One of my earliest and most formative automotive memories, is standing on the seatbacks of my uncle’s early 60s ragtop Beetle with my torso sticking out the top as he did continual loops around a roundabout (today he would be jailed and I would be in a foster home). I was laughing and yelling “faster, faster”. The Volkswagen became instantly imprinted as fun and fast (!). Fast forward a few years and my brothers and I are routinely bouncing around in another uncle’s double cab along with bags of cement, concrete blocks, and lumber as he built houses. Fast forward around a decade or so, and the first car I ever restored (and I use that term in the most generous way possible) was a 68 VW Beetle. Fast forward another decade, and I restored (proper use of the term this time) a 1970 Bug. That is yet another vehicle that I never should have sold. Later there was a 1969 Karmann Ghia, and I almost had a Bus (but that is another story). I still want a bus, against all reason and logic. What can I say, they are German, air-cooled, and they speak to me.

Drip-Fest is an annual gathering of air-cooled VW s in PA. This year was the 4th such event. It is put on by the Old City Oil Drippers out of Philly. This year’s event raised funds for the Wounded Warriors Project which benefits wounded veterans, so a great cause as well. The organizers secured the parking area of a ski lodge, and you could watch the lift ferrying mountain bikers up for their banzai descent. The organizers also invited Porsches to come along and several did. Bill drove his new pride-and-joy 914, a lovely black example showed up as well. Ed and Dick brought the 912s along, Tom drove the 911SC, and an interesting 924 was also on hand with hood emblazoned with a gigantic Porsche crest.

But the stars of the show were obviously the VW s. The beetle is iconic in any of its air-cooled variations and is the longest produced vehicle model, and the largest number of a single model ever produced (over 21 million). One would think that a vehicle produced in those numbers for that length of time could not possibly be so loved and so collectible. One would be wrong. In contrast, the Toyota Corolla has sold over 32 million units (though as different models), and I don’t know of a single Corolla-Fest anywhere. I also don’t know of any movies with the Corolla cast in the lead role. Not to pick on the Corolla (our household has owned 2 of them), but it is also not eternally cool to young people. But I digress.

One of the great things about the Beetle is that it has been cool for 60 years. Young 20 somethings and octogenarians mingled on the show field. I suspect that in another 60 years this will be true as well. Another great thing about the Beetle is that it is a canvas for so many ideas from dragsters to museum-ready bone stock, to sand rails. As Tom noted, there is just something about the Beetle. This from a man who has eclectic tastes that even runs to French cars! On hand were some very cool examples that ran the gamut. There were a couple of beautiful cabriolets in stock form, and a number of hotrod super beetles, and back-dated cars with early fenders. A military green machine belonging to one of the organizers was very nicely done, down to the rocket-launcher !!  And the ratrods were present as well. Naturally or (increasingly) intentionally distressed exteriors disguise interiors, suspension systems, and drivetrains that are first class. You certainly can’t tell these books by their covers…

But there were plenty of other VWs in attendance. A couple of VW Things (descendants of the military Kubelwagens) showed up in signature orange livery. There were half a dozen Dune Buggies (Manx as well as home-brewed). Some of these were real monsters given their engines. There were a few nice Variants present to uphold the honor of the Type3 crowd. Strangely though, there was not a Fastback or a Notch in sight, unless they arrived toward the tail end of the day and I missed them. There were also a few interesting custom creations including a Beetle-based pickup with a plymouth nose!! Not to be missed was a Brazilian Puma, which I am told by the owner marries a Ghia-based chassis to a good looking sportscar body by PininFarina. Very Cool.

Saving the biggest for last, I was delighted to see Buses. There were not many, but a good variety turned out. Among them was a superbly-restored Camper that I’m sure is a nicer home-away-from-home than many homes-not-away. Complementing that was Henry’s 72 Doublecab in orange and white. Being equipped with a 914 motor in the rear, it probably goes as well as it looks. A 65 Panel van and an early Single Cab showed the versatility of the bus platform. Perhaps my favorite was a distressed 13 Window belonging to one of the vendors. Even without Pixar animation, Buses tend to be treated as people if not family members, if not spouses. As Henry reminded me when we were discussing the desire for a bus, “It’s a commitment, you need to be sure you are ready”….Gotta go, I have to resume browsing the Samba.

12 Replies to “Air-Cooled Cool”

  1. Wayne, Great meeting up yesterday. I love this blog… a manly sort of way of course..

    Gary Fielding

  2. Being an old hippy, these cars and buses always bring a smile to my face. I been looking for a west for a while now, but their way out of price. Even crappy ones. Keep an eye out. Peace.

  3. CV, glad you respect your vdub roots. Soooo many guys think you graduate to a Porsche or something else and don't look back. I had muscle cars, BMW, a 944 Porsche, but my squareback has always been with me. Find that bus man !


  4. the bug was the first car i took apart az well. only took 1 day. putting it back together was not so fast ;-0

  5. That was a nice Ghia you had, and autostick as well. Now they are trying to bring back manual shifting with no clutch like the paddles. everythng old is new agsin 😉


  6. Dear Wayne:

    My first car was a 1968 VW Beetle with the semi-automatic. It had an automatic safety switch that was so good, it would protect the car by not permitting it to start, unless you whacked it with a mallet.

    I have always wanted a VW bus… Specifically, the camper version. I have no idera why.

    Greay blog as usual…

    Fondest regards,
    Twisted Roads

  7. Dear Jack,

    The appeal of the bus is timeless and universal. Admitting you want one is healthy and a good first step. Cheers

  8. Dear Carlos,

    Unfortunately, they are all getting out of price range. Perhaps you saw the recent $200k craziness on Barrett-Jackson ! I am still hopeful..

  9. Dear Conrad,

    I like all the German Marques to some degree, but I have a weakness on 4 wheels and on 2 for air/oil-cooled machines. The bus will happen! Cheers

  10. Dear Propper,

    Ah yes, to paraphrase Tom Petty, the Reassembling is the hardest part….Cheers

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