VERNON - A Vernon man’s spunky 1962 Volkswagen Beetle has found its way back home.
It’s the car John Deak, a realtor with Century 21 in Vernon, learned to drive on back in 1980 in Williams Lake. His parents bought the bug from a neighbour for $900. At 16, Deak took his driving test in the car and it held out just long enough for him to pass the test.
“My dad had the wrong oil in it, and we blew the motor on the way home,” Deak says.
He had grand plans to fix it up and turn it into a gorgeous custom hot rod, but like most teenagers, didn’t have the money for the project. He worked on it in his grade 12 shop class with a buddy named Richard Stirling, but it wasn’t long before the bug was back sitting on Deak’s parents’ property again, collecting rust.
In 2003, Deak still hadn’t gotten around to rebuilding it and reluctantly sold it to someone who wanted to give it to his son to turn into a dune buggy. Thinking that was the last time he’d ever see it, he said goodbye.
But as fate would have it, his old friend Stirling, who became a skilled mechanic, ended up acquiring the car, unbeknownst to Deak. They connected on Facebook and Stirling shared a photo of the old, rusty, puke yellow VW.
“He was going to rebuild it and sell it,” Deak says. “I asked if he’d give me first crack at buying it. Two years later, here it is.”
Stirling drove it himself to Vernon from Williams Lake last weekend, and despite an extensive makeover including new upholstery, an overhauled engine, and a swapping of the former yellow paint to splashy red, Deak knew it was his bug before he even saw it.
“I could hear the Volkswagen from several blocks away,” he says. “As it got closer, I knew that was it, I knew it was my baby.”
The clunky four-speed has taken some getting used to and the door panels aren’t perfectly sealed yet — something he discovered while taking it through the car wash.
“I’m still getting to know it again,” he says. “It needs some tweaking, but the fact we’re reunited is my favourite part. How many people can say they got their car back that they took their driver’s test on?”
He can’t wipe the smile off his face when he’s cruising around in his growling VW, which garners plenty of attention and waves from passersby. It’s not the type of ride he’s used to — his everyday drive is a Ford Focus Hybrid with voice activated controls, heated leather seats, and a sunroof — but what it lacks in modernity, it makes up for in character.
“It’s a complete time machine. It’s tiny, loud, rough and smelly — you feel every bump in it. It’s an absolute adventure every time you start it up,” he says. “This one’s got a bit of a temper.”
Deak’s not too sure about the car’s history before his parents bought it, but says it had a sticker on it from the Okanagan, so it’s come home in more ways than one. And now that he’s got it back, he won’t be letting it go again.
“This is going to be a long term love affair,” he says.
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