electricity-wise.

I drove it my junior and senior years in high school. It was a fun car to take down dirt roads and, growing up in Gwinnett County, Georgia, in the 1970s, there were a lot of dirt roads.

My 1977 was a sweet thing with a sunroof, cassette player and metallic silver paint job. But after a year or so, I decided I didn't like the size of the car payment since I was going back to college and paying the tuition myself. I sold it and bought a dune buggy as my primary ride. The stupidity of that move is another story entirely.

My last Beetle was the 1973. I kept it for years. It, too, was a nice ride, but I was a newspaper reporter and driving anywhere and everywhere. Eventually, I found myself on the side of the interstate, underneath the car, trying to reattach a part that had come loose. When the gush of oil spilled out and onto me, I decided it was time to find something with parts that stayed attached.

Despite all the ups and downs of my Beetles, I wouldn't trade the memories they provided for the world. They defined several important periods of my life.

Goodbye old friends. Maybe, when the life is over for my current car — not a VW — I'll search out one of the newer Bugs that were reintroduced to the world 20 years ago. So tell me, any good dirt roads around here?

Contact Shawn Ryan at mshawnryan@gmail.com.

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