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What? Buy a car in this weather?

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

What? Buy a car in this weather?

Gus Philpott
Woodstock Advocate
January 6, 2014

Why not?

I remember a blizzard and bitter cold weather in January 1999, when I bought the VW Beetle I'm still driving.

I had driven an '87 Nissan Stanza about 212,000 miles, and the previous summer the steering gear had begun making strange noises - intermittently. I continued to drive it without problems, but in December I began thinking that it might be a good idea to start shopping.

I considered the Jeep Wrangler and also a conversion van, because I thought a vehicle with enough power to tow a motorcycle on a trailer might be a good plan. But I was concerned about buying a vehicle that would get 15MPG and driving it all the time. Then I stopped one day in December and test-drove a Beetle. I'd had a '62 Beetle, and the New Beetle was a real car - comfortable, lots of headroom, a heater that actually put out heat, etc.

On January 4, 1999, I started off in a snowstorm for my job at the Sears headquarters in Hoffman Estates. Within a mile of home, the Nissan's steering gear loudly announced its intention to seek a mechanic in the not-too-distant future. Believing that discretion is the better part of valor, I returned home. It was a D-200 snow day, and my stepson, Joe, was home.

I called Anderson Volkswagen in Crystal Lake to ask if they still had the red Beetle I had driven about three weeks before. They did, and I told Peter G., the salesman, to warm it up. Joe and I set off for Crystal Lake. When we got there, the car was toasty warm and we took it for a test-drive. It ran just fine in snow, and we took it home with us. We "hid" it in the garage, and he sat by the side window all day until his mother came home; he wanted to see her face when the garage door went up!

Thinking back, I'm wondering whether Peter G. was surprised that a customer would show up on a day like that and buy a car.

The Beetle has 200,000 miles on it now and still runs well. It's -16º F. (expected windchill of -40º F.). If I go out right now, the engine will start. And it will warm up quickly.

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