You’re the thing that makes me weak
My heart knows of the beat I seek
And I found it (just got lucky)
Oh yes I found it (just got lucky) – From the 1983 hit song Just Got Lucky by Jo Boxers
If you regularly read our Project Cars series, especially about the restoration of the cream 1973 Volkswagen Beetle 1300 S owned by Ildefonso “Fons” Caluag, you’ll know that Fons is a Beetle nut. He owns two Bugs and was in the process of having his 1300 S re-sprayed when his painter up and left the disassembled and sanded-down Beetle and ran away with Fons’ money. Then, the 80-year-old Beetle nut had a two-week bout with pneumonia that left him weak and unable to continue working on the 1300 S. We helped restore his “baby”, brought it to JSK Custom Paint and Auto Works, and, after more than four months, we drove the freshly painted and reassembled 1300 S back to the anxious owner. Fons was smiling from ear-to-ear when he saw his shiny cream 1300 S and was pleased with the work done on it. In appreciation, he gave us his other Bug – a green 1974 Volkswagen Super Beetle 1303 S. That’s right – we got the green Bug peeking from the garage in the photo above for FREE! Yup, we just got lucky!
Fons already promised to give us the green Super Beetle when he accepted our offer to help him restore his cream Beetle but we took his promise lightly. In February, we helped start and warm up both of the Bugs to make sure that they will run when the flat bed tow truck arrived. After the cream Beetle was placed on the flat bed to be taken to the JSK workshop in Marulas, Valenzuela City, we drove the green Super Beetle from its garage to the other garage where cream Beetle was always parked. Fons’ wife Ching wanted us to take the green Super Beetle home that day but we felt that Fons couldn’t stand a day without a Volkswagen in his garage. And so, the green Super Beetle stayed there for several months until the cream Beetle came home.
Taking It Out
Now, before you all go green with envy (pun intended), getting the green Super Beetle for free was not a walk in the park. When it was time to take it out of the garage, Fons sheepishly admitted that he hasn’t touched the green Super Beetle since we parked it there on February 10, 2019, which was more than four months past. A lot of things can happen to an unattended car in four months and it did – the battery was flat, the gas got stale, and the contact point in the distributor may have gotten some corrosion. First things first. We walked to a nearby Petron service station with a one-gallon gas can to buy three and a half liters of fresh Blaze 100 gasoline, then borrowed a good battery to crank up the green Super Beetle and crossed our fingers hoping that its 1600cc air-cooled flat-four will start. After a few whirls, the flat-four reluctantly fired up, belched some water and some black smoke, and then settled into a lumpy idle.
After we got the green Super Beetle out, Fons drove the cream Beetle into the garage and then went into his house to get all the documents of the green Super Beetle – the LTO Certificate of Registration (CR) and the Official Receipt (OR) plus the third party liability (TPL) insurance coverage – and handed these to us. We executed a document to legitimize the transfer of the vehicle ownership and then engaged in some light banter, mostly Fons’ recollections of his early days as a Beetle owner, how he acquired both cars in 1982, how he’s happy that his cream 1300 S “baby” is back, and how glad he is that his green 1303 S is going to a good home. When it was time for us to leave, Fons stopped caressing his newly-painted cream Beetle and took a last look at the green Super Beetle. “Thank you for 37 years of faithful service and good memories“, he whispered. With those words, his green 1303 S officially became our green 1303 S.
The Green Mile
Our new-old car euphoria was short-lived, unfortunately. We drove our green Super Beetle into the very same Petron service station where we bought a gallon of gas just a little over an hour before and, as we were filling up the car’s empty fuel tank, the engine sputtered to a stop. We tried starting it again but it wouldn’t fire up. We pushed the car near the the air pump so the service station attendant can inflate all the Bridgestone tires to the proper tire pressure. We inspected the engine and theorized that there might be some water condensation that occurred inside the fuel tank when the car was left idle for four months. Gravity must have pushed the water into the fuel line while we were filling up the tank so the carburetor was squirting water instead of a mixture of air and fuel. We removed the plastic fuel filter, actually found some water in it, blew out the contents, and then cranked the engine to expel the water left in the carburetor. By this time, the flat battery was running out of power, so we borrowed a fully-charged battery from Fons, got the green Beetle started, and went back on the road again.
Traffic along Jesus Street, which is the main artery of Pandacan, was unusually very heavy that afternoon, which led us to jest that some “unseen force” was preventing the green Bug from leaving Mr. Caluag’s neighborhood. Our teenage passenger, Chevy Martin, who was enjoying his ride in two classic Beetles in one day, managed to learn all the controls while we were slowly driving towards the highway. He was tinkering with the switches and knobs to find out what they do while admiring the workings of an old classic car. He was particularly amazed with the AM/FM cassette stereo head unit in the dash and was asking how its “auto reverse” feature worked. We had fun talking about how these “old” things worked. It was a real delight to drive a classic car home while having a father-son bonding moment.
Houston, We Have A Problem…
While driving fast down Nagtahan bridge, the steering wheel and the front end of our green Super Beetle started shaking, leading us to believe that the front wheels need to be inspected and balanced, and that the McPherson front suspension needs some work. We also noticed that the speedometer was not working (broken cable?) as was the fuel gauge (disconnected wire? broken float or sender?). However, once we got into one of the side streets within the Sampaloc district, the flat-four engine sputtered to a stop again. We coasted the car slowly to the side of the road to try to re-start the engine. It would crank but it wouldn’t fire up. We opened the rear engine lid for the nth time that day to see what the problem was.
The flat battery couldn’t crank the engine anymore, so we took it to a nearby automotive battery shop for a quick charge and borrowed their service battery so we can get the green Bug started. After we hooked up the service battery, we inspected and cleaned the contact points, readjusted the gap, and then cranked up the engine. The green Bug started almost immediately. We then drove to the battery shop to return their service battery and get our old and hopefully charged battery. However, the shop technician told us that our old battery was not just flat – it was dying – and that we have to get a new one soon. With the remaining charge left in our old battery, we started the green Super Beetle again and drove to our family ancestral home in Blumentritt Street, where we will park our new Project Car next to another Project Car, our mothballed 1986 Mercedes-Benz 500SE.
And as we were just beginning to believe that we’ve had enough good luck for the week, we were given one more surprise. While we were working on Fons Caluag’s cream Beetle, Shawie Dizon was reminiscing about the blue Volkswagen Beetle that her late Aya (father), Habib Mahmoud Balan, used to drive when she was a small girl. She used to start their blue Beetle in the morning to warm up the engine before her Aya would drive off to work. While waiting, she would sit on either the front or rear bumper, and the car stereo would be playing songs from the Cascades, a band that Shawie and her father loves to listen to. She would listen to about three Cascades songs on the cassette before her Aya would drive off with the blue Beetle.
At first glance, there seems to be no connection between our green Super Beetle and the blue Beetle of Shawie’s Aya. After all, their old family car was a standard Beetle and our new Project Car was a Super Beetle. But when you scratch the surface – and we did scratch through the paint of our new acquisition – we learned that the original color of our green Beetle was… wait for it… BLUE! Goosebumps! We were all surprised with the serendipity of everything that was connected with our 1974 Volkswagen Super Beetle 1303 S that we couldn’t believe our long, long streak of good luck! We really, really just got so lucky!