“Listen to this,” she said as we were driving. “What do you think it is?” Popping, crunching noises came from the direction of the front end.
“I have no idea what’s causing it, but those noises sound expensive.”
Suddenly I was a teenager sitting on the floor of my parents’ garage, my head next to the open hood of my 1969 Volkswagen Beetle. In my lap was a book: How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive: A Manual of Step-by-Step Procedures for the Compleat Idiot. It’s author, some guy named John Muir, was telling me how to grok my wheels so I could feel what was going wrong before it actually needed to be fixed. Groovy!
This is the best written how-to book ever.
The pictures were hand drawn, with amazing detail, by Peter Aschwanden. So much better than photos for illustrations, and funny too! This was long before Where’s Waldo?, but many of the pictures have to be scoured over to see all the funderful detail.
My original copy was spiral-bound and laid flat. Later copies showed up as a large-sized paperbacks. I have at least 5 copies around here somewhere, all different editions. The latest is the 19th edition. It’ll probably be the last. Who works on aircooled VWs any more?
Most importantly was the philosophy of working on cars. Sit down. Take a good look at everything. Listen to the sounds. Put your finger in the carburettor, then take it out and look at it; smell it. I see that Amazon suggests a companion volume would be Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values. Well yeah, but the Idiot book doesn’t pound on your head so much to make the same points.
Mr. Muir died not so long after writing this book. Other folks took up the cause. I salute them too. Amazon tells me he wrote another book, The Velvet Monkey Wrench. It’s his “common-sense ideas for creating a world based on peace and harmony”. It’s from the 60’s after all. Back when cars were made of steel, and ideals were more idyllic. I’m getting me a copy of that one too.