June 28, 1986 – The best day of my life

Just over 32 years ago, I fell in love twice on the same day. I guess that this would make this the single most eventful day in my life.

Sometime in the afternoon, I went for a test drive of a Sea Blue 1966 Volkswagen Bug. I loved it, put down $800 dollars, and purchased my first car. Thus began my love affair with air-cooled Volkswagens.

Later that evening, I was introduced to my future wife, and thus began my relationship with the love of my life (even more than VW’s).

It is pretty mind blowing that both of these significant events just happen to have occurred on the same day in my life.

Our first car - 66 VW Bug

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Home at last!

Well, it has been about a month and a half since I put a down payment on the 66 bug and today was the long awaited day when I brought it home.

In preparation for this day I had to gather a few items.

  • 4 early bug rims. The tires that were on the 66 were pretty rotten and needed to be replaced. Additionally, I prefer the earlier “smoothie” VW wheel rather than the stock “slotted” wheel that came with the 66.
  • 4 new tires. I had 4 new tires installed on the early bug wheels so that the bug could be safely towed home.
  • VW tow bar. I picked up a tow bar off of Craigslist to bring the 66 home.
  • Tow lights. I bought a set of tow lights so that the trip home was safe and legal.
  • (I should add that I have purchased many VW tow bars and tow lights in the past, but I keep giving them away when I sell my cars. Maybe I will be smart and keep them this time…..)

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I met with the previous owner, Penee, and we went down to the local licensing office at the courthouse and completed all of the paperwork to have the car title transferred into my name. Once that was completed, it was just a matter of a couple hours work to get the 66 ready to be towed home.

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I am still trying to determine what exactly the next step will be, but probably I will focus on getting the engine running, then on the brakes and other mechanicals and then the cosmetics.

 

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Project 66 Beetle

It has been just over 2 years since I sold my last VW to fund the down payment on my home. As is usual for me, I can only go for so long without a VW before I start getting the itch. Once I get the itch, I start to look. By that time, it’s all over. Inevitably, I will convince myself that I have the time to bring a car (usually a project) into my busy life.

Needless to say, I put a down payment on a Ruby Red 66 bug a few weeks ago which I will be bringing home in a couple more weeks. All at the same time that I am working to build my new business, selling our lake home in Belfair WA, and moving back to Port Angeles, WA.

I am really pleased with the car that I found, especially since the previous owner, Penee, has the same love for VW’s that I do. Additionally, this will also be a labor of love since I will be picking up the pieces of a project that she and her brother started many years ago, but were never able to finish. I plan to share my experiences as I work on this project and hopefully share a bit of the car’s history.

66 bug

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My 1972 Ghia convertible

Through the years, as I purchased and sold different air-cooled VW’s, I always wanted to own a Karmann Ghia. I thought that they were by far the classiest VW, with the smoothest lines. The pinnacle of this dream would be to own a convertible Ghia, which was finally realized in 2006. This dream, however, soon turned into a nightmare.

I had a real nice 1966 Ghia coupe that was in very nice, rust free condition that I decided to sell and use the proceeds to fund what was likely to be a project convertible. I understood this, but was willing to do what I needed to finally have my convertible Ghia.

Ghia front right

After selling my 66, I began searching on the internet for the right project. I found what I thought to be, and what I was told was a completely rust free 72 convertible Ghia.

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I impulsively believed the photos and the word of the seller and bought the car sight unseen from across the country and had it shipped to my home. I was so excited. Rather than a project, this had the potential of being a beautiful driver from day 1. After making arrangements and waiting a few weeks, it finally arrived.

Well, it was a nice 15 footer. But, upon closer inspection, the car had some…many flaws, and lots of rust. So much so, that I wasn’t even comfortable driving it. I want to be proud of the car I drive, and it had so many problems that it was embarrassing to me to drive it. The interior was trash, the floor was just many different pieces of sheet metal welded to the bottom, over the top of the rust. There was bondo, and the front firewall was just shot. I ended up just parking it in the garage and moved on to other projects, namely finishing my 69 Fasty.  I new that in order to someday make good on my investment, I was going to need to put a lot of work and money into the 72. I decided that a good step in the right direction was a parts car with a solid floor pan. After searching, I found a 71 coupe with new floor pans, a good motor, nice Porsche Fuch wheels and a lot of spare parts.

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I ended up driving the parts car for 2 years, because even in it’s rat rod style, It felt more solid.

Finally, in 2012, after the convertible sat in my garage for 6 years, I was getting ready to move and I knew that I had to either move on from my dream, or I had to get my butt in gear on my project. This began a stretch of 2 months were I spent nearly every waking moment working on this project.

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And finally, my dream convertible Ghia began shaping up.

interior

Dash

new top

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Ghia at Night

It was a labor of love, and of many years, but in the end, I had a car that was a dream to drive, and turned heads wherever it went.

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VW Camping

One of the truly fun VW’s to own is a Westfalia. For those of you not familiar with the term, Westfalia’s were camper conversions of VW buses. Westfalia conversions began in 1951, and continued with both the early and late model buses and then later were continued with the VW Vanagon.

In 2001 I traded my 1967 Karmann Ghia for a 1978 VW Westfalia. We took it on many family camping trips until I sold it a few years later.

Our Westy 2

The Westfalia camper included a sink, ice box, propane stove, and could sleep our family with a fold down bed in back, an upper bed in the pop top and a canvas “hammock” that hung over the front seats.

Westy Sink

Westy Z Bed

Westy Canopy

In the Pacific Northwest where we live, we hooked up for a few family camping trips with the “Wet Westies”, a group of VW camping enthusiasts who drive all variations of VW Campers including Westfalia’s, Riviera’s, campmobiles, etc. Their website is http://www.wetwesties.org. If you like VW’s, camping, or just getting wet in the northwest, I would recommend looking them up.

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1998 Beetle’s reunion

In 1998, a local Seattle radio station KJR, which was probably one of Seattle’s most popular through the 70’s, hosted a reunion event. The idea was to host a Beetles/Beatles gathering that featured a Beatles cover band, but was also a VW Beetle gathering. The goal was to see how many VW Beetles they could gather in one place. The gathering occurred in the Shoreline area of Seattle, and then we all convoyed to Marymoor Park in Kirkland for a car show and music festival. I don’t recall the specifics, but I know that there was a convoy of hundreds of VW’s along the highway. It was a lot of fun, and I have some great memories from that day. One of the big things at the show was the number of “New” Beetles that were there, as they were brand new from VW.

Eric's 1971 Bug

Here was my 1971 Beetle at the time. We squeezed the whole family in(6 of us) and went to the show.

Beetle Reunion Parking

There was quite a line to find parking.

Slug Bug...Slug Bug...Slug Bug...Slug Bug

If you were playing Slug Bug, it would have been CRAZY!! (I would have won.)

Nice Split Window Bug

There were a couple of split window bugs there.

Nice Oval Window Bug

And a nice oval window.

Nice early Ghia

And a nice lowlight Ghia.

The Band

And we finished off the day with some great music. This was an extremely fun day, that I am sure my family will remember for the rest of their lives, as will I.

 

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Chad’s 1970 Karmann Ghia

In spring of 2012, while I was in the process of finishing up my 72 convertible Karmann Ghia project, I decided to take on another project for my son Chad. He had recently been diagnosed with NF2 (Neurofibromatosis Type 2), had recently had his first brain surgery, and had some rough days ahead. He had always loved my first Ghia, a 1967, and it’s British Racing Green paint color. I started my search, and within a few days, I found a potential car in Seattle. I drove there, checked it out, and settled on a price of $1600.

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Over the next month and a half, I worked on the 70 Ghia for my son at the same time as finishing up my 72 vert.

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Prepping the body…

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Cleaned up and painted the pans….

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Replaced the transmission….

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Cleaned up the interior….

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Just about ready for paint….

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Chad admiring his freshly painted car….

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Chad’s finished 1970 Karmann Ghia. He loved this car!

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Chad’s inspiration for the look and color of his car was my 67 Ghia that I sold in 2001.

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In loving honor of Chad Ryan Meldrum  1989 – 2016

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I fell in love with air-cooled Volkswagens over 30 years ago. I want to keep the love and passion for vintage VW's alive and share my stories with others.