A Beetle’s unique journey – from the backyard to the driveway

Adam in high school with one of his many Beetles. Photo credit: Adam Simpson.

Many kids play with toy cars, but few children get a real-life car that sparks a lifelong passion. Volkswagen super enthusiast Adam Simpson was able to transform his unique childhood escape – the shell of a 1959 Beetle – into a functioning daily driver.

Simpson’s lifelong passion for the brand began with his aunt’s 1970 Volkswagen VW Beetle. His family loves to tell the story of him spotting the curvy little car parked in his family’s driveway at age 2 and squirming his way out of his grandfather’s arms to waddle over to the car.

He was devastated when his grandparents decided to sell the Beetle for parts a few months later. To make amends, his grandparents bought a 1959 Volkswagen Beetle shell for $60 — complete with two different paint colors and signature five-gallon bucket seats — and placed it in the backyard.

“I recall my grandmother trying to get me to look at another Beetle, but I would have none of it. My eyes were set on the faded red one with mismatched white doors and no seats,” Simpson said. “I remember pointing at it and saying, ‘That one!’”

Young Adam with his family’s 1959 Beetle. Photo credit: Adam Simpson.

In school, Simpson became known as “the little boy who loves Volkswagen.” He grew up reading car magazines and would often bring clipped pictures to school to show his classmates. He began his first Volkswagen restoration project – a pair of Volkswagen Buses – when he was still in high school.

“When I ran into my kindergarten teacher in my 20s, her first question to me was, ‘Do you still like Volkswagen?’” Simpson said. “I answered, ‘It’s the one thing that never changed about me!’”

When Simpson was 10, his father bought his first Volkswagen – a 1973 Beetle – and told him that when he was old enough to get his driver’s license the car would be his. However, by the time Simpson passed the test, his father’s love of Volkswagen had grown along with his collection (which now included three cars) and he wasn’t willing to part with any of them.

In 2008, Simpson decided to turn his childhood escape into a fully operational vehicle. The restoration of the Beetle started slowly, with an aim to get the car road ready and looking decent. He replaced the cracked 1965 engine with one from a 1958 Beetle, spray painted the car with jade satin paint and used a plaid blanket as the new headliner for the car.

Adam at an auto show with his Beetle. Photo credit: Adam Simpson.

Simpson got the car running in 2009 and showed off its transformation when his grandparents came over for Thanksgiving. His grandfather could not believe it was the same car he had paid $60 for 20 years prior.

In the future, Simpson plans to continue upgrading his dream car by painting its body Mignonette Green, and replacing the interior with factory-only parts. He has also made a lot of improvements under the hood and the car now functions as a daily driver.

While he has had a collection of 23 Volkswagen vehicles over his lifetime – among them a 1988 Jetta and a 2010 GTI – his childhood Beetle will always be his favorite and a permanent car in his collection.

“[It] puts a smile on my face like no other car,” Simpson said.

For Simpson, restoring Volkswagen models is about more than just his vintage Beetle – it’s about the people.  “So many of my friends are Volkswagen people because people who are into Volkswagens are some of the most helpful people you’ll ever meet,” said Simpson.

He then added: “It’s been a huge part of who I am, for as long as I can remember.”