Name: Simon Parkinson
The classic: VW Beetle
‘It’s been great fun and it has huge sentimental value for me. It was the family car, and the car I restored with my late father. I’ve toyed with having other things, and maybe now I’ve got more time I might well get another classic car, but this Beetle will never go.’
Simon’s VW Beetle has a long family history behind it, having been first bought by his father in 1957 before Simon was born. ‘The saga begins before this car,’ Simon tells us. ‘In 1955, my father bought a Ford Prefect but he didn’t like it at all, so he swapped it for a Beetle when he was in Torquey on holiday. That’s where the love for these cars began, really.’ Not long afterwards, Simon’s father moved to his second Beetle, which the family affectionately dubbed ‘BTE’ after the number plate. It’s the car that Simon still owns today. ‘He bought it in January 1957,’ Simon explains. ‘I was born two years later, and he took me home from the hospital in it as a new born. BTE was our family car until I was six or seven years old. I’ve still got good memories of that.’
Like its predecessor, however, BTE was then exchanged for newer model, this time a 1300 Beetle. ‘The car disappeared,’ Simon says. ‘It went through various owners, and we didn’t think we’d see it again.
‘One evening, however, my father and I were driving to church when a low-loader drove past us with a rusted, battered old Beetle on the back. I don’t know who recognised it first, but we both realised what it was. The truck pulled into the petrol station and we followed them, then asked where they were taking it. ‘The scrap heap,’ they told us. I don’t know why, perhaps it was one of those things that just happened: my father paid them £10, gave them an extra fiver to deliver it, and we went off to church. When we got back later that evening, BTE was once again sitting proudly on our driveway.’
Restoring a classic
‘Originally, the idea was to do it up and I’d then use it as my student car. We’d also discovered a recently formed owners’ club for early VW Beetles; today it’s known as the Historic VW Club. We joined, neither of us having any idea about car restoration, but the people there were incredibly helpful with advice and sorting parts. We learnt through doing it, we made mistakes and got things wrong but we had lots of people there to help us. I think that’s one of the nice things – certainly in the Beetle part of the classic car world – there is lots of help out there.
That autumn, my father and I took the body shell off BTE and restored the chassis by ourselves. When we put it all back together again, we went to our first classic VW event in 1978 or ’79. We won a prize in the concours d’elegance, which was a fantastic achievement for us having just finished it. Sadly, however, two weeks later my father died very unexpectedly, leaving his pride and joy in the garage.’