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.

West Coast Classic VW Restoration — Lenny Copp


As takes a deeper look into the archives, it is time to shine a bright light once again at one of the best in the business; Lenny Copp of West Coast Classic Restoration. A huge thanks to Timm Eubanks for his talented eye behind the camera, and for taking part in this fantastic featured article we first published in 2011.

Lenny, please tell us a little about yourself, your background, and how you got into Vintage VWs.
My background started in 1972. I was 23 at the time. I had my first mechanics job after graduating from a 6-month auto mechanics school in New Hampshire. I tried all the different dealers like Chevrolet, Ford, etc., and when I went the local VW dealer, they hired me as a trainee. While there for two years, I learned a lot about repairing VWs. My other talent, so to speak, was cooking in restaurants. As a young man, I learned that working in restaurants was good because you always had food to eat. So, between 1972 and 1978, I worked on cars, and I cooked in restaurants. I was a full time cook and was “Bingo the Clown” every Sunday from 1 to 4pm at a Ground Round Restaurant. Yikes!! (I have pictures on request). In 1979, I bought a new black Kawasaki 1000 LTD. My girlfriend and I sold everything we owned and took off into the sunset. We landed in Florida, and since it was September, we decided to stay there. Only thing was my son Benny was conceived on that trip. So, after a few months, we bought a car and drove back to Peterborough, NH to settle down.