June 5, 2016

Sue’s Volkswagen New Beetle(s) Story

Sue is an avid Volkswagen New Beetle Lover! She has owned 7 New Beetles (so far!) one of which she credits with saving her life!

Enjoy her ‘New Beetle’ Story!


Sue’s New Beetles

It all starting on April Fool’s Day in 2001. I was in Las Vegas sitting at a Poker table. The dealer dealt everyone five cards, and as I opened my stack, I noticed they were all Diamonds…Yippee! A Flush! But as I started putting them in order, 9, 10, Jack, Queen, King…Straight Flush! I walked away with $13,000, but as exciting as it was to win that much money, all I could think of was that I could finally buy that new car I wanted so badly.

The minute I got back home, I headed straight for the local VW dealer and drove away with my first New Beetle…An Isotope Green, Limited Edition Turbo. I fell in love with that car immediately. It was cute and fast, but the best part? Every time I drove down the street, people smiled and waved!

One day, I walked out of the grocery store and found a flyer stuck in my windshield. As I was about to throw it away, the words caught my eye, ‘Join the Southern California New Beetle Club!’. I looked closer and saw that they had an event scheduled that very next weekend. I couldn’t wait to go and meet other new beetle owners and find out what this club was all about!

The morning of the event, my (now ex) husband and I drove to Santa Barbara, CA. As we drove around the corner to the donut shop where we were to meet, there were about 25 shiny New Beetles, all different colors, some were painted with flames, and many seemed to have a theme, like a lady named Marcia whose license plate said ‘Kermit’ and her beetle was filled with frogs! The most amazing thing though, was that the people driving the cars were so nice and a lot of fun! Little did I know at the time, but the people in the New Beetle Club were to become my lifelong friends.

We spent the day cruising all around Santa Barbara, along the ocean, and through neighborhoods…we would drive by kids who were all punching each other, playing ‘Slug Bug’, or ‘Punch Buggy’, and everyone who saw the long line of New Beetles smiled and waved…it was a blast! All of the people in the group absolutely loved their cars and were the nicest, happiest people we had ever met. We also soon realized that we had to name our car and come up with a theme. Since we had two cats, we named ours ‘KrazyKat’, and ordered our personalized plates as soon as we returned home.

While we were driving around in the long line of Beetles, everyone had walkie talkies so we could communicate with each other while we were in our caravan. As the day progressed, the word ‘caraVAN’ just didn’t seem right, so we came up with the name, caraBUG, which soon became the new name of our events. My husband was a musician/songwriter, and within a few days, we had written a new song called ‘Carabuggin’. We recorded it, designed the CD covers, and surprised the club with its very own song!

It didn’t take long for us to be addicted to our weekends ‘carabuggin’ with our new friends. Everyone talked about the big New Beetle event in Roswell, New Mexico. New Beetle owners from all over the United States, including Canada, planned their trek to Roswell for a car show, road rally, and other fun excursions. So in June of that year, off we went on our first, long trek to Roswell!

We started in southern California, through Arizona and New Mexico, meeting up with other New Beetles along the way. By the time we hit Albuquerque, we had about one hundred New Beetles cruising into Roswell…What a sight!

The car show was amazing! There were over three hundred New Beetles, many customized, all kinds of flames, colors, and even a Herbie look alike! I won a trophy, met many New Beetle enthusiasts, and sold ‘Carabuggin’ CDs. There was a New Beetle ‘Glow’ parade at night, where we strung lights on our bugs, then had an Alien costume party. We were amazed how crazy people were about their Beetles…they all had names and themes, and were the center of their families! Over the next few years, I took over managing the club’s website, and helping schedule events.

When we heard that the convertibles would be coming out soon, even though we and had to haul PA and music equipment on weekends, I was determined to buy a convertible as soon as they hit the showroom floors. Every dealer got only one in December of 2002. We drove all over southern California looking at the different colors, until we drove to a dealership in Covina, CA and fell madly in love with the Harvest Moon with tan interior and a black top…she was gorgeous! I was determined to keep ‘Krazykat’, but we didn’t know if the music equipment would fit, so we went home and figured out how to pack it…it worked! There was so much room in the hatch back, that we went back and traded in the PT Cruiser for our second new baby, named ‘CremeBriolet’.

One of the founding members of our club, Randy Carlson, had a VW shop and customized Volkswagens. Because we bought one of the very first New Beetle convertibles sold in California, he begged us to let him customize her. And so it began…

We started with beautiful 18 inch chrome wheels, lowered, and an aftermarket exhaust. Then we took it to a local car paint shop and they shaved the door handles and later painted some beautiful flames. We took it to car shows all over California, Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico. It was in magazines and won many trophies. Everywhere we went people surrounded the car, took photos, and wanted to know all about it. I think I probably talked a few thousand people into buying one! Not only that, but she inspired us to write another song, ‘Exhilarate’, which was featured on a CD and Volkswagen of America did a story about us in VW magazine!

At that time, the SoCal New Beetle Club was going strong. We recruited many new members and several of the SoCal VW dealerships supported us, hosting our Carabug events on the weekends. In 2004, Frank Perricone, one of our first club members, partnered with Timmons Volkswagen of Long Beach and founded ‘Toy Jam’, our annual charity event sponsoring the Miller Children’s Hospital in Long Beach, CA. Every year in October, we fill our New Beetles with Toys and supplies for the kids in the hospital and ‘carabug’ from Timmons VW to the hospital where the kids and their families come out and see the New Beetles. We fill gurneys with the toys and get to interact with the kids who are about to come outside. It is a day filled with many tears, but our hearts are full when we see the smiles on their faces.

Then, on February 6, 2006, my world came to a screeching halt… a few months earlier, my marriage ended. I had spent the previous thirteen years managing my husband’s music career after giving up my teaching career. I was going through a difficult divorce, depressed and feeling very alone. My now ex-husband took Krazykat and I kept CremeBriolet.

One afternoon, I had gone to the grocery store and was headed home to drop off the groceries. I stopped at a red light and was in the left turn lane. The light turned green and I stepped on the gas…then everything went black.  I had been hit in the driver’s side door by a Ford F250 truck who had ran the red light going about 50 mph.

I have dim flashes of memories of the intense pain, firemen pulling me out with the Jaws of Life, on the gurney and driving to the emergency room.  Luckily CremeBriolet was a well-known car in the community, and someone recognized it and called my friend who was there when they pulled me out of the mangled New Beetle that I loved so dearly. I had a broken femur, broken arm, and my jaw was broken in two places. On top of all that, I had incurred a traumatic brain injury.

CremeBriolet saved my life. I later met the firemen who were on the scene that day. They all told me that I should not have survived that accident and that they couldn’t believe that a New Beetle convertible saved me!

I was released from the hospital after three weeks filled with surgeries and physical therapy, a titanium rod through my leg, plates in my arm and jaw, in a wheelchair with my jaw wired shut. My first stop was to see what was left of CremeBriolet.

She was sitting in a cold, quiet, junk yard.  The driver side door was off and on the ground, and was bent at almost a 90 degree angle. The airbags were out and the roll bars ejected in the back seat. The front wheel was bent and she was sitting at a slight angle. It was a very sad, tearful day, staring at the car that I had loved so much and had given me so much joy. I took a few pieces of memories off the car, including the license plate, took a few photos, and hobbled away, holding onto my cane, knowing I would never get to drive or see CremeBriolet ever again. It was like burying my best friend who had been there for me through all the tough times, and who made me smile every time we went for a joy ride.

Over the next few weeks, I knew I had to get another New Beetle as soon as I was able to drive, so I went to Timmons Volkswagen of Long Beach and picked out my third New Beetle, a 2006 Salsa Red convertible. Before I even drove ‘Uncorked’ home, a sound company asked if they could sponsor a sound system customization, as they knew how much exposure Cremebriolet got with the car shows and the SoCal New Beetle Club.

They were going to have it for a few weeks, and it didn’t take long for me to get very tired of driving a rental car!  One day I was searching on Ebay and there on the screen, I saw the next love of my life, a 1998 black, flamed New Beetle. When I drove up to meet my fourth new beetle, the original owners, who I bought it from, told me that it was one of the very first four New Beetles that Volkswagen customized and put on the showroom floors when they were introduced in 1998. On top of that, it had a matching model car that was painted with exact flames and paint colors. I was so excited! It was lowered, with an after-market exhaust and stereo, and a manual transmission. Little did I know that driving with a clutch was actually great physical therapy as I was recovering from the accident!

I had planned to drive it while Uncorked was being customized, then sell it to a friend, but it didn’t take me long to realize that I would not be able to give it up! I got Uncorked back and it was quite a sight to behold…they had removed the backseat and put in speakers and subwoofers, DVD screens in the dash and the side doors, and speakers in the trunk. I was back to enjoying the car show scene and had a lot of fun trying to choose which bug to drive each day!

Over the next year, as much fun as Uncorked was, when the new, 2007 Triple White convertibles came out, once again I fell in love! What an absolutely gorgeous car! I would never give up my 1998 ‘Too Hot’, so I traded in Uncorked for what I called ‘My Happy Pill’, but the license plate read ‘White Hot’.

The day after I bought her, I drove to Long Beach, CA to show her off to my friends, Frank and Brian. We were meeting in Belmont Shore, a tiny beach-town with quaint shops and lunch spots. I pulled into a parallel parking space behind a Porsche that was parked right behind the crosswalk. I left the top down, got out of the car, walked by the Porsche and crossed the street.

I had just stepped up the curb onto the sidewalk to meet my friends when we heard the initial sound of metal on metal…

A car had come screeching down the street, side-swiping the cars parallel parked on the street, including my brand new, beautiful convertible. The run-away car crashed into the Porsche, then hit a Mini-Cooper and a van, and ended up upside-down in the crosswalk I had just crossed over. We all stood in silence, not quite believing what had just happened. My eyes looked across the street at my dented and scraped up Triple White New Beetle that I had only owned for less than 36 hours…

Sadly, we were off to rough start, but we were soon back on the road again. Once again, it was a lot of fun to get up every day and try to decide which New Beetle I was going to drive!

I chose my fun, custom-flamed ’98 when I wanted to hug the road, hear the roar of the engine, and drive the manual ‘stick’ shift transmission, especially in the hills and curvy roads of the country. When I was headed to the beach, or a beautiful evening summer drive, it was always my ‘convertible therapy’.

Then one day…tragedy struck again, this time it involved both of my beloved New Beetles…

I was driving home from a trip to Las Vegas late at night on desolate road in the high desert. It was dark and quiet, and it felt like I was the only car on the road. I was only about forty minutes from home, going about 60mph, when…boom! I had hit something in the road that seemed to be stuck under the car! I held on tight to the steering wheel, while skidding down the road, then jumping off the pavement, and finally coming to a screeching halt…

To make a long story very short, I had hit a large, heavy wheel from a boat trailer that was in the middle of the dark road.  Once again, one of my New Beetles had saved my life. I hit the wheel dead center of the front of the car, and then it slipped down the under-carriage until it hit the back wheels. The weight of the car, along with the easy and smooth handling, my tough Beetle held steadfast through the ordeal and thankfully, kept me safe.

The next morning, still shaken from the events of the night, I received a phone call. It was my business partner who had my other Beetle at her home while I was in Las Vegas. She told me she had some very bad news.

Her nephew was driving my beetle to my office since my convertible was in the shop after the accident. On his way, he smelled smoke and pulled into the closest parking lot. When he got out of the car, he noticed flames coming up from under the hood.

The fire department was right down the street and arrived in time to put out the fire from the engine. It was later determined that it was caused by a connection related to the after-market stereo that had been installed before I bought it.

Tears still come to my eyes when I think about seeing my baby in that parking lot, the hood opened and the engine charred. I loved that car so much, and to have lost it, and my convertible, within about eight-hours’ time, was more than I could handle. It was a very sad day…I still miss that car. I heard that someone restored it and it’s on the road again. I have tried to find it, but to no avail. I’m sure the next owner loves it as much as I did, and I hope it is giving him, or her, the same joy.

As much as I loved all of my bugs, the one I own today, KSyrah, has been one of my favorites. I traded White Hot in for my current, gorgeous 2009 Blush edition. The red leather seats and red convertible top gets a lot of ‘ooohs and ‘ahhhs’! KSyrah still looks brand new and she has been a true joy to drive through the past 7 years. We’ve been on many road trips up and down the coast, and I’ve loved this car all 135,000 miles that I’ve been in her seat.

UPDATE! October 2017…KSyrah moved on to her next owner, and I’ve adopted my new, 2017 Metallic Fuchsia #PinkBeetle! License Plate INSPYRU. I am planning a nation-wide speaking tour, inspiring and impacting small businesses owners and entrepreneurs all across the United States by telling my story of how the day my Volkswagen New Beetle saved my life was the day that changed my life forever.

I have owned my own businesses since I was twenty-two years old. My last business, an educational learning center, was an eighteen year project that allowed me to teach thousands of students and create many jobs. I know, first hand, how difficult it is to start and grow a small business. Entrepreneurs are the key to our country’s economy and they need all the support they can get, especially the small, brick and mortar businesses in our communities.


Sue Brooke