Life after death for the 'Love Bug' in Ethiopia

ADDIS ABABA, Oct 27 (Reuters) - At Kinfe Abera's garage in Addis Ababa, cranky, 50-year-old Volkswagen Beetles enjoy a kind of life after death; their parts are never discarded but re-used to keep the city's remaining Beetles on the road.

The Beetle was born in the 1930s out of dictator Adolf Hitler's desire to produce a cheap "people's car" for the German family. After World War Two it sold in the tens of millions around the globe and in the 1960s even starred in a Disney movie as Herbie the "Love Bug".

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City recycles beloved VW Beetles
Ishetu Kinfe, 59, a mechanic, poses next to his 1965 model Volkswagen Beetle car at a garage in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, September 8, 2017. He has driven the car for 19 years. "I can drive it anywhere because it is strong, easy to maintain and affordable", Kinfe said. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri SEARCH "NEGERI BEETLE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY.
Siyum Haile, 72, a retired United Nations (UN) employee and Jehovah's Witness, poses for a photograph next to his 1977 model Volkswagen Beetle car in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, September 16, 2017. Haile said that he had used the car for seventeen years because it's strong, consumes less fuel and most of all it's the only car he can afford to buy in Ethiopia. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri SEARCH "NEGERI BEETLE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A Volkswagen Beetle car is parked at a garage in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, September 8, 2017. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri SEARCH "NEGERI BEETLE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
The interior of a Volkswagen Beetle car is seen at a garage in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, September 8, 2017. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri SEARCH "NEGERI BEETLE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A model of a Volkswagen Beetle toy is seen inside a Volkswagen Beetle car at a garage in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, September 8, 2017. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri SEARCH "NEGERI BEETLE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Market stall worker, Minilik Shewaferaw, 30, poses for a photograph next to his 1976 model Volkswagen Beetle in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, September 8, 2017. He has driven the car for three years. "I chose Volkswagen because it is affordable, easy to park and my luxury car indeed", Shewaferaw said. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri SEARCH "NEGERI BEETLE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A Volkswagen car emblem is seen on the floor of a garage in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, September 8, 2017. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri SEARCH "NEGERI BEETLE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Niguse Desalegn, 45, who owns a Volkswagen Beetle garage, poses for a photograph inside his garage in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, September 8, 2017. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri SEARCH "NEGERI BEETLE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A 1978 model Volkswagen Beetle is parked near the Ethiopian National Theatre in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, October 13, 2017. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri SEARCH "NEGERI BEETLE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A 1978 model Volkswagen Beetle is parked in front of the Ethiopian National Theatre in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, October 13, 2017. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri SEARCH "NEGERI BEETLE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Spare parts of Volkswagen Beetle cars are seen in a Volkswagen garage in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, September 8, 2017. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri SEARCH "NEGERI BEETLE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A Volkswagen Beetle car is seen whilst under maintenance at a garage in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, September 8, 2017. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri SEARCH "NEGERI BEETLE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A Volkswagen Beetle car is abandoned near the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, September 22, 2017. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri SEARCH "NEGERI BEETLE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A Volkswagen Beetle car is parked in front of a grocery store in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, September 8, 2017. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri SEARCH "NEGERI BEETLE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
The owner of a 1970 model Volkswagen Beetle car holds the key to his car, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, October 12, 2017. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri SEARCH "NEGERI BEETLE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A mechanic works on the engine of a Volkswagen Beetle car in a garage in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, September 8, 2017. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri SEARCH "NEGERI BEETLE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A mechanic pushes a Volkswagen Beetle car inside a garage in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, September 8, 2017. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri SEARCH "NEGERI BEETLE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A Volkswagen Beetle car is seen inside a painting room at a garage in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, September 15, 2017. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri SEARCH "NEGERI BEETLE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A Volkswagen Beetle car travels along a road in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, September 21, 2017. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri SEARCH "NEGERI BEETLE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
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Production of the original version of the curvy little vehicles ended in 2003, and authentic spare parts can be hard to come by. So Ethiopian mechanics have to "slaughter" some cars to keep others alive.

"If one is in a bad condition, we will cannibalise it and give its parts to other cars. That is how we extend their life," said Kinfe, the 74-year-old garage-owner who has been working on Beetles for six decades.

"The Volkswagen Beetle is a servant car for lower income people. They never fail you - they take you anywhere and have excellent functionality," he said.

"I wish the Germans had continued producing them. They abandoned them and things started falling apart."

"They are lovely cars," said Teferi Markos, a mechanic in Kinfe's garage. "You get satisfied when you fix them. If you want to change the colour, they absorb any paint."

About 8,000 commercial and other vehicles are assembled in Ethiopia for the home market, about a quarter of them cars. The numbers of expensive imported models on the roads is also rising as a new middle class emerges.

But the pint-sized Beetle still has a loyal fanbase. Some young Ethiopians find it trendy, while for other drivers it is soaked with nostalgia.

"My brother-in-law owned a Beetle and I learned to drive with it when I was a young student," said Workineh Kebede, 41, a businessman in the capital.

"I like them because they are so easy to drive. So I bought it because of my love for them since that time. It is not for economic reasons - I could afford to buy other cars."

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