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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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!