An Ode to Das Bierwagen and car culture


I wanted to write this up as a bit of a lesson to a ton of naysayers I've seen - I owned this car for a whole year. I drove it almost every day. I did most of the custom work in about three weekends in May. I attended Eurohangar 2013, I cruised Woodward, I went to numerous smaller gatherings and outings, and did a few business trips to places like Chicago and all over west michigan with it and some rolls of fabrics or chemical samples in it. Probably 50+ trips to grocery stores and doing the shopping. A few mishaps here and there. Those times it ejected its brake pads by eating a caliper guide pin? Not cool. However, this car is a testament to the fact that you can intelligently build and modify a car for everyday use. And I mean EVERY. DAY.

I dare say I had more fun working on, and cruising, this car than I did autocrossing other metal. Why? It was so much more than just what it looked like. This journey of modifying and maintaining a total shitbox became almost a celebration of car culture. I remember earlier this "spring" there was a warm day where the other custom Vdubs started coming out of the woodwork. I had to chuckle since mine was never put away to begin with. Sure it rode like there were wood blocks for suspension and maybe the ABA motor could've warmed up faster but it didn't matter to me at the time. Nothing makes freezing your nuts off because your car can't heat up too well like people in volvos and toyotas giving you the thumbs up or looking at you in a mix of confusion and a hint of fear. As if there is no way on earth anyone with a semblance of sanity would have the stones to drive such a vehicle through lake effect snow.

I think what I'll miss most about being in some crappy rustbucket with 200k+ miles that I worked on is the honesty of the beast. I love my new Fiesta ST but a part of me won't feel right until I deck it out with a rally liveried vinyl wrap and some extra lights on the front. Why? I think that as a car enthusiast, I should have my ride be an extension of myself. Love it, hate it, burn it, immortalize it, think whatever you want about my car - At the end of the day, it is MY work you're looking at and is on display. Not someone else's vision or simply the badges that it carries on the hood and trunk.


We all may have different tastes in cars but at the end of the day we all love the automobile and what it stands for. So I ask all of you - what good is that passion if you can't express it? With that in mind, I raise my glass in honor of my former car. Here's to Das Bierwagen! You were a rusty and crusty bastard that tried to kill me multiple times (You almost succeeded) and yet brought smiles and grins to everyone in the downtown area. Total build, buy, and maintenance cost of about 3500$ and you drove through one of the harshest winters on record as a lowered Mk3 Jetta with the 100hp four banger. I hope your next owner gets to experience the joys of exploring his own tastes in cars through you and that you continue to represent all that is right with car culture. But this isn't the end of this article. Not by a longshot. I've still got to deal with YOU sorry lot. Yes, YOU the readers.

I know life enjoys finding new ways to throw a wrench into your plans and sometimes time and money are tight but I urge all of you reading this to do something just a touch crazy to your car if you've never done so before. It doesn't have to be anything big or expensive like dropping it on coilovers or putting on a turbo. Even beige can be livened up on the cheap. Got a camry? Paint your brake calipers blaze orange and replace your automatic shift knob on your camry with something new that doesn't look like a fisher price hammer made from black plastic. If you have a green taurus on steelies then paint your wheels a bright sunshine yellow and take a weekend to clean out your interior to "add lightness" and throw a nice yellow stripe down the middle to make it a Lotaurus. Maybe you can get some head/tail light spraypaint and adjust your light's color by a few shades. Do something! Do anything! Your cars might mean more than some family members to you but they're still just hunks of metal and plastic at their core so don't be shy about just going out there and doing something.

Nothing is a sadder sight than a vehicle covered in bumper stickers and stick figure family members because that is a sign that vehicle is an appliance. It is a 35,000$ fridge that just happens to hold people instead of leftovers. Don't drive a fridge! Drive a sculpture! Drive a work of art! Drive a piece of history! Drive a rolling testament to your own insanity wrapped up in a tortilla made of stubbornness and busted harbor freight tools! Just don't let your own self-doubt or fears hold you back from driving something that is an extension of your passions in life.