Beetle Love – Manhattan Transfer
Donald Morisette is a teacher at the Thomas Edison High School in New York. His students are often amazed to find a Beetle parked in their classroom from time to time.
“Gordy” lives in central Manhattan. His rent costs his owner about as much as a 70-square-metre apartment in one of the better parts of, say, Berlin. However, Donald Morisette doesn’t care. The 37-year-old teacher at Thomas Edison High School in the New York district of Queens thinks that the six square metres in the multi-storey car park are just right for his Beetle, lovingly named Gordy. “He is well-guarded there and perfectly protected from the unpredictable weather here on the east coast of the USA,” Morisette says.
Donald was only twelve years old when he fell for the Beetle. On his way to school, Donald and his mother had often driven past the weather-beaten little car from Wolfsburg which stood, forgotten about, in the front garden of a small house. “Sitting in the back of our car, I always noticed the curved silhouette out of the corner of my eye. At some point, I made sure that we always went past there on my way home from school and from then on, I set my sights on it,” the teacher enthusiastically recalls his own schooldays. “One day, I begged my mother to stop and asked around who owned the Beetle.”
Beetle Love from a young age
What followed were months and months of mowing other people’s lawns. Donald had to earn the money for the Beetle himself, so for the time being, he just had first option on the Volkswagen. When he had finally saved up the total amount, they collected the Beetle and Donald and his father – who was just as much of a VW fan as he was – began to restore the vehicle from scratch at home. Whilst other boys went to baseball training, Donald spent his time fixing this curved vehicle his life now centred on.
Like in any emotional relationship, there were also low points which had to be overcome together. For example the time when Gordy was hit on the left-hand side by another car as it turned into a road on what was supposed to be Donald’s last trip of the year before Gordy went into hibernation for the winter. The wings were seriously damaged and the frame was bent. Donald himself got off lightly. “I’ll never forget that moment. We lived on an idyllic estate in New York with very little traffic. It happened in the last bend before the garage. Gordy was basically a total write-off, but my father, a few of his good VW friends and me got him fixed in the end, and he’s till here today,” Morisette says happily and leans against the open door of the friendly little Volkswagen.
Beetle Love at High School
“When I started to teach at this high school and a small lab was made available to us, the Beetle soon became the star of the school,” Donald says. Everyone was used to Cadillacs and Mustangs, so the appealing little car from Wolfsburg attracted attention straight away. The students at Thomas Edison High School come from very diverse ethnic backgrounds Maybe another reason why they welcomed the little German car with open arms. Unity makes you strong. That is the school credo. “Despite the fact that Donald Trump grew up only five minutes away from here,” adds Morisette with a wink.
One of Morisette’s Afro-American students, Aaron, is particularly interested in the Beetle. “Today, I am teaching them about the brakes and the suspension,” explains Morisette. “The Beetle’s technology is extremely simple, most of it is still easy to get to. Compare this to the Mustang over here,” says Donald as a few interested students walk into the high school lab. “When did Volkswagen actually stop building Beetles with rear-mounted engines? It’s a real shame they did,” says Aaron.
Granted, Donald’s Beetle is not always serviced by qualified professionals, but certainly with plenty of passion. “My students like to hone their skills on him, and Gordy patiently lets them get on with it,” says Morisette, smiling as he gently pats Gordy’s right wing.
Gordy doesn’t really look like he’s been through the wars. The two of them have actually received an invitation to the Charity Concours d’Elegance. Word about Morisette’s mechanical know-how even got out on the streets of Uganda. “On an adventure trip with my wife Amy, I repaired our vehicle a few times. At some point, I also fixed the broken down car of a local. The country has so many hidden treasures to offer, including many Beetles,” Morisette says enthusiastically as he locks the doors to his high school lab and starts his journey back to Manhattan.
“The traffic in New York is sometimes absolutely diabolical. Constant stop and go. Gordy minds it less than I do.” Tailgating these two through the traffic, several other huge American cars may well just squeeze their way in. However, the curved roof is easy to spot, even if you can’t actually hear the growl of the boxer. Crossing the Brooklyn Bridge, the duo drives in zigzag lines, swerving to avoid the deep potholes in the dilapidated highway. The Hudson River flows calmly below them as they gradually leave the Big Apple’s famous skyline behind. In front of them, hopefully many more wonderful and exciting road trips together.
“Manhattan Transfer” was published in the book Beetle Love by Thorsten Elbrigmann at Delius Klasing. Numerous other exciting, varied and not least emotional stories from all over the world can be found in this picture and story book for every Beetle fan to read, laugh and dream about.
1. Edition 2018
Price 49,90 €
Beetle Love is available at your local bookshop or directly from Delius Klasing.
Text Bastian Fuhrmann Photos Theodor Barth
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