I grew up in Van Nuys, California. My first car was a 1958 VW Beetle that I learned to drive in, and that my father passed along to me in about 1967. This sparked my interest in VW Bugs, which evolved into a love of bathtub Porsches. I became aware, in 1968 and 1969, how US auto safety regulations made VW change such details of their cars as the bumpers, the dashboard, the knobs and seats, etc. I didn’t like those changes then, and still don’t now. I formulated that the 1967 Beetle was the pinnacle of VW Bug development, reaching perfection in all its details, and only going downhill after that.
The 58 Bug moved along and a very stock Lotus White ‘67 Sedan became my daily driver, through my early working years in Los Angeles. Several 356 Porsches passed through my hands in the 1970s and ‘80s, after kids came along. At the same time, I remained a big fan of the 1967 VW, often times driving down to Irvine, in Orange County, for the annual Bug-In Shows. I always had an eye out for clean, stock-looking ‘67 Bugs to admire. I remember one Bug-In Show where there were matching ‘67 Cabriolets for sale, one light blue, and the other beige, in as-new, never-sold condition. I think they were priced around $5500 each, which was way out of my league for a Beetle. All I could do was drool over those two examples.
In the ‘70s and ‘80s the VW Beetle was ubiquitous in Southern California. Bugs in every sort of condition were everywhere you looked. But Convertibles were not often seen. Since I was a big fan of Drop-top 356 Porsches, I naturally sought a Drop-top ‘67 VW bug. But I seldom saw one, until one day in 1979 when I spied one scruffy-looking, but in my favorite color, Lotus White, with old black and yellow plates, in a driveway of a home just a few miles from where I lived in Granada Hills, California. I knocked on the door of the house, and asked the young woman who answered if I could buy the VW in her driveway. She said “Yes!” But then she explained that the engine was worn out and needed replacing. I could see that the top was torn, and the fenders banged up. But the paint appeared to be original, as did the worn interior. A look under the car revealed a dry solid pan and a well-oiled engine. I made a deal then and there to buy the car for $675.
I soon figured out that I had bought my Cabriolet from the daughter of the original owner, as the sales invoice copy was in the Crest Motors Inc. owner’s blue vinyl booklet in the glove box. I found the warranty and maintenance service stamp pages as well as some past service receipts. Crest Motors VW was in Escondido, California, a little north of San Diego. That’s where the first owner lived, before moving to the San Fernando Valley and apparently passing the car to his daughter.
I also found that in only 12 years, the original engine had already been lost, since the tired and leaky motor in the car at the time was not the H03 noted on the original sales invoice. Oh well. I had my Porsche mechanic build a new motor to 1500 specs—it still resides in the car today. For $300, I had a new vinyl top made and installed by Denny Nish Interiors, a well-known San Fernando Valley hot rod tuck n’ roller. That top has held up well and still covers the car. It stays up most of the time now. We retained the original cabriolet roof padding and headliner, and chrome trim pieces.
In the 1980s, VW sales stores were located in all of the various communities within the San Fernando Valley. There was Klein-Foreman Motors of Van Nuys, Dick Joyce VW of Sepulveda, Michelmore Motors, Sanucci, and LaTorre VW of Reseda, Jack McAfee VW of Burbank, Mission VW of San Fernando and Europa Motor Cars of North Hollywood, and many others. LaTorre VW became “my” store and I visited there often to buy new weather-strip, seals, and carpet pieces for my Bug. I didn’t replace anything that didn’t need it so as not to lose any good original parts. The front door panels, floor sound deadener, back seat upper and cushion, rear carpet, glove box, headliner, all glass except the windshield, knobs, and rubber floor mats are still original to the car. So are the trunk liner and wiring cover. All the paint in the interior is still original and so is the paint on the main body.
The late Bob Scott, of Vintage Parts on San Fernando Road in Glendale, California, was a reliable source for hard to find parts through the years. I replaced, or had repaired, damaged fenders and hoods on the car and had them painted to [almost] match the original paint on the body. I put Michelin XZX 165SR15 radials on the car in approximately 1981, and they still are holding air. (I have stayed off the freeways in the car for the last 30 years.) The faux, wire-wheel beauty rings were retained from my first ‘67 Sedan. There is an original jack and tool pouch in the trunk, along with the original black canvas boot.
So, my ‘67 beetle Convertible has been a faithful, weekend play car for nearly 40 years, and remains in the same condition now as it was in the mid-1980s. Since it resided nearly all its life in the dry San Fernando Valley, rust has not invaded. It never has been crashed, nor was it ever in rain, and seldom washed, while I’ve owned it. The California Car Duster, damp towels and a vacuum cleaner have kept it clean. Now titled and registered with period tags in Virginia, I still display my original CAL black and yellow plates, just for fun, inside Crest Motors VW frames. This Beetle’s build date was September 19, 1966. It was imported to Volkswagen Pacific Inc., Culver City, CA, and was first sold on November 4, 1966, by Crest Motors for $2,347.62. It has 132, 885 miles on the odometer. Long may she roll!
What a great story, Don. Although you obviously had some VWs to get away from you, how lucky you are to have retained this great example of a 1967 Convertible! Thanks for taking the time to relate the details of your VW Ride.