Daily Trust (Abuja)

Nigeria: Changing Face of Fun Little Volkswagen Beetle

Abuja and Lagos — Have you ever asked why some motorists still cruise in the Volkswagen Beetle, a car nearly as old as Methuselah?

One of the dearest things to the heart of 72-year-old Demola Johnson, a driving instructor at Fadeyi area of Lagos, is his old Volkswagen Beetle he bought in 1963 for N15. He relives how he bought the old automobile, stressing that he didn't not regret buying it for it still gives him comfort.

He told our correspondent that his first car was Ford but he soon abandoned it for Volkswagen because it was not rugged.

Really, the Septuagenarian's car doesn't look rickety when our correspondent had a chat with him at his residence. Its engine is still intact while its body parts don't suggest the automobile was bought when Nigeria attained Republican status.

A proud Johnson said the secret behind the look of his "ageless" Volkswagen was its constant maintenance which was boosted by the fact that he was a trained auto technician.

He is still upbeat about this old but fun little car as he boasted, "If I have N30,000, I can panel beat and renew this car."

Ganiyu Adisa, a retiree who lives in Ebute Metta area of the state said he doesn't understand the "language" of automobiles other than his 35-year-old Volkswagen beetle which he said, "I emptied my account to acquire".

Adisa still cruises town with the automobile with members of his family. He said, "I am not ashamed at all riding the car. Rather, I'm really happy that one of the rewards of my hardwork is still functional. You see, the engine in this car [hitting the bonnet] is superb and its parts are stronger than most modern automobiles."

Johnson and Adisa are few Nigerians whose taste for the Volkswagen beetle is unquenchable, as insatiable by their persistence to maintain the car for very many years.

Volkswagen metamorphosis

For several years, Volkswagen Beetle has undergone some metamorphosis. The origin of this car goes back to Nazi Germany in the 1930s. Adolf Hitler wanted private vehicles for the general public so he assigned an engineer, Ferdinand Porsche, to design the vehicle.

Volkswagen has grown by leaps and bounds over the years. It started as just a small company making good cars during one of the darkest times in history. Then after the Second World War it changed into one of the main export cars that saved Western Germany from poverty.

The original beetle was the first off the assembly line. It was produced continually from 1939 to 1979 in Germany. In South America, the Beetle was produced for more than a decade after it was out of production in Germany.

The Beetle was known for its hearty and simple design with an air-cooled engine that ran well in both hot and cold climates. The Beetle was very affordable, and with 30 miles per gallon average, the model was popular with everyday consumers.

Old Volkswagen Beetle

The first Volkswagen Beetle was built in 1939 and the Beetle has remained a popular car ever since. The old beetle was a tough little car that could out drive competitors in mountain driving.

The engine on the old Beetle was in the back of the car and it was like an over sized lawn mower engine. The new Beetle has the engine in the front of the car and it is a water cooled engine.

The old Beetle engine is less complicated than the engine of the new Beetle. Therefore, it is easier to work on and fix. But the engine of the new Beetle is more dependable although when there is a problem it is harder to fix.

Inside, the new Beetle has a little more room for the people who sit in it and that can be a good thing unless you are trying to cuddle your sweetie. The old Beetle is much better for cuddling a sweetheart.

The old Beetle with a sealed chassis was designed to go over rough roads and it can. It was harder to get stuck in mud than other cars. The old beetle is so light that when it getsstuck it is easier to push out of the slick.

The old beetle has no air conditioner and airbag. The new one has. Now some new beetles are convertible. Some motorists leave it roofless.

The new Beetle is still light weight compared to other cars but it has a low clearance and it can hit things from the bottom. If the new Beetle hits something that is hard it could damage the bottom plate.

Speaking with our correspondent, Johnson said the old Beetle is strong and durable. He said it can be repaired by the ordinary mechanic which puts its owner in a vantage position to ensure the automobile is always in good condition.

He said users of the old Volkswagen Beetle have little or no problems about its fuel pump and shock absorbers.

According to him, it is not difficult to get the parts of the old Beetle so far the owner knows much about the car.

An auto-mechanic in Lagos, Habeeb Nurudeen, told our correspondent that the repair of old Volkswagen Beetle is almost the easiest thing to do.

New beetle

The new Volkswagen Beetle was introduced in 1998, ending the production of the original Volkswagen Beetle in Mexico. Like the original model, it is great on gas and went through very few changes through its production.

However it is very different in the appearance from the old beetle. The new beetle, which has reached its last year of production, is much more of a luxury model than anything else. Its price tag is awfully high, especially compared to the original beetle and it is hard to find one without many options.

Observers said the biggest difference between the new Beetle and the previous Beetle is its ability to be fixed at home.

They said previous Beetle was designed to be fixed at home under imperfect conditions. It is possible to take out the engine with nothing more than a classic tool set and a floor jack. The new Beetle, however has a lot of difficult and complex procedures and tools needed.

Both the old and new Beetle are fun little cars to drive. They have good gas mileage and they are very manoeuverable. They are both charming little cars that seem to have personalities of their own.

Stallion Group's connection

The Stallion Group is a company that acquired the controlling stakes in Volkswagen of Nigeria (VON). Apart from Beetle, the company has been in the forefront of sale of other Volks products in the country.

Recently in Lagos, the company invited journalists to test drive some of its products like Volkswagen Amarok pick-up, VW Polo, VW Passat, VW Tiguan and VW Touareg.

And from the Audi stable are the A4, A6, A8 and Q7 while Skoda paraded Superb, Octavia and Fabia.

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