17 November 2010

[VW] Sam And The Art Of VW Maintenance: Fine Literature

I reintroduced myself to VW repair books over the weekend.

But I didn't stop at Chilton or Clymers. Oh, no, not there.

There's a book that some may have heard of. It has a great title. It's called How To Keep Your Volkswagen Alive: A Manual Of Step-by-Step Procedures for The Compleat Idiot. The author is John Muir ... not the famous Scottish-American naturalist, but a fellow in who worked for Lockheed back in the 60s, dropped out, moved to Taos, New Mexico, and began a hippie-fied life as a long-haired VW mechanic.

It must be added that, at this point, I happen to like hippies. They're nice people.

Muir's book is written in a conversational, straight-plain talking style, filled with verbiage that comes right out of the 60s counter culture: there are references to Eastern mysticism (especially warmly humorous in the section where the author tells you how to go about buying a Volksie (which is what Muir pretty much calls VWs throughout the book)), and when money is mentioned, it's usually expressed with the word bread.

But it's clear that Muir was sloppy in love with VWs, as all us lucky vintage VW owners are, and cared about his ride (and yours). And you can use mechanics if you want, but this book is aimed toward making you savvy and literate enough with your Vee Wee that you can, if you had to, fix it yourself. It's imbued with the sense of making you aware of the system that moves you, so you can give to it ... so it can keep giving back to you.

The illustrations, by the late Peter Aschwanden, come straight from the 60s underground comix vibe. They look as though R. Crumb could have drawn them if he'd dug car parts and evoke a sense of time and place with the merest glance. Being so drawn, of course, they pick out just what you want to know in a friendly yet precise way. It all looks a lot less scary via Peter's illustrations, and while I'm nowhere near competent enough to rebuild a VW air-cooled, much less change the oil just yet, it all makes a bit more sense and I'm a lot less scared of that engine.

It really was a simpler time.

Sadly, John Muir is no longer with us either - he died young, of a brain tumor, at age 59 in 1977. But I'm glad he left us what he did.

I'll be looking to put this one on my shelf.

You can find it at the library or Amazon.com. You know how to do teh Google.

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