Interviews Posts

Don’s Bug Barn — A Vintage VW Salvage Yard

Featured Volkswagen Business — Doug's Bug Barn

An older article that has been getting a lot of page views lately. It’s time for another moment in the spotlight. -ES

Perhaps one of the most frustrating experiences a vintage car buff can have is not being able to locate necessary parts. As you’ve worked on your “second love” Volkswagen, invariably you’ve run against the brick wall of “that part is no longer available”! “What??? Now what am I going to do?” That’s probably putting it mildly. In my more than 36 year experience with VWs, I’ve had this problem hundreds of times. My two children and I made a regular habit of visiting salvage yards in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. Then, things changed. Government restrictions began making things difficult for the salvage people. Yards were moved or closed. But, don’t give up! There still are some salvage yards located around the Country. Here’s the unique story of one salvage yard oasis; Don’s Bug Barn. As told by Dustin Carter, Don’s son.

How did you get all of this!?!
I have answered this question many times. My answer of “It is my father’s 36 year collection” never seems to satisfy.

Okay? But… but how did you get all this?
I tell the story, which always elicits smiles, that since we are in Texas, it is not uncommon that our story begins with horse-trading. In 1974, my father, Don Carter, got his first Volkswagen from my grandfather, who traded a horse for a dune buggy. My grandfather had no use for the buggy and offered it to my father, who accepted, thus beginning the story of Don’s Bug Barn. Growing up, my father always was a car guy, and throughout the years he acquired all types of American iron and muscle cars. But Volkswagens became his ultimate love.

Once my father started working on the buggy, he realized that it was missing the carburetor. In true Don Carter style, instead of purchasing one part, he bought a Volkswagen Beetle, complete with an engine, for the cost of the carburetor. From there, one Bug led to another, and another, and so on. His first Bug was a 1959 Semaphore Beetle, which we still own. He says he was drawn to the simple, yet sophisticated engineering of a VW. He also liked being able to work comfortably on the engine, while having the ability to pull and reinstall an engine by himself. It did not hurt that VWs also were an affordable hobby at that time.

My father is a collector of things, and when he becomes interested in something, let’s just say he is hooked. To this day, when asked, he is not able to pinpoint the exact reason he built the Bug Barn; other than that he needed a place to work on his VWs. He purchased land from my grandmother, and the foundation for the main shop was poured in 1977, with the help of friends and family. It was also around this time that my father made his first appearances on the local VW racing scene. He had been involved with drag racing for years, so racing VWs was only natural. The Bug Barn owns two VW race cars, a ’61 Ghia and a “slightly” modified chop-top ’67 Beetle, both of which my father named “The Bad Habits.” His hopes were to run the Bug Barn as a repair/parts shop in order to fund his racing.

Featured Volkswagen Business — Doug's Bug Barn

With his shop operating full time, and weekends spent racing, my father was living his dream. When in 1979 he became a father, my grandmother and mother told him to “get a real job”. It was at this point that my father took a job with the State as a social worker. But that did not slow progress at the Bug Barn. Since my father’s weekdays were spent working at his “real” job, he hired people to run the Bug Barn for him. Through the ‘80s till the mid ‘90s, the Bug Barn flourished. Several excellent VW mechanics operated the business while my father was working. During this time, my father never stopped purchasing VW cars and parts. On the original Bug Barn business card it read: “I buy VWs any condition”. My father had the forethought to know that even a totaled VW still had good parts. He also realized the importance of one-year-only parts, which is why he regards the ’67 Beetle as the best year built. Over the years he bought several ’67 Bugs; we still have 15 of them today.

Dave Fennell’s — L639 Zenith Blue ’67 Beetle

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Such a great story. Slowly, we are connecting ’67 Beetle owners all over the world. A big thanks to Jay Salser for his edits and being such a huge part of what makes 1967beetle.com a fun place to come to work everyday. -ES

My first exposure to Beetles was when my uncle returned from a military assignment in Germany in the early ‘60s. He brought a Beetle back with him, probably around a ’62 Model and in red. I saw it when he drove it from Northern Alberta, Canada, to Southern Ontario, with kids, dog and camping trailer in tow. It was a real revelation to me, as my family were always owners of North American cars. Here was a simple, well engineered, air-cooled, economical and durable vehicle. I think that it was then that I decided that I would own one.
I owned a couple of motorcycles as a teenager, which certainly were fun, but somewhat limiting. I convinced my mother that we should share a Beetle, so we bought a well-used ‘65 model from the local Cadillac dealership. That’s when I found out about link pins and the maintenance they entailed. I had done most of my own servicing on the motorcycles, so learning VW maintenance and repair was a logical progression.

Shortly after that, I went off to University out of town, finding that motorcycles and Canada don’t work well in our winters. So…after my first summer of working, I was on the hunt for my own car, and, of course, a Beetle was the logical choice. It had to be a used one–I couldn’t afford a new one.

I found one at a local Volvo dealership. It appeared to be in nice shape, one fender had been repaired, but overall, it was sound. I called the dealer first thing Monday to ask about it. They had planned not to sell it, but rather to wholesale it since it wasn’t a product they felt like selling retail. However, the salesman said that he would talk to the Manager and get back to me. I got a call later saying that for $1300 it would be mine! It was, of course, a ’67, a Savannah Beige, Deluxe Model, with about 20,000 miles on it, a gas heater and a beautiful Blaupunkt AM/FM/Shortwave radio in it….a real upgrade from the standard unit.

I drove it about 100,000 miles over several years, and I only had a couple of minor issues on the road with it. Once when returning from school to home, the engine started cutting out. I pulled into a service station, let it cool a bit then removed a big chunk of dirt from the main jet. The other time was a failed voltage regulator. The original regulators were mechanical, so I took it apart, cleaned the fused points and returned it to service where it stayed until I traded it in.

It took me on several trips, including an epic journey from Southern Ontario to Vancouver Island–my first trip west of Ontario, with only one oil change required. It also took four guys from University to Boston for a whirlwind two-day trip….cozy, but it worked. My brother and I also took it to the Maritimes. En route, we had a flat tire. We pulled over, both of us jumped out, hood up, wheel swapped, hubcap popped on and back into the car in record time. We started to drive off and it felt
funny, so I turned to my brother, and asked if he had tightened the wheel bolts, and he said he thought I had done it! I quickly pulled over, just as the wheel parted company from the brake drum. Fortunately all of the wheel bolts were found inside the hubcap! One of my epic maintenance fails.

This first encounter with Beetles converted my family to the point that my sister and brother also owned Beetles, and my mom replaced the white ‘65 with a SunBug Beetle, a gold-painted version from the early ‘70s with a sunroof.

Ed & Janet Howle’s L633 VW Blue ’67 Beetle

Get Ready to Rally — Ed and Janet Howle

An older article featured here at 1967beetle.com. Jay and I recently exchanged a few emails with Janet, so I wanted to put this fantastic story in the spotlight once again.

Where do you go in your ’67 beetle? Cruise down to the mall… Maybe hit the beach? or maybe rally around the world….when you retire..! Meet Ed and Janet Howle who could give us all a run for our money and then do it all over again!!

We bought our VW Blue Type 1, 1967 Beetle, Stewball, with the hope that we could win The Great Race, an around-the-world antique car rally which was to start in NYC on February 12, 2008, and go west across the U.S. The cars would be shipped from San Francisco to China, and then cross China, Kazakhstan, Russia and, Europe. We would drive 14,000 miles before we ended in Paris. Great Race Inc. was offering a $1,000,000 purse. We were highly motivated. Why did this event start on February 12? Because this was 100 years to the day of the famous 1908 race which is still the only true car race from New York to Paris.

Why did we pick the 1967 VW Beetle? All rallies have somewhat different rules, but to enter this one, the car had to be at least 40 years old. Since the start was in February, the car would have to negotiate winter snow and ice both crossing the Rocky Mountains in the U.S. and similar conditions in Siberia. The Beetle with its rear engine and rear-wheel drive seemed like a good choice. In addition, the ‘67 has a 12 volt electrical system and a 1500 cc engine. I had owned three Type 1 VWs and two Karmann Ghias. During the competition, I would have to do most repairs and service myself. A fast car was not the goal, a reliable one was, this was a rally, an endurance time and distance precision event, with hidden check points, not a race.

From previous rallies I knew that preparation was the key to endurance driving. I had every system gone over by my VW guru, Bob Hicks of Hick’s VW Service in Durham, North Carolina who only services and repairs air-cooled VWs. I made several modifications which were allowed by Great Race. I replaced the engine with a 2005 new 1600 cc South American engine and added the required fire extinguisher. I took out the back seat, made boards to cover the floor and batteries and with Bob’s input assembled the spare parts I thought I might need. In the U.S. these parts are available new and I felt this was good money spent. My list included; carburetor, fuel pump, distributor, generator, plugs, fan belt, control cables, jacks, and tires. Each car had to carry a driver and navigator and everything we needed for the trip. Janet began to worry there would be no room for clothes and the other essentials to keep us groomed, civilized, and healthy. Jan also insisted on adding a porcelain flower vase to the dashboard in which she put a fresh flower every morning of the rally.

I made three other modifications. Great Race Inc. required a super accurate (expensive) rally speedometer. Fortunately it fit exactly in the space where my standard VW speedometer fit.

Dashboard with TimeWise speedometer]

’67 Beetle Keys & Locks — Steve Sandlin

'67 Beetle Keys & Locks

Editors Note: Fantastic interview, Jay! The ’67 Beetle community thanks you. If anyone needs a set, we stock Genuine VW Key Blanks and have most codes available.

July 12th (2015), I attended a large Texas VW Show-n-Swap called DubSplash. This was a show well-organized by der luftkuhlers and well sponsored by an area Volkswagen Dealership and several other businesses. The show was held in Carrollton, TX, at the much-loved Sandy Lake Amusement Park. This was the 4th year for the show. der luftkuhlers not only are fine people but know how to work with the other area VW Clubs to bring out the best in everyone!

I wanted to enjoy the cars but, most of all, to meet people. One of my VW friends and I hooked up at the show. There was not a cloud in the sky and the Texas heat was fierce. Bob suggested that we go for a snow cone. Enroute, I glimpsed a vendor’s enclosed trailer-shop. It was none other than Steve Sandlin’s Locksmith Shop on wheels!

I knew of Steve and had referred people to him over the years but—-never had met him. Here was my chance.

While we talked, I asked Steve to cut a pair of keys for one of my VWs. I had been hating those generic keys for some time. When we parted, I had a pair of VW Logo-ed keys in my pocket.

Chris Vallone — Classic VW Bugs

Chris Vallone — Classic VW Bugs
A follow up to an earlier interview we did during the infant stages of 1967beetle.com; our good pal Chris Vallone of Classic VW Bugs in NY. You can either watch the video or read the edited down transcript below. Edited by the legendary Jay Salser.

Happy 2015, Chris. Tell us where you are currently in your business.
The business is doing extremely well. 2014 was a banner year for us, the best year since we started 8 years ago working from a one car garage. We are involved in 16 clientele projects right now and are at a 2.5-3 year wait list to build.

How has your business grown over the years?
We have grown to a global following. We just passed the 5 million views mark on YouTube, and the Website Sports, about 2-3 million hits a month. I still answer about 2-4 hours of fan mail everyday. Web 2.0 and Social Networking has been great to us.

How has the business changed?
Well like everything, you get better with age! You learn the ins and outs and all the nooks and crannies of the VW Beetle. You know what makes them tick, and how better to put them together. Our intricate level of detail keeps getting better and better. Each Bug I do is better restored than the last. You just keep living it, learning it, and getting better at it. It shows in our work, and, as time goes on, more and more people are interested in having us to restore a Bug for them. I also learned how to pace and log my time. Time is money, so you learn how to estimate how long jobs are going to be, whether it is an interior or a motor build. I have become an even better business man through these years.

How many projects are you currently working on?
We presently have 16 projects–half are Build-A-BuG, the other half is Find-A-BuG.

So… you still are doing the Build-A-BuG Program?
Yes, we still are on Build-A-BuG, but we have removed the “driver quality” restorations. We do only High End Show-piece/Museum-quality Bugs.

Tell us about the Find-A-BuG Program.
Find-A-BuG is where I find a somewhat already restored Beetle for a client. This is for a client who either can’t afford a Build-A-BuG, or who does not want to wait the 2-3 years to have one restored. We find a car that already is painted, but which needs to be assembled or even fully restored. We take it into the shop, make the changes that are required for the customer, if they want any changes. We fully inspect the car and make it roadworthy and turnkey–without any issues.