Thursday, May 25, 2000

BUG LVRS GO 4 vanity plates

Tristate VW drivers use their license to say something

By Mike Pulfer
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Constance Ault of Mount Washington drives a red Beetle with plates that read MY BUGEE.
(Steven M. Herppich photo)
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        Some drivers say the fun is gone. That getting to work is just more work, a frustrating experience in a mean world of weaving, braking and cursing. Others get cars that make them smile. Then they fork over $35 for license plates that make other people smile.

        If you seem to notice a lot of vanity plates on Volkswagen Beetles, it's not necessarily because you happened to be trying to distinguish the front of the car from the rear, which is sometimes a challenge.

        Bug-themed labels and cryptic messages at bumper level are swarming the Tristate. In Hamilton County alone, more than 400 vanity plates are registered to Volkswagen owners, according to the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles, Columbus.


        Not to mention BDBUG2 and BDBUG3.

        There's the BUGSTR, 10ISBUG, BUGCHIC, BUGPWR and BUGNOIR.

Pat Kordis of Kenwood bought BALD BUG for husband Bill.
(Steven M. Herppich photo)
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        It all seems to come naturally.

        “Beetles have a kind of personality to them, anyway,” said Kim Albers, owner of the NOIR car, a black Beetle she bought in April 1999. “Noir is black in French, plus it has that element of mystique, you know, like film noir.”

        Pat Kordis, of Kenwood, wanted license plates that said something about driver personality when she bought a red Beetle for her husband, Bill, in July.

        “I wanted to get STUDBUG, but he didn't feel he could live up to it,” she said. “All my girlfriends thought it would have been great.”

        In the end, “He is bald, so I got BALDBUG.”

        Before she died in 1993, Virginia Bowie used to thank her granddaughter for taking her to the doctor, and to the grocery, with a simple, chipper “Thanks for the buggy ride!”

        Today, the granddaughter, Constance Ault, of Mount Washington, drives a red Beetle with plates that read MYBUGEE.

        “We never had had a vanity plate before, but this bug just cried out for something special...something other than a plain old license plate,” she said.

        “It's really a fun car to drive. Every time you pass somebody in another bug, they honk and wave.”

        In conversations with drivers with vanity plates, fun was a term frequently used.

        John Essex, of Winton Place, said, “I get a lot of reaction from the ladies” to his plates, HIUDO, a curious translation of “How are you doing?”

        “People don't speak a lot anymore,” he said. The vanity plates have him “looking in the rear-view mirror and smiling and waving all the time.”

        Many Beetle owners appreciated the return of the model two years ago and remembered their earlier experiences with “bugs.”

        “It's a real retro thing,” said Janet Windsor, of Springfield Township, who drives a 2000 silver Beetle registered as 22AGAIN.

        “I went through about five ideas (already taken by other car owners) before I found one that was available,” she said. “FLASHBACK, RECYCLED, DEJAVU, 19AGAIN, 20AGAIN, and 21AGAIN.

        “When I bought the car, I decided I had to have a vanity plate, and I told my sister in San Francisco,” she said.

        “You mean it's the law?” the sister asked. “If it's a Beetle, you have to have a vanity plate?”

        Well, no. You don't.

        “This is the first time I ever had a car that totally caught my fancy and makes me happy to drive every day,” she said. “Now I understand what 16-year-old boys feel like.”

        Bob and Barbara Blum, of Mariemont, who seem to think a lot like Mrs. Windsor, managed to walk out of the BMV with DEJAHVU for their 1998 Beetle, in white.

        “Ours was one of the first in the city,” Mrs. Blum said. “We were thinking, "Well, people have seen this before.' We had to spell it wrong, but that's OK.”

        Another version of the same idea — DEJAVUU — is on another Hamilton County Beetle.

        The Blums, who have used their name in vanity license plates for about 18 years, agreed they're a natural for Beetles.

        “It's gotten to the point that we kind of sneer if we see one without a vanity plate,” Mrs. Blum said. “If you're going to have a Beetle, you should at least have a vanity plate.”

        Jamie Hald, spokeswoman for the BMV, said the demand for vanity plates surged dramatically among Volkswagen owners when the new Beetle was introduced.

        “We had lots of request for words and messages related to beetle or bug,” she said. “With anything new, there's always a surge. We saw it with the Ford Explorer (sport utility vehicle). We see it when new Disney movies come out. We even saw it with Viagra (potency drug).”

        While many of the specialty plates relate to the car they're attached to (VWROCKS, IBBUGN, BADBTL, BETLJCE and BETLJUS), many local Volkswagen owners keyed in on their names, professions and interests (PEZGIRL, BANANA1, ARTFROG, DABLUES, RTWOD2).

        Linda Smith, a sheep-memorabilia collector from Bridgetown, says her new white Beetle represents yet another sheep.

        It's name: LAMCHOP.


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