Unique vehicles and a unique breed of owners.
There are three things that most people can’t resist: puppies, fresh-baked cookies and Volkswagens. It seems that everyone stops for a moment to admire an old Beetle or VW Bus when it passes by.
These little imports began arriving from Deutschland in 1949 and, since then, the appeal for many of us has not diminished.
“VWs represent freedom to me,” says Jenni Heib, a self-employed Seattle resident and lifelong Volkswagen fan. “They are easy to work on and the people that own VWs are the best people in the world!”
What is the appeal for Jenni? “My 1992 VW Bus is cozy inside and I’ve redone the interior in wood to look like the cabin of a sailboat. It doesn’t go very fast because the engine is so small, so I’m forced to slow down and enjoy the view as it passes by.”
Jenni and her friend Jane Rowley share duties as co-presidents of the Cascade Kombi Vintage Volkswagen Club. Kombi, Transporter and Microbus are some of the names of these spacious vehicles.
Jane, a homemaker living in Seattle, loves both the club and her 1976 VW Bus.
“The group is very social and we have a campout every month, rain or shine,” she says. “On numerous club outings my bus has provided shelter for my son and me. It just feels like home when I’m sitting in it.”
Susan Grissom, a commercial leasing and sales broker living in Gig Harbor, is the proud owner of a pristine 1979 VW convertible. With a smile, she shares her opinion about VW ownership.
“If you buy one you will never get out of the VW habit. I’ve owned seven Volkswagens and have drooled over them since I was a kid. They are a bit basic, and driving a VW is not done casually,” she says. “There’s an art to getting the best performance out of my car and I have to be focused and ‘all in’ when I’m behind the wheel.”
Married and the mother of one son, Grissom’s passion is fueled by the excitement that her convertible causes.
“Most people react positively when they see my VW. Usually the first comment made is how pretty it is, followed by asking if it is for sale.”
The recent increase in Volkswagen sale prices has surprised even longtime owners.
Danny Gouge, a 46-year-old Port Orchard resident and electrician at the Bangor Shipyard, is the current owner of several VWs, including a rare 1960 Double Cab. Gouge spent 21 years in the Navy and Coast Guard as an electrician prior to retiring from military duty and making the Northwest his permanent home.
“I bought my first Beetle in 1999 when I was in the Navy,” he says. “I didn’t have much money so I purchased a VW because they were cheap, easy to customize and making performance upgrades was not difficult. Unfortunately they are not cheap anymore!”
Gouge is surprised at the increase in recent sales prices.
“Old split-window Beetles are frequently selling in the $40,000 to $50,000 range, and the VW Microbus sales are reaching unbelievable numbers,” he says. “There have been sales in recent months for well over $200,000, and in March a 1961 Microbus sold for $291,500. It’s crazy what is happening out there!”
Gouge and his wife Beverly have been married for 23 years and are active members of the Kahiko Kula Volkswagen Club.
“ ‘Kahiko Kula’ means ‘old school’ in Hawaiian,” says Danny.
The club was started by Hawaiian islanders and there are now chapters in three states, with 90 members in the Puget Sound area.
“We are ‘old school’ in that we believe in traditional values. The club is about family, Volkswagens and food,” says Danny Gouge. “We eat a lot of food when we get together. It’s awesome to attend a club function and see at least 80 members bow their heads in prayer before we share a meal.”
Mark “Woody” Woodruff, a 63-year-old retired chemist, has replaced driving to work at Boeing with cruising to car shows in his 1956 Volkswagen Beetle.
“I bought my first VW in 1972 and have owned nothing but Volkswagens since then.”
Mark and his wife Deanna live in Sammamish and have raised two sons and a daughter. He has been an active member of the Northwest Volkswagen Club for over 40 years.
“ ‘Boomers’ are retiring and many are deciding it is time to spend a portion of their savings on the car of their dreams,” he says. “For some a mint condition Beetle or Bus is at the top of the list, and many people are willing to pay top-dollar for a good car. A VW is a great choice, and sales prices will continue to rise.”
Buying one now may be the best way to save money and own a car that will add more fun to your life, and turn out to be a good investment when it is time to sell.
What is the best advice for someone considering the purchase of an old air-cooled VW?
Woodruff’s advice is shared by the others interviewed.
“Buy one in the best condition that you can afford. In the long run it will save you thousands in repair and restoration costs.”
So stop resisting! Bake a few fresh cookies, put your puppy in the back seat and take a drive in an old Volkswagen.