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Autodrive | Albert Rickman: The power of an uncaged mind

Published:Monday | August 15, 2016 | 12:00 AMKareem Latouche
Albert Rickman in his reconditioned 1972 VW beach bug.
The car is painted Prismatique red.
A new muffler system has been placed on the engine to improve the performance.

Armed with a creative mind and childlike enthusiasm, Albert Rickman was more than willing to tell many tales of how he restored his 1972 VW beach bug. His love for cars is a natural one, something that's hard for him to recollect when it started.

"The only thing I remember is I started working on cars before I was a teen, helping my father work on his Jaguar Mark 1 and Rover," said Rickman.

As I began to keenly observe his surroundings, it's possible that his love for cars is second nature to his true passion: engineering. There are antique equipment such as an old typewriter, an antique scale, and remote-control cars lying around in boxes and in his man cave. He doesn't seem to have a preference; once he has an interest, it's going to be fixed.


A welcomed challenge


A mind like his doesn't seem to be captivated by the norm; the norm is boring. He needs something unorthodox, something that can give him a challenge, and that's his 1972 VW beach bug.

"I bought this vehicle in 1980. A friend of mine told me there was one selling in Papine. When I looked at it, it was basically a body with a chassis that was completely rotted away."

To remedy this issue, he bought a drivable VW bug, took off the chassis and paired it with the body of the beach bug. This brought the car to an acceptable driving condition and was Rickman's preferred mode of transportation throughout the '80s.


Restoration process


After driving it for several decades, he decided to give it a proper facelift in 2005, starting with the paint job. Keep in mind he is a one-man army. Luckily, the body is fibreglass, which means it's fairly light. "The body can be lifted off the vehicle, which means you can work on the body, chassis and engine separately," revealed Rickman.

Rickman opted to paint the car Prismatique red, a colour that sparkles in the sun. After getting the car looking super attractive, he decided to pay attention to the performance by putting in a 1800cc carburettor engine. "I just wanted more power," Rickman jokingly stated.

The power is immediately evident when driving, and the torque is equally impressive. This is largely attributed to the light fibreglass body, which gives it a good power-to-weight ratio. "I can do doughnuts with this vehicle, and with its limited slip differential, the vehicle handles pretty well", he said.

When our excursion was over, we returned to his carport to finish the interview. A couple minutes in, we end up going off-track as he begins to reminisce about his adventures. Shortly after his first story, his wife Amoe entered from the main walkway. She discreetly joins the conversation with a subtle tone and warm smile, giving her accounts of driving in the bug. "As long as I'm wearing my glasses, and I'm not worried about my hair, I'm up for the challenge. It's fun!" she said.

It's clear: she gets him and she is at peace with his passion to fix. She has figured out that a mind like his can't be caged; you just have to provide guidelines here and there. Her presence also served as a subtle indicator that it's getting close to 'wrapping up' time. It's a gesture that both he and I welcome, knowing we can easily get carried away talking about cars all night.