My unbeatable VW bug

RACV RoyalAuto magazine

I had no true knowledge of the VW until my big brother bought his 1959 Type 1 Deluxe model in 1969. It was  white with a red slash down the side and larger bumpers with extended over-riders. “Faultless” was quick, agile and even had electric, self-parking wipers. It also had a heater/demister.

The real romance began the next year when my brother Ian graduated from Melbourne Uni as a civil engineer and got a job in Darwin. I was 15. Ian had the VW serviced in Melbourne and the mechanic suggested it may be time to move on from the car, as it was about to blow-up. We set out for Darwin next day.

Day One: Flat tyre in Elizabeth Street. The spare  was a re-tread, like all the others, just a little more worse for wear. We had no time to repair the puncture. Faultless sped on. We carried on until my brother said it was my turn to drive. I had no licence. It was hard to see when it got dark despite the fact the two “yellow candles”, driven by the six-volt system, were on full beam.

We pressed on to Nyngan and then Bourke, where Faultless had an oil change and a tyre repair.

At that time of year (December) it can rain, and the road from Cunumulla to Charleville was dirt. It became a skating rink and there were a dozen or so cars abandoned having slid into the roadside saplings. We averaged about 20 miles an hour, and if an on-coming  truck passed a massive spray of mud covered the windscreen. The passenger had to throw water over the screen to help the wipers. Several times we had to stop, but only at cattle grids where starting off again with some grip could be ensured. And it was straight ahead only, the build-up of mud prevented the wheels moving left or tight.

Faultless, being faultless, never stopped and the Charleville pub was still open when we arrived well into the night. The ’59 was sitting very low to the ground with all the mud caked underneath. We were informed that the road section we’d just travelled had been closed just after we’d entered the dirt section.

Next day it was fine and warm and Faultless headed off for Winton, standing a little taller each time we negotiated a cattle grid – the bump of crossing at 60 miles an hour would dislodge great chunks of dried mud, as if the VW was marking its territory. The only issue was with road-trains. As one approached we parked Faultless well off the road while the dust settled. It was never considered to try to overtake one; 36 bhp. is not the ticket for over-taking these monsters.

From Winton it was off to Mount Isa but we hadn’t gone 200 yards before the windscreen was shattered by an oncoming truck over the newly laid stones on the main street. Did we have a problem getting a windscreen in Winton? Not at all!

We were making good time so that gave time for lunch at an outback pub. How strange that the counter meals were usually a curry and how closely its aroma matched that coming from the road kill we’d spent the past several hours avoiding on the road.

It was now becoming evident that the mechanic in Melbourne might not have been right. Faultless was becoming a little “winded” as the valves were deciding they’d had enough of the heat. However, two days later and still holding a solid 60 miles an hour, we arrived in Darwin, albeit on two-and-a-half cylinders.

Faultless was repaired and went on to make several return trips back to Melbourne until 1974. Being faultless, the only time she ever stopped was due to running out of petrol. This was not because there was no petrol gauge. It was due to the fact that the bonnet could not be opened after an altercation with a kangaroo and she pulled up 30 miles short of the destination. Easily fixed with some gentle levering with a crow bar and a gallon of standard from a friendly farmer at 10 in the evening.

 What eventually stopped Faultless? After  Cyclone Tracy, Ian emerged from what was left of his fibro on stilts to find the neighbour’s house adorning Faultless. She was found with every panel well dented and not a window intact. Inside there was four inches of water. What next? A simple solution. Drill straight through the floor in several places and let her drain. Turn the key and the 36 horses came straight back to life.

Me and My Car winner: K Manson, Point Cook has won the $50 RACV voucher in the Me and My Car competition.

Published in RoyalAuto Dec 16/Jan 17