Punch Buggy

There was a 1960’s vintage auto show that surprised me at a local mall this past weekend. There was a DJ playing 60’s music, a charity fund raiser, flea market and kid activities.


Blue/Grey Vinyl 1964

A highlight for me was far more simple than all of that.

I stuck my head into a 1964 VW Beetle. The memories came flooding back to high school days.

The aroma of that simple, mostly vinyl interior is the same today as it was 50 years ago.

I did not get my first car until I was almost 21, and it was a Ford Fairlane, not a VW. But so many friends were driving them at the time.

They were inexpensive, simple, designed to not go over 62 mph, could hold 3 passengers, at best. All of that must have made it a desirable choice for parents of teenage drivers.

I was taken back to late night trips home from athletic events, after school club activities, meeting up at safe local hangouts, doing Chinese fire drills (exiting and circling the car while at a stoplight).

And after it all, scraping together enough change to fill up the gas tank.

And then there was the time in college when the guys in the next dorm took apart a VW beetle while the owner was asleep and reassembled it in a study lounge.

The tradition of spotting them on the highway and punching the arm of the nearest victim while yelling “Punch Buggy” lasted well past the 1960’s.

And to think that on its initial US import in 1949, there were only 2 VW’s sold. No one believed at the time that Americans would want such a cheap, unadorned vehicle, and surely not one made in a foreign country.

By 1962, one million had been imported.


1968 Movie

It re-emerged with a similar design, and a front engine, sometime in the late 1990’s, but its glory will most likely never equate to what it was in the 1960’s.

And, oh, that new car smell.

Even 50 years later, with eyes closed, it would be familiar.

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55 Responses to Punch Buggy

  1. geckogoog says:

    In Australia, we called them Whoppies or VW’s. The boot is in the front, the engine in the back.

  2. My first car was 1970 Beetle, orange. No heat, no defroster, loud. Would love to have it now. Oh, and my dad drove a VW bus for a long, long time when I was a kid. That, I’d REALLY love to have now. You’re right, they had a specific smell. 😃

    • Our first car purchase together was a VW Bus. We crossed country with it to our new home in Utah, one week after the wedding. ☺ They were loud, and no radio to cover up the noise.

      • That’s awesome! They were so cool. Can’t hardly find any around nowadays. My dad had his up into the 90’s then finally sold it. It wasn’t his primary vehicle of course, but we had much fun with it. We took it from South Carolina to Florida a lot and a couple trips to Texas and New Orleans too. The no A/C was a little rough, but loved tooling around in it.

      • It was a bit rough climbing those mountains in the West, especially in mid-winter. Yikes. Memories. We had to spend 2 nights in Wyoming. ☺

      • Yeah, not great in snow. But hey, Wyoming is really pretty, so if you gotta spend a couple nights somewhere, there are worse places. 😃

  3. Brings back fond memories and lots of fun times. The “bug” will never die!

  4. I once drove a beetle convertible on a sunny day in Scotland going for a picnic with friends. I can still remember the JOY of the whole experience. I would love to drive one again…

  5. Silver Threading says:

    What fun! Woo hoo for antique cars. ❤ Seems like just yesterday we were driving these cars. 😀

  6. Erika Kind says:

    I still love the VW Beetle. My grandfather had a white one and called it Jimmy! He named all his cars… lol! I loved that car. It had such a special sound and when we waited for him to pick us up I could hear him coming before he turned into our street. Thank you for these wonderful memories, Van!

  7. The new design sucks and will NEVER be a true VW Beetle. A work colleague had one and it suited her to the ground. In fact, she never drove anything else.

  8. My first year college roommate had a yellow Bug. Gave me a ride home for Christmas break, no heat, froze our tootsies off. Fun memories, thanks, Van!

  9. spearfruit says:

    Lots of memories – totally forgot about the Chinese fire drills!

  10. tric says:

    I wrote a post about my first car a while ago. It brought me back and cheered me up no end. I think it’s a bit like your first love. Most of us move on, but it holds a very special place in our hearts.

  11. You certainly captured the heart of this car!!!!

  12. Sawsan says:

    I was born in a VW beetle. I heard the story but no recollection loool.
    It was baby blue on the outside, red leather on the inside. My parents showed me pictures.

  13. My first care was a Ford Fairlane. I got it when I was 18 or 19. But a few years later, I got me a ‘Bug’. I also remember the punch that went with “Punch Buggy.” The only thing I didn’t like was the lack of heat in the winter time.

  14. I, too, have a bug story.

    My parents managed to squeeze themselves, my great-grandmother, all FOUR of us kids, and a half-grown Samoyed dog in a beetle.

    We were warned that any ‘gastric turbulence’ should stay tightly contained until after debarkation had occurred – as there wasn’t any room for a fart in the compartment.

    We kinda looked like a clown car when we all got out.

  15. I remember my first date was in a bug with the rear engine. Ah, the memories 🙂 Sounds like you had a great day, Van.

  16. Bun Karyudo says:

    We never had a VW Beetle and I think I’ve only ever been in one about three times in my life, but they always seemed very familiar to me because of the Herbie movies (like in your poster). I still think they’re cute, but I no longer think they’re alive. 🙂

  17. What memories, love this Van! My friend had a bright yellow one and I think it’s still parked in her parent’s driveway!

  18. George says:

    I remember sitting cramped in the back of one of those coming back in bumper to bumper traffic from the Jersey shore when I was a teenager. It took forever and wasn’t a fun experienced. But everytime I see one now, I smile..:)

  19. Lovely memories. When I was young, my mother had a red VW and I thought that I would have one too, alas, many brands of cars came out but I have wonderful memories of the Volks.

  20. joey says:

    I always wanted a yellow one, when I was a teen. Over time, I lost interest, because there’s small and then there’s too small. I’m a thrifter and I’ve toted around kids since long before I’ve had my own. Now, the VW buses, those became more interesting, but then more pricey 🙂

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