By on March 1, 2015

06 - 1973 Volkswagen LT28 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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.
“N-no.”

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?

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17 Comments on “Volkswagen LT: Crabspirits Vs. Reality...”


  • avatar
    Lie2me

    Interesting story

    “with a very enviable email address”

    What is a “enviable email address”?

  • avatar
    TW5

    The “Ferien am Chiemsee” sticker, with Mad King Ludwig in the middle, is a nice Bavarian touch.

  • avatar
    ClutchCarGo

    “Who goes to Burning Man nowadays, anyway?”

    Grover Norquist, apparently, which has totally put me off my bucket list entry of attending. If BM has gone that mainstream I don’t know that it’s worth the effort anymore.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    I don’t get it ~ it’s some version of pedestrian VW engine , there should be a $200 one just waiting in the many excellent Self Service Junkyards littering the Burbank area , I made good mony for decades buying old VW’s (mostly) with blown engines and swapping the engines out with carefully services and re sealed $200 Pick-A-Part engines before re selling for a decent profit .

    I can’t imagine it being cheaper in any way to import another one from Europe as I’ve also direct imported many old cars from there .

    The dog slow part doesn’t bother the VW Faithful nutters .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    shipping96

    “Who goes to Burning Man nowadays, anyway?”. Well my sister, it’s like her Mecca. I guess that’s what happens when you go hardcore Richard Dawkins disciple.

    What a great piece of writing above.

    • 0 avatar

      As a Deadhead, I have friends and friends of friends who have gone to Burning Man and before that some of the Rainbow Festivals. I think I’d rather have root canal than go to an event like that. I didn’t even like parts of the Grateful Dead parking lot scene. If I’m going camping it’s going to be in the Upper Peninsula. My cousin went to a couple of the Rainbow Gatherings but never went back after someone told him that he “wasn’t rainbow enough”.

      Speaking of the Dead, yesterday a friend was shocked when I told him that I didn’t bother to send in a mail order for the 50th anniversary shows the remnants of the band are doing with Trey Anastasio in Chicago. In addition to my LPs and CDs I have about 400 hours of live tape that I traded for or recorded myself but I never really bothered with Phish. For some reason their music just doesn’t excite me. Now if it was Steve Kimock taking Jerry’s seat in the band, I would have been interested. After Garcia died, a lot of Deadheads latched on to Phish. I preferred Zero, the band Kimock was in, that was originally formed by Bay area musician John Cippolina, of Quicksilver.

  • avatar
    montethepoodle

    I was born in the dark primeval past known to the rising generations as before the hippies in San Francisco. Bought my VW engines from Polka Dot in San Rafael and Champion Speed Shop in South City. Ran big Webber’s on 1600cc motors in Buggies.

    From my experience folks that had these buses were renters and of no consequence. Except to vote for rent control. That is why the Dead are playing in Chicago.

    Dead are now as then Capitalists with a Capital C. It is really driving that money train and a Dead concert now is a modern Lawrence Welk without the bobbing for Geritol and Wheel Chair Races.

    Just saying as I got my senior card too…

    Honestly I heard it is easier to fly your private plane in and out of CHi Town whether a Cessna Trainer or Citation…bussed on VW is DEAD>

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      “All the Young Dudes” love your name :-)

    • 0 avatar

      Apparently, there’s a new generation of Deadheads like my 26 year old daughter. She gets mad at me because I won’t go see Dead cover bands.

      She tells me that the consensus is that Anastasio was chosen to sell tickets.

      If I’m not mistaken, the first communication from the band to the people who responded to the “Deadheads, where are you?” notice on the back of one of their early albums, said that they weren’t going to sell t-shirts and merchandise like other bands.

  • avatar
    shadow mozes

    Cool Story

  • avatar

    By sheer coincidence, I was in San Fran when Jerry Garcia died. Here’s a reminiscence from that trip (pun intended)

    http://motorlegends.com/artcars8.htm

    I missed Crabspirits’ story the first time. Great story! And fascinating to hear the real story

  • avatar
    Truckducken

    Crabspirits wins again!

  • avatar
    Crabspirits

    This answered none of my questions.

  • avatar
    Johnster

    Well, no, it really doesn’t answer any of my questions either. But it is beautifully written.

    The story reminds me of part of a bizarre old movie that was on TV a couple of weeks ago. It was called “Wise Blood” and was based on a novel written by Flannery O’Connor.

    Toward the end of the movie, the main character, Motes, is pulled over while trying to leave the town of Taulkinham “by a strange policeman with unnaturally blue eyes, who claims to be citing him for driving without a license.” In the movie Motes is driving a old beat-up ’58 Ford Fairlane 500 4-door sedan.

    The cop “orders Motes to drive to a nearby cliff, orders him out of the car, then, remarking that someone without a license doesn’t need a car, pushes it off the cliff, destroying it.”

    (Quotes taken from wikipedia.)


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