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Dick J. Reavis and his 1974 Super Beetle courtesy of Dick J. Reavis AFTERWORD I BY DICK J. REAVIS Made to Last hen I twisted the ignition key on July 12, I marked an anniversary few would want to celebrate-30 years behind the wheel of a single car. My Volkswagen Super Beetle has borne me through four countries, two careers, and about half the states on our nation’s map, a half-million miles all told. I never sold or traded the car simply because I’ve been content. Automakers may advertise improvements in myriad models every year, but they’ve yet to impress me. I could buy a hybrid or another more energy-efficient car today, but I’m keeping mine. I do not know the ecological cost of junking an old car and building a new one, but the resources and energy that went into my Beetle are already spent. Anybody with a Beetle, or maybe any car, can drive it for decades, as the people of Cuba have proved. Doing so is not worry-free. One must be attuned to the possibility of things going haywire, be resourceful in a pinch, and revere professional mechanics like the saints. My 1974 Super Bee is an ordinary sedan, with dings and dents, worn seat covers replaced many times, and a fading coat of paint. A collector wouldn’t touch it. Such people prefer convertibles, or pre -1957 models with tiny, oval rear windshields, or pre-1967 models, before the Beetle was tweaked by its original designer, better known for cars that bear his name, Ferdinand Porsche. Super Beetles were bastard cars, fathered by American safety and performance concerns. Most, like mine, have un-Beetleish curved windshields and real dashboards. They can leap from stoplights, they steer more nimbly than vintage Beetles, and they can top 80 miles per hour, except on inclines. They failed in the marketplace because they never had air-conditioning systems worthy of the name. Mine was equipped with “260 air”: With two front windows open at 60 mph, the driver feels a breeze. Despite the car’s drawbacks, the memory of the day I bought it is as clear in my mind as my whereabouts when I learned that JFK had been shot. It was 1977, and I was a starving UT-Austin philosophy student who had decided to take up writing for pay. A magazine had asked me to report on an airplane loaded with marijuana that had fallen out of the sky near the small town of Big Lake, in the isolated desert country of far West Texas. Having borrowed a car for three earlier stories in faraway locales \(including one for the I decided that a career as a scribbler meant buying some wheels. Money I didn’t have. But the Super Bee, priced at only $1,800it’s worth as much todaywas within credit-card range. It appeared to be in good shape, even if its license plate indicated that the previous owner had been a rental-car firm. I signed on a dotted line and hit the road within a couple of days. My plan was to drive from Austin to San Antonio and head west on Interstate 10. I filled the gas tank and, before stopping for lunch, realized I had a problem: The car smelled like gasoline. The fumes were annoying, even with windows open. I checked as best I could. The fuel line wasn’t leaking; the gas cap was in good shape. I couldn’t find a cause. Neither could anyone else, again and again. Not for 21 years could I find a JULY 27, 2007 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 27