In 1958, then soldier Sherwin Tames was stationed in Germany when he found himself trying desperately to make conversation with a cute fraulein who spoke no English.
As they turned a corner in Frankfurt, he found the common language he was looking for: a black Beetle convertible in a Volkswagon dealership's showroom.
Tames, who lived in a city several hours away, bought the car for $800 soon afterward and used to it to travel to see his sweetheart and tour Europe. When his tour of duty ended, he had to leave the car -- and the girl -- behind.
More than 40 years later, Tames got an e-mail from that girl asking if he was the American she had helped buy the VW Beetle.
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Sherwin and Inge are now marriedand livein Sun City.
"I only had to wait two months for the car and 42 years for the girl," Tames said.
The Tames' story of long-distance love that began with the iconic car has surfaced because of the " I loved that Volkswagon" contest which counts down to the opening of the New River Auto Mall on Sept. 30. More than 100 people have submitted stories of their VW Beetles and buses. What surprises organizers most is that most of the participants don't seem to be entering for the weekly or grand prizes.
"These people just love their cars and love talking about them," said marketing manager Jill Jauch.
Many of the submissions, which come from Beaufort, Jasper and Hampton counties and the greater Savannah area, recall cross-country road trips, family excursions and cars passed down generation to generation.
Some owners even seem to fondly remember stalling out on hills or breaking down during storms.
Bluffton resident Gary Maurer was recently featured on radio station 107.9 The Coast for his submission of pushing a floating Beetle in chest-deep water through an underpass in 1971.
Cappy Carig of Hilton Head Island recounted a traumatizing experience from her 20s in a standard shift yellow VW Fastback on a steep street.
While driving up the hill, she would inevitably come to a red light, and would have to gesture frantically when it turned green for the cars behind her to go around as she rolled backward as she struggled to get in to first gear.
"I bet I sat through 20 light changes before someone rescued me," she said. "I remember the guys at the gas station on the street just laughing at me. I was mortified."
While she took a 15-mile detour to avoid the hill from then on, Carig still loved her ride.
"When I heard about the contest, I remembered it like it was yesterday," she said. "Isn't it funny how a Volkswagon does that?"