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Act 3

March 26, 2011

Cat's grandma had passed away and it was time to sell her house. Which meant I had to find a new home for the Rabbit. More than once it was suggested that it might be time to say goodbye.

March 26, 2011. This would prove to be a fateful day for all involved.

A friend offered up a storage unit at a steep discount, so I decided I could hold on a little longer. Because...eventually…. The kids will get older….we could work on it together….maybe they could learn to drive a stick shift in it (just Iike Cat did in 1995!).

Tim and Justin agreed to help, and on the appointed day, we headed for Grandma's garage. We threw a bunch of extra parts in the car, closed the top, inflated the tires, and loaded it onto a car hauler. We made the quick trip to St Clairsville, backed the car into the storage unit, unloaded the extra parts and closed the door.

It would be nearly three years before I saw it again.

February 20, 2014

The scene of the crime.

Cat and I had just closed on our new house and were making preparations for the move. I hadn't been to the storage unit since we dropped off the car almost three years earlier. I needed to stash some parts for another project car, so I swung by and opened the door.

I noticed that some mold appeared to be growing inside the car. I thought it would be a good idea to pop the top open and crack the windows to let some air circulate.

As I leaned across the front seat to roll down the passenger window, I saw one of the most horrifying sights I've ever seen. On the rear deck, above the back seats, lay what was clearly once a living creature. I wasn't entirely sure what it was, but it was most definitely dead.

It was a cat. A mummified, very much intact, very much dead cat. I've never seen anything like it.

Click here for a fairly disturbing pic - WARNING!...this is graphic.

I believe the cat had been in the car when we picked it up from Grandma's garage. It probably dove under the front seat when we opened the garage door. Once we closed up the car to transport it, it's fate was, somewhat literally, sealed.

After a surely surprising (and likely terrifying) ride down the interstate, the car was backed into a pitch black, perfectly sealed storage unit. The poor cat never stood a chance.

Maybe, just maybe, this was it. Maybe it was time to give up. The car had no engine, a moldy interior, and now, a feline carcass that was somehow going to have to be removed. If I scrapped the car now, I wouldn’t have to deal with it.

I am not much of an outdoorsman. I don't do well with most animals, living or dead. I was utterly useless in this situation. I briefly considered cutting a large hole in the convertible top so that someone could reach in and remove the remains.

February 28, 2014

After much reflection, I decided that the cat should not have given its life in vain. The Rabbit will come to life once again. This episode would add one more chapter to its legend.

But first, I had to get a mummified cat out of a rotting Rabbit. I needed help, and Justin was my first call. He’s a hunter, he’s always willing to help, and he has been part of our story from the beginning.

I showed him a picture of our friend and we tried to develop a strategy. We had no idea what would happen when we tried to move the cat. Would it turn to dust? Would it be stuck to the fabric of the rear deck? Would it come apart in our (his) hands?

None of these were desirable options. To give us the best chance of the cat remaining intact, we timed the extraction for the coldest day possible. It was around 15 degrees Fahrenheit as we approached the car on a Friday morning. We hoped that the cold would help, um, solidify our target.

Justin climbed into the back of the car, steeling his resolve, and emerged with one very dry, very frozen corpse. As usual, seeing his expression was all it took for me to fall to the ground, laughing so hard I cried. The cat was out, the damage to the car seemed insignificant.

Click here for a classic Justin expression, in a typically absurd situation. WARNING! Graphic Content!

And one more, in case you really want to see what this thing looked like. WARNING! Graphic Content!

October 18, 2016

Circumstances required that I find another new home for the Rabbit. I had to decide once and for all if this car was ever coming back to life.

As I prepared to write this story, I realized that this thing has been around for my entire adult life. I graduated college, met and married my wife, grew a family, and built my career in the time I've owned this car. It is there at every point in my story.

It will be a massive project, but I can't bear the thought of giving up on it. I have committed to getting it back on the road. 

It’s time to start gathering parts again. I started working my old network, and a few phone calls connected me with a guy who knows a guy who had just what I’m looking for. Justin and I took off for Carrolton, where we found a low-mileage, completely intact 1.8L 16V engine and transmission. They should bolt right in. That guy knew a guy who had a full wiring harness and a rear disc brake conversion. An old-school road trip, meeting interesting characters, rummaging around a junkyard, and tearing apart an old car to get that one little part that you can’t buy anywhere. Just like old times.

The Future

It will be a long road to bring the Rabbit back to life. I've wondered more than once over the last 15 years if it would ever be driven again. 

I've got big plans for it. At this point it needs a complete restoration. Engine, suspension, interior, exterior...it all needs redone. One of my hopes is that by putting this story out there, I may be more likely to see it through.

I'm hoping to start working on the car in earnest some time this year. I'll post regular updates for anyone who is interested.

Thank you for reading!

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Act 2

September 1997

Life was marching on, and it was clear that my time with the Rabbit was over. I had graduated from Duquesne University and I was about to propose to my girlfriend. Adulthood was nigh.

 1997 Nissan 200SX -  Don't ever buy one of these. They're no fun, and they never break down. 

1997 Nissan 200SX -

Don't ever buy one of these. They're no fun, and they never break down. 

The insurance company paid me $2,000, which was roughly four times the actual value of the car. I couldn’t help but ask how much it would cost me to keep the now-totaled car. For $50, I could keep it. So that was that.

I took the car to Baierl Nissan in Pittsburgh and traded it (“Push, pull, or tow, we’ll give you $4,000!) on a brand new 200SX coupe. It idled perfectly for every one of the ten years and 250,000 miles I drove it. I hated that car.

Before making the final drive to Pittsburgh, I removed a few select items from the car. The stock steel wheels went back on, although I kept the center caps. The stereo system came out, the leather boot for the convertible top, the fog lights, and one specific piece of fender trim that I had maintained a love/hate relationship with. I have no idea what I was going to do with this stuff once I got rid of the car, but it went into the basement anyway.

August 15, 1998

Eric and I pulled into a gig at Pier 12 in Wellsburg. Parked in front of the bar is a red Rabbit convertible, black top, terrible aftermarket wheels, and a missing piece of fender trim.

With some time to kill after soundcheck, we were hanging out in the parking lot. As we wandered toward the car, the following conversation ensued:

A video taken the night the Rabbit reappeared in my life.

Eric- “Hey, what year is this car? It looks pretty close to yours.”

“Oh, they were all pretty much the same, it’s kind of hard to tell….  

Huh. It’s got a crack in the windshield just like mine did….”

<looks a little more closely>

“It’s got the holes where we mounted the fog lights! It’s got the holes in the dash where my tweeters were installed…..THIS IS MY CAR!”

The bad wheels and missing trim made sense. I still had the original parts in my basement.

After tracking down the new owner inside the bar, we were able to piece together the story. After I traded the car (in Pittsburgh), the dealer auctioned it and it was bought by a shop in Steubenville. They patched it up, painted it red, and sold it to Charles Withers of Follansbee.

I made Charles promise that if he ever wanted to sell it….

1999-2000

Over the next couple of years, I would get fairly regular reports of sightings, mostly from Ron “Uncle Hozo” Gasparine. He lived in Brooke County and knew the car well. Maybe… someday...I could get it back.

June 2001

Cat and I had moved to Morristown. She was now driving the Nissan, and I was spending my time in a Dodge Dakota. Great truck,  zero personality.

Driving on State Route 149 near Morristown, I saw it. It may have been a mile away, but it was unmistakable. The Rabbit was headed straight for me. After we passed, I did an immediate U-turn and followed Charles to Barkcamp.

We chatted. I asked what it was going to take. He said $850.

My incredible wife supported this ridiculous decision completely. Is it any wonder why I love that woman?

On June 6, 2001, it was back home. Maybe, more than at any other point in this story, all was right with the world.

Summer 2002

This time around, the car served a very different role. I was no longer counting on it to get me to work at the pizza shop by 4:00, or back to school in time for classes. It was a relaxed existence, although it was driven quite a lot.

On the way back from golfing with my brother, a persistent knock under the hood crescendoed quickly. I didn’t make it home. The car was out of oil, and the engine was cooked.

That original engine and its 74 hp was long overdue for an upgrade anyway. Out it came, and in went a larger more powerful (105 hp!) engine and a close ratio transmission from a VW Scirocco. Around this same time, I upgraded various suspension components as well.

This version of the car was by far the most fun to drive. The handling was tight, balanced, and the new drivetrain gave it enough pep to make any back road worth taking.

2002-2005

 Priorities. The Rabbit will have to wait.

Priorities. The Rabbit will have to wait.

This was a time of rest for the car. I had stopped driving it and began preparing for another engine swap. I bought a 1988 16V GTI ($100!) that was intended to donate various parts. There were other donor cars (a Scirocco and a Cabriolet), and I did pretty well selling off parts I didn’t need to finance the purchase of more parts I did.

While the Rabbit waited patiently, life moved on. Cat and I were busy with our careers, we built our first home, and began to grow our family. Time was limited, and the car wasn’t getting any of it.

I decided to move the car to Cat’s grandmother’s garage. It was safe there, shielded from the elements, and out of the way. I planned to come back to it someday, maybe when the kids were a little older. Maybe they’d even want to help!

CLICK HERE FOR ACT 3!

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Act 1, Part 2

This is part of an ongoing series. If you haven't already, it's best to start at the beginning.

June 10, 1995

It was unusually cold for June, and a steady rain made it feel even colder. Justin and I had picked this day to install fog lights on the car, in my mom’s driveway, in the dark. We attempted to drill into the bottom of the bumper, but the bumper’s resilience outlasted our persistence. Plus it was raining and really cold. And it was dark.

Eric had gone to see REM with his girlfriend, and after dropping her off, joined our little fog-light-install-in-the-rain party. We elected to drill into the sheet metal below the bumper, as carefully as possible, and mount the lights a little lower. By the time we got them in and working it was well after midnight. The holes we drilled that night make an encore appearance a little later in our story...stay tuned.

July 1995

With the top down on a gorgeous summer day, Justin and I were on our way to JoAnne Fabric in St. Clairsville, in search of fabric and notions for a cow-print recliner project we were working on. We stopped at a second-hand store in Bridgeport where we scored a bag of springs for a buck, and then headed west on I-70.

About a mile down the road, we noticed a large plume of smoke over the horizon. After cresting the hill, we spotted the source...a brand new RV was on the shoulder, smoking heavily. The elderly owners were standing nearby, and the only other arrival on the scene was a truck driver. We immediately pulled the car over and tried to help.

The trucker’s lone fire extinguisher was little help, and we waited a seeming eternity for a fire truck to arrive. At various points, Justin was partially beneath the vehicle attempting to slow the flames. The occasional exploding tire terrified everyone on the scene. The owner shocked us all when he re-entered the now fully engulfed vehicle. He emerged seconds later with a box of ammunition (he was concerned it may go off, injuring someone).

A single fire truck finally arrived with two firefighters on board. With I-70 now closed in both directions, and a shortage of trained manpower, Justin and I grabbed a firehose and drug it across the interstate. Despite our best efforts, the RV was a total loss. The owners were safe, but emotionally devastated.

August 1995

Cat and I were getting more serious. I had convinced her to take the last few classes she needed to finish her degree. She convinced me to face a problem I had been avoiding for a long time.

My Dad and I in 1995.

Like many teenagers, my relationship with my dad was tough. My parents had divorced when I was young, and I lived with my mom until I was 12. I decided to move in with my dad and I spent a year with him and his wife. Things ended poorly, I moved back to my mom’s house, and for 5 years my dad and I had no real contact.

I was 19, had finished my first year of college, and was dating the girl who would eventually become my wife. I reached out to my dad, we agreed to sit and talk for a while, and on the appointed day, I headed for his house in Cadiz.

The top was down and I was enjoying US 250 West, although my stomach was in knots. As I rounded a bend, a coal truck approached in the other lane. It discharged a large rock just as we passed each other, putting a large crack in the upper corner of the windshield. It sounded like a gunshot, and had it been off by a few inches, it could have been much worse.

It took all of about ten minutes for my dad and I to patch things up. Apologies were made, tears were shed, and we’ve been close ever since. His relationship with the car, however has always been somewhat contentious.

My dad, the Rabbit, and I. He'll never admit it, but he loves this car as much as I do.

Winter/Spring 1996

Taking a guess at the date here, but this story is too legend to omit.

Driving through Rayland on our way to Smithfield, Justin says “Pull over!” I hadn’t noticed the hitchhiker standing across from the Rayland Volunteer Fire Department.

“That’s Shorty, he needs a ride home,” explained my passenger.

Shorty was aptly named, as he was Smithfield’s only little person. He was known to be a heavy drinker.

“Seriously?” I asked.

“Yes.”

Shorty hopped in the back seat. He smelled really bad. Like alcohol mixed with a month of no showers. His feet didn’t reach the floor.

We delivered him safely to Smithfield.

He was useless at troubleshooting idle problems.

July 4, 1996.

No major events this day, just a crystal clear memory. I was working at Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel for the summer. On my way to work a midnight shift in Follansbee, driving north on Route 7 through Brilliant, top down, Rush’s “Dreamline” giving those tweeters a serious workout, fireworks lighting up the night sky all around me, I felt an overwhelming sense of contentment. I had the girl, the car, the job, and I was less than a year from graduating from Duquesne University. And, at 60 mph, there was no reminder that my car wouldn’t idle quite right. At that moment, all was right in my world.

October 1996

I had applied to Medical School at a few colleges, and I had an interview at the University of Cincinnati. Justin and I made the trip, and after the interview in the morning, started back to my apartment in Pittsburgh.

Near the Burgettstown exit on Route 22, late in the evening, Justin points to the side of the road. “Watch out...deer!” Our attention diverted to the berm, we never saw the other deer, dead center in our lane, lying on it’s side, feet pointed towards us like two perfect little ramps. The Rabbit met the deer at around 70mph and immediately went airborne. We landed hard but never lost control. The CD changer in the glove compartment jammed permanently. The heater fan began working for the first time in years. We have heat!

The erratic idle was unaffected.

One of the only known pics of the car from this era. Pictured are the members of Flytrap Sister (our '90s era alternative chick rock cover band) and my wife. The tall guy in the red shirt is Eric.

Early May 1997

It had been three years and I was more determined than ever to get the idle right. Armed with a wealth of knowledge about the engine, and access to my Uncle’s garage (and tools), Eric and I decided to tear the engine down. We would replace the head gasket, redoing the job that Justin and I had almost gotten right in 1994.

That first effort had taken about a month. This time, we had the head off in about 2 hours. When we got the head back from the machine shop a couple of days later, it took about 2 hours to have the car back together.

It was time to start it up.

This was it. Remember when you were seven and you were the first one up on Christmas morning? You made your way down to the living room, heart pounding, really really sure that there would be a pile of presents, but a little terrified that there may not be any at all? That was us (well, me anyway). A still erratic idle, after all this work, would be just too much to bear. Surely we got it right this time.

We did.

The starter whirred, the engine sprang to life, and the tach landed at 700 rpm and just sat there. It was as smooth as Ray Liotta sipping brandy in a hotel bar. As persistently rock solid as Charlie Watts laying down the backbeat in “Satisfaction”. It just….ran.

I had owned the car for three years, driven it around 30,000 miles, and it finally idled. Like a regular car. Never again would I be at a stoplight, left foot on the clutch, right foot holding the brake while simultaneously goosing the throttle just to keep it running. Fast food drive-throughs would become non-events.

One other thing became clear that night in Uncle Chip’s garage. I’m never selling this car.

Late May 1997

1.jpg

Cat and I took a road trip to Washington D.C. for my cousin’s wedding, and for the first time I was comfortable that the Rabbit would get us there and back without incident.

Cruising across I-68 in Maryland, the engine purring just as God and Ferdinand Porsche had intended, I had another of those “all is right with the world” moments. I also have a clear memory of driving past the U.S. Capitol at night, top down, a million stars above, and my girl by my side.

June 1997

Cat and I had taken a trip to Pittsburgh. We were leaving Oakland on Fifth Avenue and prepared to merge onto the Boulevard of the Allies. I caught a glimpse of some oncoming traffic out of the corner of my eye, so I hit the brakes. The truck behind me, a full-size Chevy carrying water for Culligan, did not. He hit us square in the rear end, hard enough that the Chevy bowtie on his grill made a clean imprint on my trunk lid.

We weren’t hurt. The Rabbit, however, was totaled.

If this were any other car, the story would end here. But if that were the case, this wouldn’t have been titled “Act 1."

Click here for Act 2

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Act 1, Part 1

Justin and Eric in 1996. Eric is the one smiling, while Justin drops the hammer on a Bb.

It was time to buy a car. My previous ride, a 1980 Pontiac Sunbird (3.8L V6, 4 speed, American Racing wheels, and a terrible shade of pale yellow) had given all it had to give. I was wrapping up my freshman year in college, my future wife wasn’t yet my current girlfriend, I didn’t have any money, and I was determined to find something fun to drive. After securing a small loan at the local bank, shopping commenced.

A trip to Wexford, PA, and its high density of dealerships turned up a few options. I was accompanied by Justin and Eric, my two best friends, and two primary characters in our story. We hit every lot that looked like it might have a potential candidate. I encountered my first Acura NSX in the shop area of Baierl Acura. We came up empty that day, except for the red ‘84 Rabbit convertible we test drove from a small lot on Route 19. The car was underpowered, way too loud on the road, and dripping with fun, quirky personality. It was not the right example, but I had identified my target.

On the ride home, we picked up a Pittsburgh Post Gazette for its then flush automotive classifieds. There was exactly one Rabbit Convertible. 1982, one owner, $3,400. The chase commenced.

Pete Tedesco was in his mid to late 40s and was the original owner. He had paid over $12,000 for the car in 1982 and had taken excellent care of it. He was in the process of buying a new BMW 535i. P&W BMW wasn’t interested in taking in a 12 year-old Rabbit as a trade. So Pete ran an ad. I called him and chatted, got the details, and promised a call back. The next day, sitting in Justin’s second floor apartment on Eoff St, the decision was made. I called Pete but he didn’t answer. After a seeming eternity of not being able to reach him, (probably an hour or so), Justin and I decided to do the only logical thing. We’d just head for Sewickley, PA. That way, when we did reach him, we’d be that much closer. And if we couldn’t reach him? Well, Sewickley’s pretty small, and the car is pretty distinctive. We’ll just drive around until we find it. We were hoping it wasn’t in a garage.

Upon arriving in Sewickley, we tried Pete’s number one more time. His daughter answered. “I’m sorry, my dad left on a business trip. He’ll be back in a few days.” Still determined to at least see the car, we asked if we could come by and check it out. “He took it to the airport with him.” We were not easily deterred. The daughter told us which lot he usually parked in and we headed toward the airport.

Somehow, we found the lot, drove around a bit, and located the car. I have no idea how we didn’t get arrested. The car appeared to be in great condition and the decision was made.

May 20, 1994

 I suspect I have the only 1982 Rabbit P&amp;W ever sold.

I suspect I have the only 1982 Rabbit P&W ever sold.

I still hadn’t driven the car, but the deal was done. Pete returned from his trip and we arranged to meet at the BMW dealership in Oakland. I’m not honestly sure I drove the car before handing over the check. It was a beautiful, blue sky kind of day, the perfect day to buy a convertible. We put the top down and headed for home.

A quick side note...Justin accompanied me on this trip, along with another person. That person’s identity has been lost to history. I’m still hoping someone will come forward with information leading to their whereabouts, but for now, it’s a mystery.  Maybe I should offer a reward.

We left Oakland and decided to go home through the South Hills, ostensibly to avoid traffic, more likely because I thought it would be a better inaugural drive than the parkway. Sitting at the south end of the Liberty Tunnel, all seemed right with the world.

And then something landed on the very top of the windshield, splashing the occupants just a little. Bird crap.

We would not be discouraged. The sun was too bright, the mood too good. The top would stay down.

Not my actual car, but it looked just like this. 

Early June 1994

By all accounts, the purchase was a hit. The car was fun, it ran great, and I quickly fell in love with its basic Germanness… the build quality, the quirky ergonomics... it was just different than most other cars out there.

I was still getting familiar with the various controls and indicators when a new light appeared. The engine was overheating. A bad thermostat was the diagnosis. No big deal, I’ve changed thermostats before. Except not on a Volkswagen. On this car, the thermostat is in a different location and doesn’t use the type of paper gasket I had seen on so many small block Chevys. I replaced the faulty part and reassembled everything. It seemed fine.

June 18, 1994

A day or two later, while on our way to a graduation party, the light was back on, indicating the engine was overheating again. I thought I would be okay to keep driving, the party was only a few miles away. And then a noise, followed by steam from under the hood, and finally a complete loss of power. We have a problem.

Justin’s Uncle Roger rescued us, tying a rope from the back of his Ford Bronco to the front bumper of the Rabbit. He pulled us to Justin’s parents’ house.

My thermostat installation had been incorrect and allowed all of the coolant to drain from the engine. At this point I learned what happens to an aluminum head when it gets too hot. We had a head gasket to change.

With no money, no garage, and no experience with a German, front-wheel drive, fuel-injected car, Justin and I figured we could buy a book and do it ourselves. Justin’s dad agreed to the use of his garage and we began wrenching. The temporary tags were still on the car.

Mid July, 1994

The temporary tags had expired, but after a month or so of busted knuckles, very late nights, and much head scratching, we had the car running again. Sort of. It didn’t seem to idle quite right, but we’ll figure that out later. We were feeling pretty good about ourselves.

July-December 1994

I had learned a lot about the engine. We thought the idle issue might be related to the ignition timing. Or maybe a vacuum leak. Or the cam timing.  We checked everything, made some adjustments, but it still wasn't quite right. The ignition timing is adjusted with a 10mm wrench, and can be done in just a few seconds. For the next 3 years, I would keep a 10mm wrench in the center console. I adjusted the timing hundreds of times. On the side of the road, at stop signs, and countless times while delivering pizza. I could get it close, but never all the way there.

At this point, a couple of interesting characters enter our story:

Angelo Marsili

Angelo Marsili

I knew of Angelo indirectly; his daughter Stacy and her husband Rick are lifelong friends. Angelo had what was likely the largest collection of VW Rabbits in a hundred-mile radius. His were mostly diesels, but he had a few gas cars around, and he proved to be an invaluable resource for advice, parts, and endless encouragement. Ange lives by a Depression-era morality that says you fix what you’ve got, you don’t just throw it away. He took a great deal of pride in his immense parts collection and he was always happy to announce that he didn’t just have what I needed - he had three or four of them.

Angelo is a grizzly bear of a guy, every bit of 6’ 5”. Every day he squeezed into a 2-door Rabbit, and for a while a Rabbit pickup, and puttered to work at the local coal mine. The other guys at the mine were proud of their oversized pickups with rumbling exhausts, Angelo smugly noted every gallon of diesel he bought, just to make sure he never slipped below 50 mpg.

Angelo thought the idle problem was probably a sensor somewhere that wasn’t right. He gave me more than one cold start valve, none of which fixed the problem.

Rick Pastre

Rick owns the go-to service garage in Smithfield, just down the street from Justin’s dad’s house. We bugged him a lot, and he was (usually) willing to help. Rick is the prototypical VW guy...smart, frugal, and just a little off the mainstream. He was much more impressed with an odometer that broke the 200,000 mile mark than he was with a V8 that could do the ¼ mile in 12 seconds.

Rick believed the car wasn’t idling right because we had screwed something up.

Greg Zelenitz

Greg from The Bug Shop

Well, his place is called “The Bug Shop.” Ask anyone who knows cars to name a VW guy in the Ohio Valley, and they’ll tell you to call The Bug Shop.

Greg’s time with VWs goes back to the 70s, and he prefers to work on them mainly because they’re not “that junk that GM sells.” He has been a source of advice for years, even on some of my recent cars.

Greg had no idea why the idle was screwed up, but if I wanted to drop the car off, he’d take a look when he got a chance.

The VW Whisperer

His name has faded from memory, but his influence remains. A shade tree mechanic from Newtown (don’t bother looking it up, Google doesn’t know about it), he was a magician with these cars. In typical VW-guy fashion, he had more cars around than he needed, and he was always willing to share his experience if it would help.

Eric and I visited him, on Angelo’s recommendation, sometime in the summer of 1995.

He thought the idle problem was related to a vacuum leak, and while it wasn’t entirely the issue, he was the first guy I met who really understood how the fuel injection system worked. We did have a couple of vacuum leaks, and fixing them did help get the car running a little better.

Fall 1994

With the car back on the road and running reasonably well, it was time to do what every red-blooded 19 year-old wanted to do in 1994. It was time for a new stereo. After memorizing Crutchfield’s entire catalog, components were ordered and a custom install was meticulously planned.

The work would primarily be done late at night, after closing at Pizza Express, in the carport behind Eric’s parents’ house. We had an interesting ritual around this time -- whoever’s car was being wrenched, the other guy would typically do the wrenching. Which is why Eric spent so much time under my dashboard with Dremel in hand.

First up, a head unit/CD changer combo from Sanyo. This unit was chosen because it was the smallest 6 CD changer on the market, and we were pretty certain it would fit in the glove compartment. It did, barely, and only with Eric’s careful removal of significant amounts of plastic.

Next was a custom-built subwoofer box, designed to fit perfectly in the small trunk. It was built to be fully self-contained, with everything easily disconnected in case more trunk space was needed.

Lastly, a component speaker set from Blaupunkt, with a 4” midrange that fit perfectly in the door panels, and small tweeters that were flush mounted one either side of the dash. Sure we had to to drill 1½” diameter holes in the dash, but Eric had the right hole saw, and it sure looked clean when it was done. The hi-hats in the opening strains of Jet City Woman were often used to demo those tweeters.

December 31, 1994

New Year’s Eve found me at the Firehouse in Wheeling, as Joe Zelek and the boys of JFK led us into 1995.

Have you met my girlfriend?

While on the dance floor, I ran into a beautiful redhead. We had met once or twice before, but it seemed different this time. She asked how things were going at Pitt. I reminded her that I went to Duquesne. We hung out for a while, and I offered to give her a ride home.

I led her to the Rabbit, explained that the heat didn’t work all that great, and that sometimes it had a little trouble idling. Queensryche and I showed off the tweeters. She didn’t seem too impressed with any of it.

We parked down the street from her mom’s house. Even though she was cold, and worried that the erratic idle might wake the neighbors, we sat and talked for hours. It was nearly daybreak when we parted, and while the evening didn’t end up the way 19-year old me had hoped (she was far too classy for THAT), things were definitely about to get interesting.

Click here for Act 1, part 2

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Introduction

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Introduction

“It’s kind of a long story.”

If you’ve known me for more than about a week, chances are we’ve talked about cars. And the conversation most likely made its way to Volkswagens. And if it did, you heard about the Rabbit. Depending on how much time we had (and my guess as to whether you would “get it”), you heard some version of the following story. This, for the first time, is the full, unabridged tale. At least as much of it as I remember.

For most people, a car is an appliance -- a literal means to an end. I, however, have been afflicted with a different view. At its best, a great car has a distinct, pervasive personality, one that is seen in every curve of sheet metal, felt with every gear shift, and heard at the first crack of the ignition. The best of the best even smell just right. Find a car with this much character that happens to fit with some part of your own personality, and the relationship will transcend the typical buy it - drive it - fix it - sell it template.

I’ve had a few cars that met this criteria. None so much as the “The Rabbit,” though. The basics - it’s a 1982 VW Rabbit Convertible. Front wheel drive, 5-speed manual, a blistering 74 horsepower. This is the story of how it came be such an important part of my life.

Along the way, we'll meet some interesting characters, have some wild adventures, and learn a lot about an old Volkswagen. Loved ones will be lost, I'll meet my future wife, and at least one animal will meet an unfortunate end. Ultimately you'll learn more about me than you probably care to know.

Thanks for coming along for the ride!

CLICK HERE FOR ACT 1, PART 1

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Introduction

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Introduction

“It’s kind of a long story.”

If you’ve known me for more than about a week, chances are we’ve talked about cars. And the conversation most likely made its way to Volkswagens. And if it did, you heard about the Rabbit. Depending on how much time we had (and my guess as to whether you would “get it”), you heard some version of the following story. This, for the first time, is the full, unabridged tale. At least as much of it as I remember.

For most people, a car is an appliance -- a literal means to an end. I, however, have been afflicted with a different view. At its best, a great car has a distinct, pervasive personality, one that is seen in every curve of sheet metal, felt with every gear shift, and heard at the first crack of the ignition. The best of the best even smell just right. Find a car with this much character that happens to fit with some part of your own personality, and the relationship will transcend the typical buy it - drive it - fix it - sell it template.

I’ve had a few cars that met this criteria. None so much as the “The Rabbit,” though. The basics - it’s a 1982 VW Rabbit Convertible. Front wheel drive, 5 speed manual, a blistering 74 horsepower. This is the story of how it came be such an important part of my life.

Along the way, we'll meet some interesting characters, have some wild adventures, and learn a lot about an old Volkswagen. Loved ones will be lost, I'll meet my future wife, and at least one animal will meet an unfortunate end. Ultimately you'll learn more about me than you probably care to know.

Thanks for coming along for the ride!

CLICK HERE FOR ACT 1, PART 1

Comment