Last year, our own Murilee Martin found a Euro-market Volkswagen light-duty commercial van during one of his many junkyard adventures. As often happens here at TTAC, we had a brilliant contribution from one of the B&B, fictionalizing the story of the van’s final days. Then, just two days ago, the van’s last owner showed up to tell the true tale.
The Crabspirits tale of the VW LT van was depressing, hilarious, earthy, and insightful all at once:
Hermann was burning.
Hermann scratched at his full, grey beard. Beads of sweat lay within. He could feel it running down his chin, down to his neck, forming streams on his naked chest. It had to be 100° in the van, even with all the doors open. He had to pace himself. The sweat merged himself and Susan into one cohesive being. It was erotic in the extreme. The waves passed through him, and he collapsed over her back briefly before sliding off onto the disheveled twin mattress. “That was a nice romp, love.”, said Susan with her thick British accent. “Yah.”, replied Hermann, admiring what now resembled a hippo in the prone position. “You imagine they’re done yet?”, she asked. A short wind blew through the open van, and the smell of butt reached the man’s nostrils, delaying his response. “Well..if I know my wife well, they were done ten minutes ago.” He bit his tongue at the end, but it was too late. The Brit diverted her attention from the burners pedaling by outside, and twisted her head around to face the dirty-looking Santa. He was surprised when she laughed, and said “What are you saying?”. Susan put her shoes on, saying coyly “I think I’ll go for a little stroll.”, then walked buck naked out into the desert.
Hermann’s phallus blew in the breeze, while he put his pants back on. He could feel the dust stuck to his sweat beneath his tattered shirt. He felt…natural. The exodus was already well underway, and a line of RV’s kicked up dust in the distance. His wife Julie appeared, resembling a rag tag whore of olden times. Her blouse was unbuttoned, exposing her breasts, and her face paint was smeared. She said nothing, kissed her husband on the cheek, and then rummaged in the back of the LT28 for her leather pouch of luke-warm water. “Should we go?”, she asked. “Yah.”
Hermann queued up behind a Winnebago, and shut off the engine. When it was time for the pulse of vehicles to move, the VW was left in the dust. It wouldn’t restart. Hermann knew what to do. He lifted off the engine cover and allowed it to tumble out of the passenger door. Julie happily conversed with a few good samaritans who had stopped to assist the stricken van. While Hermann worked the intake tract off of the carburetor, he overheard one of them saying “Yeah, I used to have one of these.” Hermann scrunched his face with sweat stinging his eyes, thinking to himself, “No. You didn’t.” punctuated with a “Hrmpf.” Hermann placed his palm over the open throat of the carb, which scalded a perfect crescent into it immediately. “Scheisse!” He then angrily walked stiffly to the rear, retrieving the best thing he could find to shield his hand, a pair of his dirty briefs. The underpants were sealed over the mouth of the carb, and he twisted the key. After a few laborious cranks, it fired, resulting in applause from the small crowd outside. Hermann held his foot to the pedal to keep it alive, while replacing the intake tract. He watched in horror as the worm screw fell off the hose clamp, and made the 2″ plunge into the maw of the running engine in slow motion. The man was puzzled on what to do next. He looked into the carb, not finding the foreign object. Just as his brain fired “Turn it off!!!!”, he had to shut his eyes in response to the sound of metallic cataclysm inside cylinder #3. “Gooooo!!”
It was finally time to leave this dreadful place. The burners were almost gone, replacing their intrusion into the desert with piles of trash, and abandoned “art”. Hermann managed to get the 3 working cylinders online, and he immediately put it in gear. It was then that he realized that he hated Burning Man. The commercialization, the expense of entry, the effort, and most of all, this new generation of burners really did him in. “The end.”, he said to Julie. The engine shook as it climbed to 45mph in what seemed like an eternity at full throttle. It’s three cylinders dragged their fallen man along while pushing the ox cart. “You say that every year.”, she yelled over the troubling valvetrain clack now emitting between them. “No, really, this is the end.”
The van limped down the 580 into Berkeley. The engine’s pleas for mercy were ignored as it’s crankcase drowned in fuel from the spent cylinder. “Can’t we just…?”, Julie asked. Hermann yelled in frustration, “Nein! It’s wasted! (unintelligible German)”
“You can’t be driving that here.”, said the CHIP as cars whooshed past. “But we’re almost home.”, Julie pleaded. “This vehicle is NOT roadworthy guys. Come on. You’ve got smoke pouring out of the back of this thing.” Hermann overheard the officer mumbling to himself, saying something to the effect of, “What the-hell is this thing?”. It was followed by “Just stay put guys.”, as he walked back behind the van.
The officer’s rather pleasant demeanor had vanished when he reappeared at the driver’s door. “Okay, your registration is coming back as an ’82 Vanagon, and this is not what that is. I know. I used to drive one. Is there an ID plate on this thing anywhere?” Hermann’s clever plan to use his dead Vanagon Synchro’s tag had been foiled.
When the van’s actual last owner showed up (with a very enviable email address that, this being the post-TTAC Homecoming era, we’ve kept confidential) he told a less erotic but no less interesting story:
I’m the last owner of that 1976 Mk1 LT35. It’s actually a Mk1 LT was first manufactured in 1976. The previous owner managed to register it as a 1973 model, no doubt to circumvent smog check rules. He passed away and the vehicle was abandoned in a storage garage. His landlord got his GF to sign the van over to him and subsequently sold to me. It’s a long story how it ended up in a wrecking yard. Rest assured, it was too far gone to save. Cheaper to bring another on in from Europe.
Anyway, the LT’s which came with gasoline engines used the same 2.0 inline-4 which Audi also put in the first generation Porsche 924 which they were also building. The LT versions were tuned for torque. Anything over 50mph is a struggle. I couldn’t do 40mph trying to drive this guy back from Burbank, CA. BTW, the stickers are from 2 owners ago. I never got around to peeling them off which pissed off my neighbors to no end.😉 I still have two of the wheels which the junkyard didn’t even want. They are 6x205mm which is the same as MB Unimogs and the dually MB Sprinters. Really useless in the US unless you have one of these bigger LT’s.
It might interest some to know that later models had a 5-cyl diesels & turbodiesels which found their way in Volvos of the same era.
I hope this has answered some of your questions.
Ah, but there’s one question that we still don’t have the answer to: Who goes to Burning Man nowadays, anyway?