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1958 Volkswagen ‘bursting with oil’

It was February 1958, just a couple months after Mary and I had returned from my U.S. Army tour in Germany. I was getting our new little 1958 Volkswagen serviced for the first time at Jack Wyatt’s Standard Service Station in downtown Newton. Jack said they had a service manual on these new little German VW Bugs, which were only beginning to show up in the U.S. As Jack said, “Just leave everything in our hands.” The rest of the story and the super quiet sound of the newly serviced engine will shortly unfold.

Mary and I were ever so proud of this neat little metallic light blue VW, which we had shipped from Germany in early December 1957. The base price was $1,120, but with the addition of a “Blaupunkt” radio, sunroof, thick handwoven floor mats and white wall tires, it totaled $1,310. I had driven it to the north port of Bremerhaven well ahead of time. After a trip on the Atlantic, it would be waiting in New York City when we arrived by military transport a week before Christmas. Sure enough, after three days processing at Fort Lee and getting my Army release papers, we headed 1,200 miles west toward home.

Mary was pregnant with our first son Tom, so we made more than the usual amount of stops. After two days on the road we spent the night at Uncle John Kazluski’s home in Chicago. Their whole family showed up for a big breakfast before we headed on to Iowa, where we were greeted by our families on Dec. 23. Good to be back home!

Our little VW Bug got loads of attention, and everyone had to take a ride. They were amazed at how well it maneuvered in the snow with the air-cooled rear engine drive. The slide-back sunroof had to be demonstrated and, of course, the flip-out lighted turning signals known as “Mox-nix” sticks on both sides.

On my first visit back at the Newton Manufacturing Company office, the parking lot was full of people taking a glimpse at what Harold Lufkin called a German sports car. Heck, it was just the newest version of what started as “the people’s car” way back in the early 1930’s, developed by Dr. Porsche. He went on to develop the famous Porsche sports car.

NMC C.A. Peck was so impressed with this VW that he asked me to take him downtown on an errand. This tall, 6-foot-4 gentleman was telling everyone he could actually sit in the car with his hat on — it was that roomy.

Back to Wyatt’s Standard Service where Jack told me the chassis had been lubricated and 2.5 quarts of the old oil had been changed. I headed on my way home to pick up Mary and drive out to visit some friends east of Newton. We came to a rather pronounced dip in the road, and all at once a big, oily black cloud blew out from the back of the car, and the interior also filled up with smoke. Stopping immediately, I lifted the engine hatch at the back. Everything was covered with hot, runny oil. What the dickens had happened?

Since the car would run, I crippled back to Wyatt’s Service Station. Upon thorough examination, he found the service man had drained the transmission and added twice the amount of oil to the motor. No wonder it was quiet, being overloaded and bursting with oil, and nothing in the transmission. Jack quickly said, “My insurance will cover everything.”

We kept that VW for six years, filling the 10-gallon tank with 29.9-cent gas a couple times a month, finally trading it for a 1964 Mercury Caliente Comet with a $3,000 list price. We got $1,000 trade for the VW, meaning that we had driven it for six years with an out-of-pocket cost of $310.

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