YOUR CAR, YOUR STORY – PART 2 The Volkswagen Bug: Everybody’s darling

Is there a car more loved and recognisable than the Volkswagen Bug (or Beetle as it is also commonly known)? The vehicle of choice of the 1960s counterculture, not to mention the car with a mind of its own and star of many Hollywood movies, the Bug to be sure is a car that everyone can relate to. NGK SPARK PLUG, the world’s leading ignition and sensor specialist, also shares the enthusiasm for this beloved little car.

We continue our look behind the scenes at the regional headquarters in Ratingen, with the second blog post in our series focussing on the classic cars the company employees love.

An early fascination with cars

It is often said that if you can find a job you love doing, you will never have to work a day in your life. For Tobias Reichmann, Sales Account and Business Analyst Automotive Components Group at NGK SPARK PLUG EUROPE GmbH, this saying is certainly applicable. After all, it was obvious from a very young age that he would end up working in the automotive industry.

Indeed, some of his earliest childhood memories in his native Stuttgart revolve around cars. “One of my favourite games back then involved looking down on the roads from bridges with my grandmother and counting the different makes and models as they drove by below. I would report what I saw, and she would write the information down on a piece of paper,” he says.

His passion for cars continued to develop, taking form in many different ways. “I went from playing with Matchbox cars which I used to race on self-made ramps to being fascinated by actual cars and then eventually classic cars,” he explains.

As destiny would have it, some of the cars that had intrigued him as a young boy, would do so all over again when they became old enough to be considered classic and vintage cars. “My favourite car at the beginning was the Porsche 911 made between 1963–1974, which everyone dreams of owning. Over time, however, my interest shifted to more affordable types of vintage cars – the ones that everyone in the past could buy. And no car typifies this more than ‘the people’s car’ itself, the Volkswagen Bug,” he says.

Catching the bug

When Tobias first became financially independent, one of the earliest tasks he set himself was the procuring of his very own vintage car. This, however, was no easy feat. Neither his friends nor family had any interest in or knowledge about vintage cars which meant that he had to find out everything important about the topic alone. Moreover, he had to operate within the confined budget. These and other issues resulted in it taking more than a year before he finally achieved his goal.

Perhaps the most important factor he had to consider was the model of car he should get. “I had a lot of criteria that needed to be fulfilled,” he says. “I wanted a car that I could be proud to call my own. It had to be a fair price and in good condition, yet not a complete restoration as I wanted to be able to do some work on it myself. It also had to have simple technology as well as be a car where replacement parts would be both affordable and easy to find,” he explains.

Having viewed several different models, the eureka moment finally arrived whilst he was searching through the eBay Kleinanzeigen website. “‘This is it! I said’, intuitively knowing that I had finally found what I was looking for. I set out on the 850km round trip from Cologne to Hamburg and was delighted to be able to return with a lofoten green 1974 Volkswagen Bug featuring a 1200cc engine with 34 horsepower,” he says.

Restoring the Bug

Despite the considerable amount of time Tobias had spent searching for his dream vintage car, he was, in truth, still only in the preliminary stages of his project. The hard work of restoring the car back to its former glory was just about to begin. “The car was both in good and bad condition,” he says. “Aside from a retrofitted radio, the car was in its completely original condition. What’s more, it had only accumulated 65,000km which I found quite extraordinary considering its age,” he exclaims.

The Bug, however, was far from being in mint condition. “The car’s fenders were damaged, and rusting was also a major issue. Parts of it needed to be painted too,” he says. “I carried out the repairs, attaching new fenders and treating the rusted spots. I repainted the necessary parts in their original lofoten green, making the car resemble a very large firefly!”

Today, Tobias continues to carry out as much maintenance and repairs as he can. This includes the installation of the NGK B5HS spark plug which perfectly suits a vintage car such as his Bug. However, he doesn’t take an extreme do-it-yourself attitude to his car’s upkeep. “To be able to carry out repairs, I need to be able to know, or at least be able to find out, what the issue is. If I can’t do this or if I am lacking the necessary tools, the correct option is always to seek help from a professional,” he advises.

Considering buying a classic car?

According to Tobias, there are a few certain things to consider when buying a classic car. Chief among these is “having a passion for such cars or at least seeing your purchase as an investment,” he says. Being aware of potential pitfalls is another essential. “Prior to buying, you have to inform yourself or seek the advice of someone with knowledge of vintage cars. The car may look pretty from the outside, but appearances can be deceiving”, he warns.

Having the appropriate amount of parking space is also crucial. Moreover, being aware of the maintenance costs is another factor that people can easily forget to take into account – prior to buying and while driving. “Just like the human body, the older a car is, the more it needs to be taken care of and the maintenance costs heavily depend on the make and model. Due to the mass-production of the Bug, replacement parts are both easy to find and to afford – unlike with other more expensive cars,” he informs.

Considering the relative old age of these vehicles, he points out that each one will own specific issues. “Be it rust on a specific spot or engine troubles etc.; every vintage car will have its own individual problems that will need to be addressed. Severe rusting or a poor body condition, for example, are just two things to be very wary of. They can turn into a criterion for exclusion since the body is the most expensive part,” he emphasises.

Respecting the car’s age and knowing when to use it is also something he encourages. “I only drive my Bug in the summer. The winter is a no-go because there is salt on the roads which can damage a car quickly. Even if you thoroughly wash the car, there can be some small holes inside the car’s body where salt and water can mix which will ultimately cause damage,” he says.

A worthwhile hobby

Locating, buying, restoring and maintaining a vintage car is certainly not for those lacking patience. But for passionate car people like Tobias, who ‘spent over 100 hours restoring’ his Bug and spends a further ‘20 hours a year’ maintaining it, ‘it is certainly a worthwhile hobby’.

“The Bug has overall been a positive factor in my life. My older neighbours and family members like to see the car because it reminds them of the past. My friends, too, like to drive it because it is so completely different to the cars that are normally driven today,” he says. The only thing left for Tobias to do now is to find a nickname for his Bug. Indeed, there is no shortage of possibilities such as ‘Herbie’, ‘John’, ‘Paul’, ‘George’ or ‘Ringo’ – but he is remaining open to suggestions!

Next up in our new blog series will be Renault Dauphine.