VW Think Small Charles Addams

Collective Memories: “Think Small” Leads to Big Ideas

Ron Ruelle model car hall of fame
by Ron Ruelle

I found a book at an antique store this weekend, and it reminded me of some of my earliest memories. This book had an enormous impact on who I would become in so many ways, so I had to buy it and write about it.

It’s called Think Small. The authors include Charles Addams, Jean Shepherd William Steig, as well as a host of other writers and cartoonists. If those names sound familiar, look at the image on the cover of a cartoon Centaur VW Beetle. It’s by Addams, creator of the Addams Family comics, and it sure looks a lot like a compact issue of The New Yorker magazine. 

Wolkswagen think small Anotal Kovarsky
Anotal Kovarsky

Which is pretty much is, but with the entire collection of comics and essays being about Volkswagens. Except for one essay by Shepherd (The creator of what would become the beloved movie A Christmas Story) which is about his dream car called the Rockne. As if it was from an actual dream. Well, a dream by the character, anyway:

“Son, the Rockne is the second-worst piece of junk ever made! Next to the Essex Super 6. It’s got a transmission made out of balsa wood. The only time I ever saw a Rockne do over 25 on the flat was the time I saw one get smacked in the rear by a Western Avenue streetcar going full tilt, and then the guy couldn’t get it stopped for two blocks because it didn’t have any brakes.

Eighteen bucks for a Rockne! Well, you gotta hand it to old Harry for trying.” The next day I could hardly wait to get back to the end of my route so l could see the Rockne again. I hurried through the rows of dilapidated heaps to the spot where it stood. It was gone. In its place, an old Hudson convertible sat rusting away quietly. I never again saw another Rockne.”

Volkswagen think small Virgil Partch
Virgil Partch

This volume was printed in 1967, the publishing information simply saying “Compliments of your Volkswagen Dealer.” Yep, this was a promotional piece from the legendary ad campaign orchestrated by Olgivy and Mather.

This book sat on the coffee table in the living room of the house I grew up in. And I must have read it a hundred times.

Volkswagen think small Bob Weber
Bob Weber

Now you know I love cars, so you can see how this influenced my love of automotive culture. As a writer, this also stirred my creative juices. As a future Advertising copywriter, this one is an early example of viral marketing, complete with some self-deprecating humor about the product. As a cartoonist, I was learning from a wide variety of artists all in on place.

Think Small was a free giveaway when new, so the five bucks I spent on it is infinite inflation. Small price for something this cartooonist/car guy/writer still sees as an inspiration.

VW think small Joseph Mirachi
Joseph Mirachi

About Collective Memories

Collective Memories is a chance to share where you got your passion for model cars. Send us a vintage pic of you with your model vehicles… proudly displaying your collection, racing slot cars, building models, jumping them over other toys…

Please include your name (First name is fine if you don’t want us to publish your entire name) and a brief caption or story. Use the Contact section at the bottom of the page or send them to ron@modelcarhall.com. Pics should be at least 600 pixels wide, and please include “Collective Memories” in the subject line.

We’ll be running these every week or so! Can’t wait to see them!


Ron Ruelle is a cartoonist, writer, and illustrator who also writes about model cars. You can see his work at www.ronruelle.com

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