There are many things that forge a lasting relationship in life, allowing people to grow with one another and share in an adventure that raises high the human existence. It is funny when nestled prominently among those things are two quirky little cars—just as funny looking as they are fun loving. Motoring along we see smiles on faces and bystanders pointing with joy. This is an affection brought about by two little cars. Each time we get behind the wheel we have added to a shelf of love stories with bookends in the shape of a Beetle and a Midget.
I met Whitney while reluctantly crashing a mutual friend’s cookout. Others mingled and I sat in a corner of the backyard playing with a puppy. My sunglasses remained on even as dusk descended into darkness. When choosing to be unsocial, wear dark glasses at inappropriate times. Despite my grumpiness, the dog found me good company.
As evening wore on, a bubbly redhead whom I had been eyeing from early on sat next to me and sparked a conversation. Somehow she managed to start the engine that is my love for Anthropology. Once I concluded an in-depth lecture on how a simple change in diet and dentition shaped human evolution to the group that consisted of said redhead and my band of friends, I said my goodbyes. I hopped into my Beetle and retired. This might have been the end of the story. I’m thankful it wasn’t.
Just as I was about to nod off, the harsh buzz of text message shook me awake. I had received a charmingly seductive note from a number I did not recognize. Assuming my friends were paying me back for being dull at a party, I was stifled when it was revealed to be the bubbly redhead. She too had been doing some eyeing, in my direction as it were. Right there via text, I set a date. So began our odyssey.
Whitney and I enjoy the company of two quaint chaps who play a big part in most of the adventures on which we embark. Myself and my German companion, a 1963 Volkswagen Beetle, along with Whitney and her British companion, a 1979 MG Midget, depart for many exhilarating excursions. We schlep them on many road trips and enter them in many shows. She often accompanies me to some all-German car shows and cruises with her car. In these times we dub her car as the British Expeditionary Force. Likewise I invade her British car shows in what we call Operation Sea Lion. Neither group seems to mind all that much. True auto enthusiasts rarely care what you are driving as long as it invokes that certain “feeling.”
Owning the People’s Car was a dream of mine. I spent three years making it into the finest representation of the Love Bug that I could. It lives up to its name.
Whitney and I have logged many miles and memories on road trips, journeys to car shows, and nights stargazing through my car’s large sunroof. It was on a day that she was assisting me with changing the gear oil when we decided to make our relationship official. On some occasions I gave Whitney a few lessons behind the wheel. She had never driven a car with a manual transmission before and never one as old. She had gotten a taste for the fun in classic motoring. Now it seemed she wanted her own classic to enjoy.
Whitney’s first foray into classic transportation was the purchase of a 1977 Motobecane moped that had once dangled from the ceiling of a local saloon as a decoration. We got it running in a short time and she was enjoying buzzing around with her fiery hair blowing in the wind and peering through her favorite pair of horn rimmed sunglasses as the sounds of the two stroke “brap” echoed off the urban traffic. We began to take that to a few motorcycle shows where, beyond my belief, it too attracted its share of fanfare. Whitney was now entranced by the fun that the motoring community brings.
A year and a half into our relationship she was awarded an insurance payout from a minor automobile accident. While looking for a replacement, we talked about how fun it would be to attend motoring events together with our own cars. I showed her cars that I thought may be engaging to her but they did not garner much affection. Then at a large car show in Iowa she discovered, what I and many others may argue is the only car that just looks absolutely tickled to be a car, the Frogeye Sprite. With its massive grin and headlamps opened wide with enjoyment, she was overcome by the adorable little car. However, we soon found out a decent driver was outside the budget—but later Spridgets fit within the price range.
I picked out a few cars to look at but they were a ways out of town. Whitney on the other hand found one in town that she liked. It was a rubber bumper car and frankly I felt that if she wanted a chrome bumper car we should just start with one. I do enjoy looking at cars nonetheless. So I asked her to arrange a time to check it out.
It was not a bad example, a Carmine Red 1979 MG Midget. It had been sitting since 2009 and belonged to the seller’s father who had recently passed from cancer. It looked as though it was well cared for. At some point it had been repainted in its original color and although there were a few minor problems I thought they could be easily fixed. It was all around a very decent driver. We thanked the man for his time and said we would let him know if we decided to go ahead with the purchase. I felt that although it was a nice car, the British Racing Green 1967 Austin-Healey Sprite that I saw online would be a better choice.
It wasn’t. Not even close.
Whitney’s thoughts never left the little red Midget. We talked it over, called the seller and agreed to meet that night. Something about that petite, crimson car struck a chord with her and it showed. Whitney began to beat up the seller in a tough round of negotiating, eventually knocking $2,000 off the asking price. The things I would be able accomplish if I were a cute girl such as her. Whitney paid the gentleman and we were off with her new car, which has been affectionately named after the seller, “Pete.”
The next week was a busy one for Pete. We started with the standard maintenance: oil change, ignition tune up, chassis lube, etc. Once that was completed we tackled the bumper swap. We managed to fill some holes, metal finish, prep and paint the modified areas of the car in under a week.
The funny thing about our two cars is they seem to have switched reputations. Pete is far more reliable than Herbie. Since our ownership of Pete began in August of 2012, Herbie has used up two engines, a clutch, clutch fork and a pressure plate. The only things that we have had to do to Pete are clean up some electrical snafus from the previous owner and general maintenance.
Another trait commonly attributed to British cars has also been imitated by my German one. On a trip to Dubuque, Iowa for Vintage Torque Fest, we had to navigate a massive rainstorm in which the downpour outpaced our wipers. It was so torrential that visibility was less than 50 feet. But wouldn’t you know it, the Midget stayed dry, hardly a leak. Whereas the Love Bug had to be pulled into any service station every 30 miles so that my co-driver and I could bail out the standing water using camping mugs and all of the stations’ paper towels.
We like to take our cars out on day trips, cruising in search of fun roads and gorgeous views hidden in the vast agricultural spaces of the Midwest. You can live in a place most of your life and yet have no idea what is really out there. From the interstates there is not much to see other than miles of corn and soybeans. But pull onto the byways and you find another world of small towns that seem stuck in a 1950’s time warp, especially those that dot the Old Route 66. We are lucky to be quite close to the mother road and the character that many communities maintain along its stretch.
Our old cars fit right in with these towns that time forgot. Whitney and I become welcomed guests. Everywhere, people stop us to talk about our cars. We recently had an elderly man tell us about how his wife used to have a Midget. How he would only catch glimpses of her speeding past before he was actually able to grasp a moment to talk to her. It is wonderful to see how something so simple could play such a large role in so many lives. But that is what appeals to classic car ownership. It is the memories, the relationships, and the destinations that these machines lead us to.
It’s plain to see that this is a love letter. I am truly blessed to be with someone who makes life more fun. Whitney’s adventurous spirit complements my childlike wonder. Together we bounce around the country in our little cars, skipping along the streets of small towns like complete goofs, blissfully unaware and not caring what others think. We get excited about any excursion we take—anything to satisfy the monkey that is wanderlust. It will be interesting to see how we handle this journey, and how many times we have to pull over for repairs.