Judy's Worried About Her Daughter's VW Bus

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Oct 01, 2004

Dear Tom and Ray:

My 20-year-old daughter, who drives my old, safe 1994 Volvo 960, has informed me that she just purchased a 1970 Volkswagen Bus to take camping. It has a picture of the "Purple Rain" album cover airbrushed on the back. She has a good job, and she paid for it with her own money. She attends the Colorado School of Mines, majoring in environmental chemistry, and she usually makes good decisions.

However, I'm concerned about this one. My first concern is safety. My second is that the painting on the back could be a police magnet. Because I am a child of the '60s and '70s myself, my arguments against this "lifestyle vehicle" don't carry much weight with her. Can you give me some good arguments as to why this purchase might be dangerous and/or stupid?

-- Judy

TOM: Sure! This is the easiest question we've been asked all week, Judy.

RAY: As much fun as this VW Bus might seem, it's really quite a deadly vehicle.

TOM: The problem is that in an accident, your knees are your first line of defense. You sit right up at the front of this vehicle, with your legs right behind that big VW emblem between the headlights. So, if you hit anything head-on, or get hit by another vehicle, you'll be spending the rest of your life in a motorized wheelchair, which you'll operate with your tongue. IF you're lucky.

RAY: The other problem is that they handle terribly, which increases the likelihood of an accident. A medium-size gust of wind is enough to blow this vehicle into the next lane.

TOM: On the plus side, they're a hell of a lot of fun, aren't they? And cool-looking, too! They bring you back to another, more carefree era ... when maintaining the use of your legs wasn't on your list of priorities. You remember those days, right, Judy?

RAY: If I were you, Judy, I would just ask your daughter to restrict the VW Bus to local trips. Ask her to stay off the highways and stick to roads where the speeds are, say, below 40 mph. It doesn't guarantee that she'll be safe, but it'll certainly improve her chances.

TOM: Since she's obviously a smart kid, she might discover on her own that she feels quite unsafe driving this rig. She might get tired of the buckboard ride, the swaying around in the wind and the dearth of heat in the winter.

RAY: And the old-car smell.

TOM: But she's obviously rebelling a bit. I mean, you can't find two more disparate vehicles than a Volvo 960 and a VW Bus. So, I'm guessing she's feeling the need to break out of the "mom-mobile" and make her own statement. And you're going to have to accept that.

RAY: If you're really desperately worried about her, Judy, offer to help her sell both of her current vehicles and buy a brand-new Honda Element. That's today's modern, safer version of the VW Bus: a cheap, versatile, funky recreational vehicle. And I'm sure that if you talk to your Honda dealer, you can get the "Purple Rain" cover airbrushed on the back. Good luck, Judy.

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