Volkswagen has been in family for 3 decades

Super Beetle convertible is ‘1DERFUL’

Staff writer

You could say their marriage began in a Beetle. When Brad and Jeannie Wildin married, they drove away from the church in Brad’s 1971 Beetle.

“My father drove a VW bus for work in the 60s and it was where I first learned how to drive,” Brad said. “So in 1973 I found the 71 and got it. I enjoyed it, it was the best vehicle I’ve ever had in the snow.”

Today the couple has another love bug, a 1975 lemon yellow Super Beetle convertible, but the story of how they got it is anything but ordinary.

Brad’s father, Bill Wildin, bought the convertible in 1981. He was the second owner. Wildin bought it to drive around New York City.

“He lived in Connecticut and used the train to commute to and from work, but while in the city he used the car to drive around the city,” Brad said.

The car spent most of that time parked on top of a high-rise building where Bill Wildin worked.

“That’s where you used to have to park cars there,” Jeannie said. “You would drive into an elevator and it would lift you up to the top. That’s the first place we saw the car.”

Bill Wildin also bought the car for a second reason. During that time he was thinking of buying an island near Tahiti, he thought the convertible would be a perfect island car.

“He asked us if we would come down and manage the island, but with three kids in school that was not going to happen,” Jeannie said. “He ended up not going through with the deal.”

After Bill Wildin retired in 1990, the bug became a hobby. He worked to fully restore the Beetle including touching up the paint, re-doing the seats, and keeping up with the car’s unique issues.

“When we visited I asked what he was going to do with the bug, because I had always liked it,” Brad said. “He said, ‘Sell it,’ I asked, ‘For how much?’

After being told a price of $13,000 Bill quickly countered with his price.

“I said, ‘I’ll give you what it’s worth in Kansas, $1,000. He of course said no, but never sold it,” Brad said. “Someone offered him $11,000 for it, but he turned that down too.”

When Bill Wildin died in 2009 the fate of the convertible was in question.

“I asked Prawphan, Bill’s wife, what she was going to do with the bug, and told her the story about how I had offered him $1,000 for it, and how someone had offered $11,000 for it and he turned it down,” Brad said. “A week later she called and asked me when I was going to come get it.”

After settling on a price, Brad and Jeannie bought the convertible, and it was shipped to Marion in 2010.

When picking up the car, the Wildens took a couple of their grandchildren.

“My 5-year-old granddaughter, when she saw the car said, ‘Grandma, I love this car that’s topless!,” Jeannie said.

The convertible now lives a life of pampering. Bill and Jeannie keep it housed in their garage on wheeled “skates” so it can be moved around to make room for other vehicles.

The Wildins say they enjoy the convertible for just what the tag says, “1DERFUL.” The customized tag is an ode to Bill Wildin, who told his grandchildren to call him “Grandpa Wonderful.”

The Wildins can often be spotted cruising the lake road, or giving the grand kids and their friends a ride, listening to the only station the radio picks up, an AM oldies station.

“They love to go vrooming in it,” Brad said. “We call it bugging. One granddaughter asked if we were going to leave it to her.”

They have taken the bug to Wamego, but mostly stay locally.

“We tried to drive it across the Rocky Mountains, but we found out quick it didn’t like the mountain air,” Brad said “We finally just turned around and went back.”

Brad’s father had a similar experience as he tried to drive the convertible from Connecticut to Kansas with his dog.

“They got about 100 miles from home and into the mountains and it died so it had to be shipped back,” Brad said.

The convertible has also been showcased in parades for Old Settlers’ Day.

“It’s really been a hoot,” Jeannie said. “It’s so fun to drive and the grand kids love it.”

 

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