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  • Writer's pictureMiguel Fernández

My Beetles Talking

The first car at home was a 1961 Beetle, the color of wet brick (ceramic?), bought by my father without telling anyone: surprise. I was 14 years old, the age of my oldest grandchild today. What a joy! To have or not to have a car was the dividing line of castes in society. Feeling part of the consumer society that everyone wants. All yes because “those who disdain want to buy”. Very good memories of the cart, starting with the trips to the "water station" in the south of Minas, from where I have a special affection for Cambuquira. These "water stations" lasted 21 days, with medical prescriptions and all, and were a worldwide fashion. There was a ritual, for example: at 07:00 100 mℓ of sulphurous water, 5 minutes later 225 mℓ of iron water and another 150 mℓ of magnesia. At 11:00, something similar and in the afternoon around 15:00, something else. The more complicated combinations, arrangements and dosages, the more fame the doctor had and each one had his faithful fans. The “patients” exalted themselves in the praise of theirs in endless conversations. I lined up at the naturally gaseous springs (I believe they are waters confined in geodes) and left all the patients hydrated, detoxified, with something to do and something to do for 21 days. The problem was what to do with the aggregates.

At home, the custom started around 1958 when Dad had a “bleed outburst” (jaundice?) and the doctor imposed this, today, “SPA”. At that first spa, Dad was just with my grandmother (his mother-in-law), with whom, if they didn't get along, it was clear that they didn't like each other very much. That's because it wasn't known how much it would cost for us all to go. Money was “counted” and there was a lot of fear of the budget getting out of control. Then we started going every year, in July, during the school holidays. First, you would go by train “bucking” in Queluz (or would it be in Cruzeiro?). Later, they started to go by bus via Itatiaia and Itamonte. Many sections on dirt road. With the arrival of the beetle, we started to go in it. It was in this “brick” Beetle that I drove the first few times there in Cambuquira, to my mother’s surprise (or just acting) and my father’s “proud”. It was also the time for motorized “scavenger hunts”, and to this day I don't know how Dad lent me the car. “Doubles” and teams were formed, grouped by hotels, each hotel with its organized crowd and everything to scare away the monotony.

In one of the years (1963?) I remember that we had to go to Três Corações to try to fulfill a task: to get a “frog” ball, useless (today called “gadjet”) that had just appeared. My copilot was beautiful (at that age all girls are beautiful) and, to impress, I made a mistake that, thank God, did not result in an accident: I tried to pass another competitor. On a dirt road and in July it doesn't rain, it's just dust. If you get close to the car in front, you can't see anything. I did this for a long time until I almost left the road, I got really scared and “frozen”. We took it easy and won the contest because we managed to complete all the tasks. I learned that fear is an excellent companion and doesn't hurt anyone. I remember the co-pilot's name to this day: Ricarda, from Leblon. Very "slutty". In 64 or 65, dad exchanged the Ceramic Beetle for another one, “intense blue” (or similar name), now a little “stronger”, I think it was 1200cc. This beetle lasted a long time with us. In addition to continuing to go to Cambuquira (two more days in Caxambú and two in São Lourenço), I used it a lot during college in rotation with other colleagues.

I entered the faculty of engineering (on Ilha do Fundão) in March 1966 and it was hard to go to Fundão by car. When I started working it was a necessity to be able to meet the schedule. Dad was “almost” always understanding and gave me the car. "Often. On the other hand, I kept it clean and washed and did the maintenance. Today nobody believes it, but other than more complicated things or those that required special tools, we changed the oil ourselves, adjusted the belts, tires, spark plugs, light bulbs, air filter, in short, almost everything. The hardest thing was getting the car borrowed at night. And that was the main demand: going out to flirt and date! Parodying the famous movie “if my beetle could talk”: if the back seats could talk it would be a problem. How many submarine races on the shore or in Alto da Boavista, Eni let me tell you. How much difficulty, juggling, contortionism. There was a queue at the incipient motels (I believe the first one was called 77 on the then deserted Rua Olegário Maciel, in Barra da Tijuca). It was the era of the young guard of Erasmo & Cia., of contraceptive pills, of revolutions in customs. How many "details". Then, at the end of the last term of the engineering course in Fundão (1970), I dated the sister of an engineering colleague, a medicine student, who had a creamy-white Volkswagen Beetle and liked to take me and pick me up. My driver!. Chiquérimo. But a double-edged sword: intense control, hers, her brother, etc.

In December of that 1970, I bought my first car: a beetle 1300, light green, which people called “panty green” (they also had panty blue and panty beige, at least). I bought it from Zezé, a secretary at Montreal Engenharia that he had bought a year ago, but concluded that the cost-benefit ratio did not interest him or he could not afford it. Practically zero. What joy, what emotion, to feel like a person, to have your own car! In Jan 71, newly graduated, I went to work in São Paulo and moved there with the Fusca verdinho, Rio de Janeiro license plate. A Rio sign flirting on Saturdays and Sundays on Rua Augusta in Sampa was cowardice (Sampa signs in Rio gave the same result because the truth is that house saints don't do miracles). It should be noted that, as everyone went to Rua Augusta on Saturdays and Sundays, there was a total traffic jam. You walked in and didn't know when you were going to get out. But no one complained because everyone was there for that. The girls in their cars, the boys in theirs. Always at least in pairs. Phones were exchanged on little pieces of paper written at the time, thrown from one car to another, hence the name “torpedoes”. There was no air conditioning in the cars, nor power steering, nor vacuum-assisted brakes, much less in the Beetles, everyone had their windows open.

I don't really know why, but I think the Beetle was something of an aphrodisiac. So many unrelated master's and doctoral works and no one researches the influence of the Beetle on the middle class demographics in the 60's and 70's? “Catch” (racing, competition), I never did. Everything was too good to risk dying. I wanted to enjoy it And I couldn't disappoint the angel who helped me in that gymkhana. Although I liked to drive, and I still do, and at high speeds. And this business of “handle”, ornamental lights, loud music, stickers, tattoos, and other props is a very tacky thing. I neither did nor joined those who did. Another tribe. Traveled to Rio many of the weekends. Mostly by car. I had two serious incidents / accidents at Dutra, both with my ride and school and professional colleague, dear Rondon. Both miraculously without a scratch on either of us, thank the good Lord. During this period I was also hit head-on by another car that came the wrong way practically in front of Osvaldo's bar in Barrinha, which interrupted a flirtation with a Denise. The 3 accidents took place at night and on the 3 occasions Jorge Roberto, a dear classmate, came to the rescue and fixed the car in the workshop he had on Rua São Clemente, in Botafogo, close to our house.

In 72 I sold the fusquinha to buy the silver SP2, almost zero, from Cel. Eng. Helio Franco. Then another story begins... (*) With regard to a short cartoon I received on New Year's Eve 2019 to 2020 about the end of the beetle (beetle, VW), I decided to write my affective memory about it. The VolksWagen, or “people's car” were known as “beetle” (because they resemble the profile of a beetle), or pejoratively “butt” (everyone has one), or, I don't know why, “beetle”. Longing

Miguel Fernandez y Fernandez, consulting engineer, chronicler, in Dec2019, 7,800 touches

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