A Cure for Those Bitten by Nostalgia Bug : Volkswagen to Bring Back Old Faithful
Jim Gombeda loves Bugs.
He’s spent the past 30 years bringing them home, making them healthy, and sending them back out into the world. And those that are too world-weary to make it on their own are released onto his 7 1/2 acres of central Ohio farmland to live out their lives.
These aren’t just any Bugs, these are Volkswagen Beetles.
Gombeda is a mechanic and an auto restorer in Cambridge, Ohio. Amid the waist-high grass on his property are nearly 500 Volkswagen Beetles, and buses and Karmann Ghias, and even Things, all of which have left their best days in their rear-view mirrors.
“It’s kind of a dinosaur business ‘cause you don’t know how long it’s going to last,” Gombeda says.
“And it’s not making me rich,” he continues, “but it’s been good.”
The people’s car that became the darling of 1960s and 1970s seems to keep chugging along as nostalgic baby boomers, loyal Deadheads, and Generation Xers keep driving their Beetles down America’s roadways.
“We’ve noticed a growing interest in the old Beetle for a few years now,” says Volkswagen spokesman Tony Fouladpour. “I think they hark back to a simpler time.”
In the spring, Volkswagen will introduce a new Beetle to the North American market. This colorful model will be a bit sleeker and will be updated with everything from front and side air bags to anti-lock brakes to an optional direct-injection, turbocharged engine.
“It won’t be the mass market car that the old Beetle was,” Fouladpour explains. “It’ll be geared toward having fun and being an individual. It’s a completely new car.”
The old Beetle is still produced in a plant in Puebla, Mexico, but is available only to buyers in Mexico and Brazil. At its high point in 1970, nearly half a million Beetles were sold in the United States alone. But U.S. emissions and safety standards, as well as the Bugs’ waning popularity after the introduction of the Rabbit and the Golf in the late 1970s, took the Beetle out of the U.S. marketplace.
Still, if you’re bitten by that old bug, there’s always Gombeda’s place.
“People talk about the great Model Ts and Model A’s of the past,” Gombeda says with a smile, “but these Bugs are still here, and it’s 1997.”