TWIN FALLS — It’s the end of an era.
The last Volkswagen Beetle, in its third-generation design, rolled off the assembly line in Mexico on July 9.
The Beetle had been produced for more than six decades, originally a concept devised by German dictator Adolf Hitler to match the influence Henry Ford’s early cars had in the U.S.
At Goode Motor Auto Group on Blue Lakes Boulevard North, a partially restored, bright yellow 1970s-era Beetle adorns the showroom.
New car manager Mark Kilbury isn’t quite ready to write off the Beetles, though.
“I’m sure they’ll come back,” Kilbury said.
Kilbury recalled how VW stopped producing the Beetle in the late 1970s, then introduced the third-generation design in 1998.
That third-generation was a “hit or miss” with sales, he said.
“It was initially popular, but that’s waned in the past couple years,” Kilbury said. “When they feel like there’s enough interest, they’ll bring it back.”
For this reporter, though, there’ll never be anything quite like those classic Beetles.
My memories of the Beetle date back to childhood. While my mom drove the “family car,” my dad had a red 1960 Beetle to drive to work. We lived on a cul-de-sac of seven houses, and two other families owned Beetles too.
In the evenings, when fire engines could be heard on their way to the nearby airport, all three families would jump in their Beetles and following the crews to watch them extinguish the blaze.
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My older brother learned to drive in my dad’s pale yellow 1970 Beetle. Years later, I learned to use a clutch in the same car.
When my third son graduated from high school, I bought him a white 1974 Beetle from the St. Vincent de Paul in South Bend, Indiana.
It steered like a truck.
While I never liked the new design from the 1990s, every time I see a vintage Beetle, I remember those days of my youth.
Still another VW aficionado in Twin Falls reacted to the last VW being produced, too.
“It is an icon,” said R.S. “Steve” Garner of R.S. Garner Enterprises on Main Avenue North. “It’s sad to see it go.”
Garner moved to Twin Falls in the 1970s and worked as service manager at Blue Lakes Volkswagen. He later started his own business, repairing Beetles and other VWs, mostly the air-cooled engines.
Over the years, the Beetle’s engine transformed from an air-cooled version placed in the rear of the vehicle to a liquid-cooled engine in the front.
“It outlived its time,” Garner acknowledged. The air-cooled engines, especially, are unforgiving as far as tolerance.
That doesn’t mean he’ll stop working on them. There are still plenty of Beetles on the road, dating from the 1960s, so the car will not be forgotten any time soon.
Nuts and Bolts is an occasional column from Julie A. Ferrero, who reports on crime and health for the Times-News and loves cars.