Aircooled VW Baja

Emily Macdonald

Step 1: Raise the beetle and remove the wheels.

For a modest man, you like a car that attracts attention. Oily blackness lies under your nails, dots, and spots your face, inking your skin. You show me your manual. Ten easy steps.

“Sweet as”. You flick your fingers then slide, skating away on your trolley so only your lower legs protrude from under the car.

Step 2: Remove the engine cover and the rear bumper.

A car that says surfer, off-roader, mechanic, Mad Max.

Step 3: Take off the running boards and the rear fenders.

That says dunes and Sex Wax, sand tracks through marram grass.

Step 4: Undo the throttle cable and remove wires.

Riptides and swell, the resin of pine trees from Muriwai Woodhill spit-sticking on the off-shore wind.

Step 5: Cut off the rear apron.

Escape the apron strings, you say as if that’s supposed to be funny. Exposed and essential. Emissions as raw as roll bars. Essential roll bars — so it turns out.

Step 6: Take out the engine from the engine bay.

Remove everything surplus, take out the back seat and floor mats. Remove the muffler.

Make some noise. Let that engine reverberate. Practice brace and acceleration in an empty downtown car park, just to hear that sound. Ricocheting off concrete, echoing deep into underground recesses.

Step 7: Mark out and cut the fenders to shape.

Flared for fats. Clearance to slide on tight corners. You’re in a tight corner boyfriend, ten easy steps—I repeat back what you said.

Step 8: Remove the welds

Customised for driving from Kawhia to Raglan, airborne over hot black iron sands.

Step 9: Reinstall and reconnect the Baja Bug engine.

Air cool. Cool as wrap ‘round, black shades, you dude.

Step 10: Put the fat wheels back on the BugBlonde.

Suspension of summer, with a slab of cold beer. Suspended upside down on slip-sliding sand. Wind switches and surf booms and thunders. Exhausted hot pipes burn me, searing a deep-reminding scar.


Emily Macdonald was born in the UK but emigrated with her family to New Zealand as a child. She grew up in Auckland and studied English at Auckland University. After completing her degree, she did a one-year postgraduate course in creative writing with Albert Wendt. She started working and learning about wine as a student and has worked in the wine trade ever since. She began pursuing her interest in creative writing again at the beginning of 2020. Emily left New Zealand in 1990 to travel and now lives in south London with her partner and their two teenage children.