Beetle is unique, practical and reliable
Kikere, a Luganda word for frog, is what Volkswagen Beetle are known locally. And rightly so, because the car’s headlights are more like the eyes of a frog. And from the sides, its curvy shape resembles that of a frog.
Fred Seruwo’s Beetle which he has owned for five years is no different. A 1960 model, Seruwo remembers being chauffeured to school in the 62-year-old Beetle in the 1990s. After a while without using it, his father sold it. In 2016, when Seruwo was looking for a classic car to buy, he came across the VW Beetle whose ownership documents showed that it was the same Beetle his father owned, he did not hesitate to buy it .
“It had passed through several hands but not all of them had managed to maintain it. The owner was about to sell pieces of it as scrap, but I managed to convince him to sell it to me,” Seruwo recalls At the time, the Beetle still had its original license plate, UUM 415.
Running on a 1200 cc automatic petrol engine placed in the rear and the trunk in the front, the Seruwo Beetle has a maximum speed limit of 160 km/h. Seruwo says it can go up to 240 km/h as it overlaps its manufacturer’s mileage. And unlike modern car engines that use coolant during operation, Seruwo’s is air-cooled. That’s why it has air vents on the engine bay lid. The more and faster you drive it, the cooler it gets. It has four forward gears, and one reverse gear, to make it five.
Its fuel tank can hold up to 40 liters, while its dashboard is basic. It has a circular speedometer, in which the fuel gauge has been technologically housed. Unlike your car which displays numerous dashboard lights, many of which are difficult to interpret, the 1960 Beetle only has the battery charge and engine oil lights displayed on the dashboard. The co-pilot side has nothing but the glove box to store a few items.
Seruwo says his Beetle is rear-wheel drive, which generates its wheel pulling power from the rear wheels. For comfort, the Beetle seats four but carries up to five passengers.
Before starting his restoration journey, Seruwo says that everything on the Beetle was damaged. The floor panel was rusty and hollow as the tires were deflated. The car was just held by the metal rims.
For Emmanuel Ssemwanga, a Volkswagen enthusiast, restoring such cars requires the use of spare parts and materials from the same brand, not improvisation or beating of panels. It is something that costs time, effort and money.
“These cars were built to last a long time. When you land on one some components such as the seats may be long gone, but parts such as the engine are usually clogged with dirt which an experienced mechanic can remove to keep the car on. the road,” says Ssemwanga.
Because he is a mechanic, Seruwo restored most of the things on the car himself. The only item that cost him dearly was the body work which cost 4 million shillings. It was initially a fully covered car but during the restoration he converted it into a convertible to differentiate it from the others.
This involved making the roof electronic and adding a top cowl.
Apart from the body, the restoration of all other components cost 5 million shillings. Most parts were imported from the UK, Kenya and Nigeria.
“The restoration took me a year and a half. What I relayed is that restoration is a slow process. If you work under pressure, you will never do a good job. I can’t say I’ve finished the restoration because it’s still in progress,” says Seruwo.
There are not many things to maintain on the car, except for replacing the engine oil. Even then, this (oil replacement) can be done after more than three years because there is no oil leak point. If Seruwo has to do service, he sources spare parts from Kenya. However, replacement of brake fluid, engine oil, brake pads, fuel filters and headlight bulbs and a few other components costs an average of Shs 400,000 once every two to three years.