‘Inheriting my grandfather’s 1973 VW Beetle unlocked family memories’

But when, in 2015, I eventually passed my test, it didn’t make sense for me to assume ownership of it. I couldn’t afford any amount of insurance and upkeep and I would be living in London. Also, being 22, I probably would have crashed it.

My parents, unwilling to get rid of it, occasionally took it for a spin round the shops. With my dad in the passenger seat, I began to do the same when I was visiting. The first time must have been a couple of years ago. 

Having perused the yellowing manual, I wrenched the car into reverse gear – everything is a bit more percussive in old cars – and rolled out of the garage. Beetles of this vintage are air-cooled, which means they generate a roar quite unlike the purr of modern cars. 

They require more welly in the steering, I found, as well as in gear changes, and in the hands of a novice they’re prone to stalling. We drove for about half an hour, taking the car on to an A road and getting close to the Führer-approved top speed of 62mph. 

At that speed – which entails using the Beetle’s very top gear, fourth – the car seemed to become uncomfortable, with the engine’s grimy scent becoming even stronger than usual in the cabin.

At slightly lower speeds, however, the car thrived. At first, I was tensely concentrating on the driving, but as I relaxed I noticed that it had the enjoyable effect of charming passing pedestrians. Many of them gave it the same indulgent smile that one might see bestowed on a particularly angelic baby.

Still I refused to countenance taking it to London. The expense, the risk, the impracticality – all these prevented me from even considering it. When I went to my parents’ house over Christmas, none of those conditions had changed, but for the first time I felt an urge to take the car home. 

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