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  • Volkswagen Beetle - Keep It In The Family

Volkswagen Beetle - Keep It In The Family

Pass The Customizing Gene On To Others

Harley Camilleri
Dec 1, 2005
Photo 2/2   |   volkswagon Beetle flames
Most of us probably had one or more influences in our early life that placed us on the customizing path. Maybe it was dad wrenching on his dreams or an older brother who had some hot rod. Whatever the case may be, make it a point to involve somebody younger than you.
In my particular case, my pop wasn't really a gear head, but he did have some things to tinker on here and there. Problem was, he just did not give two squirts of oil for customizing. Wrenching was just a chore for maintenance. That meant that as a young buck, I was mostly on my own to "come to the light" so to speak.
Internally, I was always driven to disassemble mechanical things. I wasn't afraid to take anything apart to see how it functioned. It started with Hot Wheels and Tonka trucks before progressing to more complicated items such as the lawn mower and chain saw. I'd have to say that I was about 7 when the lawn mower incident happened: I got it apart. Pop was especially not happy about that. A fun little trip to Sears with an earful about the cost of my little experiment resulted. What of the chain saw you ask? It was already broken and there was no harm no foul since my pop was able to figure out why it wasn't running after seeing it apart. Yay for me.
Fast-forward to 1987 and my first year in high school. I had been riding and wrenching on my own motorcycles for a bit, and I was ready for a car. I found a Volkswagen Beetle that ran (sort of) and looked decent (yeah, right) for a starting point. I was enrolled in auto shop class, but that didn't stop me from delving into the bug. It was just something else to undo. Cars, they're just big puzzles, and this one looked to be no sweat. My pop almost had a heart attack when he came home and found my new monstrosity already in pieces in the yard. Neighbors used to look over the fence and look at me like I was nuts, but I found a turning point in that vehicle. My pop and I fought like cats and dogs about everything else, but when it came to my car, he was always ready to lend a hand. We finally had some common ground
Fast-forward again and I have a career in the automotive field building crazy trucks and SUVs. My pop still thinks I am a total idiot for cutting up perfectly good vehicles. "You think you know more than factory engineers?" he would ask. No comment, but could you hand me that plasma cutter? I used to bring projects home and take him for rides in airbagged trucks, and when he wasn't looking, I would drag 'em through an intersection so I could watch the look of panic on his face. Poor guy didn't know how much fun he was having. My pop passed away January 29, 2005, and to the end could not understand my obsessive need to touch everything.
I am married with a kid, a daughter to be exact, and she and my wife understand me...sometimes. My wife understands bolt-on pretty stuff because she likes pretty stuff...and to think, a father who drag races in the NHRA raised her. My daughter has spurts of greatness and does like to see some things modified. She even picked out a seat at the bike shop that she wanted me to help her put on. Read that sentence again...she wanted ME to HELP HER put her seat on. Not the other way around. The words out of her mouth were "I don't like the stock one Daddy." She doesn't like the stock one, oh joyous day! She even got the tools herself but let me know I needed to clean them because they made her hands dirty and she just had her nails done. I'll let that slide. At 10 years old she thinks it's funny when I slide the truck through corners. Burnouts are on her list of things I have to do at her school in front of the other kids, too.
So I have a little girl and not a little boy, but in the end, at least I have passed on the bit of my gene pool that wants to tinker with something. How does it tick? She wants to know. Her cheerleading friends want to know what's on my workbench, an 8-71 blower she tells them. That's my girl; I wouldn't trade her for anything. Of course, she is a girl, and she is a cheerleader for our local pop warner football team, so I have to play both sides of the coin. I wouldn't be a good father if I didn't. Cheer practice and cookies one day; a little helper by my side spinning wrenches the next. But, inside, I secretly hope I come home from a trip and find her with my lawn mower apart in the garage.
Dedicated to my father who helped me along the way. R.I.P. James E. Camilleri.
- OF


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