Had brunch with Graham and June Horner on Sunday, then met their son Mark and his partner, Duke.
Graham Horner was Bridget’s builder (really, the original builder) in 1982. I got his name and address from the original invoice to the kit from BCW, found he and June (married since 1952) still live in the Sykesville home they owned when Graham built Bridget. I called them a few months ago to see what I might learn from him.
Before I reveal that, I need to say this: Graham and June are a lovely couple, what I hope Karen and I could be one day. He dropped out or high school because he had a job. She dropped out to marry him at 16, and got her GED later. He ended up working for 30 or 40 years at the David Taylor Naval Model Basin, a huge hydrodynamic testbed near Bethesda, as a machinist. He commuted in a series of big Plymouths before switching to a 1966 Beetle. The engine from that car now resides in Bridget.
Including Bridget’s original British Coach Work nose badge.
I’d been looking for one of those. I thought I’d put it on the dashboard. On second thought, maybe on the steering wheel or the back of the glovebox, next to the Gentleman’s Emergency Kit.
There is also an amazing video slide show Graham made depicting all the cars he’s ever owned. It’s an amazing family history, told through the automobiles, and Bridget hiolds a prominent place. I’m going to try to extract some of the photos from that and republish them here later.
June and Graham have three children, all basically doctors (there is a Ph.D. chemist, a psychiatrist in Boston and Mark, a dentist with an office in Reisterstown.
Mark’s coming out as gay in the mid-1980s changed June’s life completely. Long story short, June Horner founded the Carroll County chapter of PFLAG, and has been a gay rights activist for more than 35 years. Last year she was the Grand Marshall of the Baltimore Gay Pride Parade.
Carroll County is a pretty conservative, Christian kind of place. June’s choice all those years ago was courageous. Graham came right along, and Bridget–back when she was green–took part as well.
Deep down I guess I always knew my car was gay. Or, at least, broad-minded and inclusive. The new plan is to reprise that parade appearance this year. So sorry I did not contact the Horners last year, so she could have used Bridget in her turn as Grand Marshall.
We brunched at the Oregon Grill in Cockeysville and heard the story. Graham rebuilt the ‘66 Bug in the late 1970s (he says it had about 150,000 miles on it then), and then got hit by a GTO. He turned the Beetle into a cool wood-sided pickup truck and drove on.
Then a couple drunk dudes smashed their truck into the Horner’s garage. One guy died.
The Bug/truck was totaled. The engine was still good.
So he got a ‘69 pan and a BCW kit for the body. “It looked the best out of all the kits,” Graham says. He sandblasted the pan and then fiberglassed it on both sides, stem to stern. He says he made a custom aluminum exhaust. He did a special job with the heat, channeling it through the center tunnel. And Graham says he never cut and welded the axle beam. “I didn’t have a welder then,” he says. “I took out all the torsion springs, sanded the rust off them, cleaned them up, greased them and reassembled.”
Weird. I wonder who cut and turned the beam I took off her.
Here is Graham and Mark driving her in the early days.
Graham says he put about 30,000 on the car and circa 1989–he’s not sure of the year–he sold Bridget. (Here there is a discussion between Graham and June as to why. Graham says it was because June did not like the garage–and then the house–smelling like gas). A few months after the sale he found her in an antique shop with a new owner. “I recognized her by the fiberglassed pan, and the aluminum muffler,” he says. (This would apparently the Polaroid photo of Bridget, red bow and everything, in an indoor setting).
Then he lost track of her.
Since Norman D. Erhardt got her in 1997, there would seem to be a substantial gap in Bridget’s history during which she was flipped a few times, but perhaps not registered (or maybe she sat out most of the ClintonAdministration in that antique and curio shop). Graham says he did not drive a hard bargain when he sold her, preferring to see her go to a good home.
He and June both said they were thrilled to hear from me and learn their old car is still on the road, bringing smiles.
I gave Graham the key for the ride to Mark and Duke’s house, which is only a few miles from the restaurant. Graham was a bit tentative with the shifter–having not driven Bridget for more than 30 years. “She was tighter when I built her,” he said. I have no doubt about that. Just look how snug and straight the doors are in the old pics.
Mark was a gracious host and Duke regaled Karen with garden stories. Their home is a show place, filled with art, model trains and fine furniture; spotless.
Mark took a picture of his parents in front of their old car, which could not look much different from how it did when they last saw it.
And then on Rt. 7, about 5 miles from our house, Bridget’s horn blew all of its own accord.
I pulled over and disconnected the wires. Rewired it the next morning correctly (I had previously set her up so the horn only worked with the key on). She blew again later while sitting in the driveway on Monday, prompting a trip to the AutoZone for a new relay.
“What’s the make and model,” the parts guy asked.
I told him ‘69 VW. But then I wished I’d brought the original British Coach Works nose emblem–and insisted on original equipment.