This is the eleventh in a series by Howard LaPlante on his early experiences with cars.
Well there we were in the cold Westfalia VW camper in a parking lot in the middle of the night with no heat and it would not start! Fortunately we were parked on a slight hill. I got out and pushed, it started to roll down the hill just enough for me to hop in, put it in gear, turn on the ignition, and pop the clutch, it started! After a bit it warmed up, and there was enough juice in the battery to allow the gas heater to run! Well now what? We were all awake, so might as well go down the road. Our Son, climbed in to the back and went to sleep, and off we went.
It was sometime later as we drove south into Texas that we encountered strong head winds. The wind was stronger than the engine! With full throttle, top speed was barely 40 mph! However, we were now on a four lane road and there was a solution! Wait until a semi was passing, immediately pull over behind the truck! Eureka! Speed would increase to 50, 60 or more, and with less throttle! It was a little exciting!
The rest of the trip went without incident; however, as we headed back north in this time of no interstate highways we encountered the cement highways that were quite common in Missouri and Iowa. They had a unique construction! The edge of the highway, at the shoulder, instead of being flat and then the shoulder. they had a lip that turned up and the shoulder was higher than the road! Have no idea why, perhaps it was though that it would keep cars from running off the road? One thing for sure, it caused a problem for the VW van. Especially with a strong side wind. Meeting a large truck or semi would blow me right off the road. I would then have to fight to get the van back over that lip again! When we arrived back in Minnesota, I put the van up for sale; I had enough!
The remaining problem of what to drive for my long work commute was solved quite quickly. A friend of a friend had a 1960 Chevrolet Corvair 4-door, 3-speed manual, with AM radio that had been in the same family since new, and had very, very low milage. The price was right, and it became my commuter car. It worked out well; it went through the snow and was quite economical – OK for the present. It was then that another Corvair a appeared, a 1965 convertible, gold, with white interior and white top.
The price was right, and I labored under the false assumption that it would be worth a bit of money some day. If that was not enough; a man I did not know somehow found out that I had two Corvairs, and thinking that I must really like them gave me another! This was a 1966 convertible, and I now had way too many cars, but fortunately my father-in-law was a farmer with a large storage shed with room for a couple of Corvairs.
In 1970 the Porsche dealership situation was in turmoil. Because of the desire of VW to import Audi to the US, it was decided that they would team Audi and Porsche. They required a separate building for the new dealership. The only VW/Porsche dealership in the twin cities fought the idea, but to no avail. New owners were found, and Porsche moved from a very nice building to an old used-car building in an industrial part of town. It was quite a comedown! However, over the years they become very successful and soon moved to a new custom building.
I had only been without a Porsche for a few months, but I was missing the brand! As sometimes happens, one day the dealership called. They knew that I had sold the 1969 911T. The thought, correctly that I might be in the market for another Porsche. They had an opportunity to purchase a “factory demo” 914-6. Hard to believe now, but at that time the cars were hard to sell.
The 914-6 was a delight to drive! One of the most entertaining Porsches that I have had! The light weight and mid engine made it truly fun. I drove the car for fun only and as winter came on very little. But one very cold day I did drive the car, and that is when the trouble occurred! I arrived at my destination and got out and closed the door, and the driver side door glass exploded – glass all over the inside of the car!
To be continued –