This is the story of a little car, but to tell the story, I need to start at the beginning.
Victor Chu was born in Shanghai, China on July 1st 1945 and moved to Hong Kong in 1949. He moved to the United States in 1965, attending the University of Hawaii, then moved to Davis California where he got his M.S. and Ph.D. in food sciences and agricultural chemistry at UC Davis.
Victor’s niece recalls him as a humble man who, as an immigrant, worked exceptionally hard to earn his education. He was the only scientist in his family and the only member of his family to earn a Ph.D.
While at UC Davis, in 1970, Victor bought a brand new car – a green 1971 Volkswagen Super Beetle. The car was built in the Volkswagen factory in Wolfsburg Germany on September 9th 1970 – a fairly early 1971 model.
1971 was the very first year for the Super Beetle, which had a McPherson strut front end to provide a more comfortable ride.
As a 25 year old student, Victor must have been very proud of his new car. That is clear from the care he took to look after it for close to 40 years.
This photo (courtesy of his niece) was taken in 1974, when the car was less than 4 years old. Victor is on the right, and his older brother Peter, on the left.
The little Beetle was the only car Victor ever owned and he never travelled too far from his home in Davis, California with it. He kept it in its original condition, not adding anything to it, nor taking anything away.
He even went so far as to keep the original 1970 validation sticker on the car, swapping out the rear original blue California plate: 091 BVQ with the front plate so that forever the car would display the original 1970 sticker.
Victor’s niece forwarded me a letter that Victor had written in 1996, in response to a parking violation given to the Beetle. Victor’s response (see below) conveys how much he cared for his car:
The last time Victor’s niece remembers him driving the car was in August 2001 when he drove to visit her and her family – a 65 mile trip one-way from his home in Davis.
She recalls – “He had not driven the car for awhile prior to this trip and I believe he fixed it up with the hope of driving it more, but the freeway driving was so stressful for him that I think he may have only driven it a few times in Davis after that and then used a bicycle as his method of transportation.”
I can relate to his stress, as when my daughter and I bought his car in May 2012, we travelled from Davis to San Francisco and were relieved to get off the highways and onto the Pacific Coast highway – but I am getting ahead of myself.
Victor passed away on Friday July 16th 2010 at the age of 65 having kept the car for his ‘Forever’.
For almost two years, his little car waited patiently in a garage. That is when I enter the story…