This was the first car that I really customized. It was the harbinger of what would become the deafening silence of dust bunnies – those that would come to inhabit my dark and empty bank account.
To customize one’s ride is to know great joy, terrible desperation, and a yearning for something different and better. This is the true confession of a car addict.
The 1988 VW Fox was my first new car. At just under $10,000 including tax, it was one of the least expensive cars available. It was introduced in 1987, and was an experiment by VW to bring one of its “world cars” to the North American market. Unlike the rest of the VW lineup here in Canada at the time, the Fox (produced in Brazil) had its engine mounted longitudinally (front to back) although it was front-wheel drive, and originally offered a 4 speed transmission. It was available as a 2 or 4 door sedan, or unusual 2 door wagon. The build quality and design was (what some would consider) FAR below the rest of the VW lineup, and thus was cancelled after 6 years.
I had a metallic blue GL 4 door. Silver hubcaps, passenger-side mirror, tachometer, and….. REAR WINDOW DEFROSTER. Does anyone else remember a time when this did not come as standard equipment? Poor Fox was quite underpowered, but nonetheless entertaining. The shock absorbers were hilariously overwhelmed by sudden changes in speed, so I could have the car deliver a delicate performance called Dance of The Porpoise by getting on and off the throttle. It did make the car more alive, but in an unnatural way – much like a zombie, well past its best-before date.
And so started the customization. A leather steering wheel from a Golf GTI, a leather 4-speed shift knob from a Volvo, a remote trunk release switch, a pop-up sunroof, and a black leather bra. Please note that the bra was for the car, and was designed to protect the front from rock chips. Soon after I realized that dirt would accumulate between the bra and the hood, leaving lovely scratches in the paint. You really don’t see many cars equipped with such things anymore, perhaps from the sheer embarrassment of having to explain to one’s parents why their son purchased a black bra using their credit card.
This was also the first car that I got serious about combining high fidelity and high decibel audio in a mobile environment. I had an Alpine head unit, 20 band manual equalizer, custom panels holding dual 6” 2-way speakers in each front door, A-pillar tweeters, flush mount 3-way 6x9s in the rear deck, 2 extra amplifiers, and, of course, dual 6” Bazooka tubes in the trunk. Of course I painted mine white, just to add that personal touch. All of this is to say that people of all ages would get highly annoyed as I drove by attempting to emulate a moderate earthquake with copious bass, or entertain them with extremely high volume Disney soundtracks. Hey, I was still a geek after all.
And to top it off, I had a true Alpine alarm system, made famous by its unique chirp-chirp. I believed having such a device would elevate my social standing, allowing all girls within earshot to realize my potential as an outstanding boyfriend. On that count, it failed miserably. The blame for this must rest squarely with Alpine and its subsidiaries.
I also wired a switch under the dash, allowing me to set off the siren at will. Combining this feature with the flashing of my headlights at night led to the ability to pass cars at will, even in my underpowered Fox. I do not condone this action, nor suggest anyone emulate it, and I should remind you that the 25-year statute of limitations has passed.
A Fox bit my wallet and a car addict was born.
View From The North is written by Shawn T. Greek, located in the Great White North of Salmon Arm, BC. That’s in Canada, eh! “Silly” is my default setting.