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Robert Kibbe
Robert is the owner and creator of The MuscleCar Place. His passion for muscle cars drove the creation of this site and the podcasts that go with it.
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25 Years Later, It’s The Comeback Karmann Ghia, Part 2

Posted by on August 31, 2011 with 1 Comments

In last week’s blog post I gave you the history on my little yellow VW. If you haven’t read it yet I’d suggest that you do so now before reading this post, but if not here’s the gist of it:

  • 4-year old boy meets 6-year old VW
  • Boy loves and befriends VW
  • VW gets rusty
  • Dad trades VW for a used Buick

This week I’ll tell you how the story ended, where the Karmann Ghia is today, and why that has something to do with the fact that TheMuscleCarPlace.com now exists.

Dad, me, baby Noelle (our youngest), and the Ghia.

When the story ended last I had just said my goodbye’s to the Ghia at a used car dealership and was following my dad’s new-to-us Buick home on my bike. It was the worst bike ride of my life and taught me that crying and bicycle riding are tough to do at the same time. That night I couldn’t get through any homework and spent most of my night crying in my room. There were a billion reasons for my sadness, but in the end the two big ones became obvious. First, my dad and I’s little “time together” machine was now gone and I loved spending time with my dad (as all kids do). Second, I was naive about the world, but I wasn’t stupid; I knew that a little rusty VW was destined for the junk yard sooner than later, and I was certain that it would be terrified there until time or the crusher killed it. My little car was going to die alone, wondering where I was.

The next morning I dressed for school, fumbled my way to the bus stop, and made sure to sit on the driver’s side of the bus. My school bus route drove directly past the dealership where the Ghia was and I was hoping to catch a glimpse of it. As the bus headed up Mt. Vernon Rd I glued myself to the window, and what I saw somehow sank my heart from low to lower. The Ghia was sitting front and center on the lot, the prized possession, and written in the windshield with shoe polish was the phrase “LOOK!”. It may have even had a stupid ribbon on it a well. Either way, it genuinely crushed me further, and every single one of my buddies treated me like friends that come to a funeral visitation, trying to offer support, but just a little bit thankful that the situation wasn’t on their plate.

Loaded up and ready to move home!

The school day was a blur. I think I may have gone to band class in the morning, and I don’t remember eating at lunch, but it could have been all blurred out by the event that occurred when I stepped off of the school bus later that day. You see, as low as I thought I was, and as sorry as I had been feeling for myself, it was all about to be completely reversed and would change the kind of man, husband, and dad I would become.  The school bus came to a stop at the corner of 34th and Bel Air Dr to drop me off and I stepped out, head still hung low. I started to walk, looked up to see where I was going, then saw that down the street, with it’s front wheels turned to the right, sitting in the same spot it always had in front of our house……..was a little yellow Ghia.

What I’ll describe next all happened in the process of about 30 seconds, but I can still remember every inch of it today. When I saw the car I took off in a dead run for it and actually beat the school bus to my house. While I was running I was studying the car to make sure that it really was mine, trying to come to grips with the facts of the situation and not trip and break my leg. In the back window I saw a U.S. Marines sticker, something that had been there when we bought it. Good. The rust looked like it was all in the right spots. More good. It didn’t have license plates, but it shouldn’t have anyway. It was all adding up, but I’d know for sure when I got there and could look inside of it. I made it to the passenger window, dropped my bag, and scavenged the interior with my eyes confirming that every rip in the seats, dash, and shifter boot was in the right place – and it was. This was my Ghia.

Noelle and Laura, prior to departure. An understanding wife is key when bringing home rusty cars.

Somewhere around that time I looked up to see the school bus finally rumbling by, and in the back a window went down. My buddies, believing I had duped them all into feeling sorry for me all day, saw the car – and were ticked. I can still remember Craig Zachmann yelling, “Robert, YOU’RE A LIAR!” at the top of his lungs. I didn’t yell anything back; I was too stunned. I also figured that I could fix the situation with Craig and my buddies later.

I gave the Ghia a little hug, picked up my bag, then headed inside to call my dad at work. I knew that he had somehow brought the car back to the house, and while I hoping that it was our car again I didn’t actually know it. I called his office number (which I still have memorized), he answered, then I told him what I had found. He said that he had thought about it all night, talked it over with my mom, and then decided to give the dealer a call and see if we could get it back. The dealer gave my dad the bad news that he already had an out-of-town buyer interested in the car who was coming down that day to see it, but asked about his reasoning to get it again. My dad explained the situation, and the dealer remembered me from the day before. It turns out that I went to the same school as his daughter as well, and he decided to do something no other dealer might ever consider; he canceled the out-of-town buyer appointment and gave my dad back the car for the same dollar amount that he had given on trade. When my dad came in to pick up the car he even helped him run it over to the house so it would be there for me when I got home. Who says that all used car dealers aren’t honest? (SIDE NOTE: As I recall that dealership didn’t last all that long. He may have been too nice of a guy to stay in business, but I definitely appreciate what he did for me.)

A little of my dad’s handywork. The wood is holding what’s left of the floor in. Believe it or not, in the past 25 years it really hasn’t gone much worse.

When I asked my dad how he and my mom had worked around all of the previous problems with keeping the car that were present the day before (no place to keep it, too much money to tie up in cars that don’t run, no way to restore it in the future, etc.) he just replied something I’ll never forget. His is exact words were, “Oh, maybe we’ll figure out a way to restore it one day.” This was a huge deal to me because for one of the few times in my life that I can remember my dad took action on a plan that had no details, no logic, made no financial sense, and had no first step. In other words, he was completely winging it, something that was contrary to his nature, and he was doing it for me. I couldn’t have been happier.

Fast forwarding to 2011, that now brings you up to speed of the Ghia’s story and history in our family, and just a couple of weeks ago I went to my home town of Cedar Rapids and pulled the Ghia out of storage (where it had been for the past 25 years) and towed it home. We never did get around to restoring it, as the Chevelle’s restoration went first, and life, music lessons, college, and retirement all took precedent. My dad was now ready to give it to me in the hopes that I would restore it some day, and today it’s sitting in a little storage garage a few miles from my house, awaiting it’s fate. I know that I’ll get it done, but I just don’t know when. I have 3 kids under the age of 5, a business to run, a mortgage to pay, and other dreams to pursue, so I guess you could say that I’m also winging it. My dad is now retired and I’m hoping that he’ll eventually move to Ames with us. Perhaps we really will finally get to restore it together and find out if I can still shift left handed.

The Ghia, in it’s new home, awaiting it’s turn for restoration. Looks happy, doesen’t it?

So now that I’ve given you all of the details, here are the lessons that I’ve learned from the experience, and why that has everything to do with the fact that there is TheMuscleCarPlace.com. First, I learned that sometimes even the most logical people will do dumb things for their kids, simply because they love them. Now that I have kids of my own I understand that clearly. I also learned that sometimes taking a shot at something that means a lot to you – even when you think it might not work out in the end – is still worth doing. That has absolutely everything to do with this business. I had no idea whether it would work or not when I started it, but I also knew that I couldn’t afford to not do it. I had to know if there was something else out there for me than that of a cubicle dwelling engineer. I had to know if that fun guy in college was still there. I had to take the shot. I left my “real” job at the end of 2010 as a result, and while this side of self employment hasn’t been as easy as I thought it would be it would be nearly impossible to go back.

I also learned that, like the Chevelle, it is possible that a 4-wheeled pal can be a rolling reminder of people that you love. Now obviously, you’re not reading this post at www.TheGhiaPlace.com as the Chevelle became the mascot of this business, but I built this entire business around the relationship that people have with their cars. The Ghia may actually have more to do with that feeling inside of me than the Chevelle did. I’ll never know for sure, but I could care less. I’m just glad it’s there.

Thanks, Dad.

-Robert Kibbe

TheMuscleCarPlace.com | Muscle Cars for Sale

Related posts:

  1. 25 Years Later, It’s The Comeback Karmann Ghia: Part 1
  2. Will this be the Mustang you regret not buying 40 years from now?
  3. 10 Years of Marriage, 3 Kids, and the Same Chevelle
Filed Under: Rob's Blog, Thoughts

  • http://www.bullseye-automotive-appraisal.com Don Mills

    I am currently working on a Porsche 912 Targa in very similar condition, as well as a VW Thing ( both are customer,s cars. You have to really love them to stick through until the end.
    Don Mills
    Also http://www.arc-and-anvil.com