Interviews Posts

Chris Vallone — Classic VW Bugs

Chris Vallone — Classic VW Bugs
A follow up to an earlier interview we did during the infant stages of; 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.

A Texas Vintage VW Legend — Jay Salser

A Texas Vintage Volkswagen Legend  —  Jay Salser

Jay, tell us a bit about yourself, your background, etc.
I think that my story is unique—here’s why. I was raised without tools. When I say that, I am dead serious. At home, we had a carpenter’s hammer, a pair of pliers, a hand saw, a couple of screw drivers and some miscellaneous other tools. We had nothing like a mechanic’s tool box. My father’s line of work didn’t lend itself to more than greasing the front bearings of the old ’37 Dodge Sedan, or the changing of a tire.

We also had but one family car. Until I was 14 years old, I had nothing to do with cars. Then, one day my dad put me behind the wheel of a ’51 Chevy Business coupe at his job. He told me to drive. That did it for me. I was home!

By this time Dad had a ’49 Ford V-8 at home. I cut my clutch foot on that vehicle and have never looked back.

Then, college intervened. The best transportation which I had during those years was a bicycle. I took work at a refrigeration shop during college to help with funds. It didn’t take me long to get with the mechanics there and learn about tools. I became a regular at the local Sears-Roebuck and began buying tools. Would you believe that at age 75, I still have some of the tools which I acquired during those college years? I learned that if a guy wanted a real tool, he should buy the best.

After college, I was preparing for work in South America. I did some work on my cars (I had a ’50 Ford Business Coupe and a ’56 Chevy two-door post). When I left for South America, I was headed for a life with no cars. They don’t drive well in the rain forest!

Beth Leverman; Progress Report


Do you believe in “genetic tendencies”? If you don’t, perhaps it’s time to rethink your position.

Beth Leverman, who is in the process of restoring her 1967 Beetle, may be all of the proof that we need to prove our case!

Recently, Beth’s father produced a photo of his wife and the two Leverman young boys. Although Beth’s father cannot recall exactly which year it might have been, the Beetle appears to be a 1965.

Beth has done some major work to the front sheet metal of her ‘67. She has obtained, among other parts, genuine German front fenders to replace those after-market ones. She even has been taking night courses at a local college to learn automotive body and painting skills. You give this girl a torch and she is going to cut-and-weld!

OldVWs Restoration

Mark, tell me a little about yourself, your background and how you got into restoring Volkswagen Beetles?
My earliest memories of VWs came as a child riding in the home made dune buggies my dad and uncles had up north. The first Beetle (Black Herbie) in our family came when I was about eight. My dad purchased this bug with a blown motor with plans to put the transmission in our dune buggy. As the story goes my dad ended up finding a separate  transmission and engine. The transmission went in the buggy and the engine in Black Herbie. My dad drove Black Herbie for a few years before my aunt’s car rolled into him. At that point we got White Herbie.

My dad drove White Herbie for a few years then purchased a different car for himself and let me tinker with White Herbie. After working on him I told my parents that I wanted a different bug to work on. They told me that we would have to sell White Herbie. With that money they would buy me a Beetle that I could do whatever I wanted to with. That is when I got my first Beetle , a 1968. I ended fixing Harvey up. Since I still couldn’t drive, I sold and purchased yet another Beetle. This time a 1972 Super Beetle named Clyde.

As you may have noticed the trend had started. I also sold Clyde, just to purchase another Beetle. When my sixteenth birthday came I had bought and sold enough Beetles that I now had enough money to build myself a nice Baja Bug. As high school went on I kept buying more Beetles. Some I fixed and sold while others I parted out. At times there were five to six Beetles sitting in our driveway.

Get Ready to Rally — Ed and Janet Howle

Get Ready to Rally — Ed and Janet Howle

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.