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.
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.