Frank Salvitti, of Long Island, NY, and I began our e-correspondence several months ago. We talked about little odds and ends concerning 1967 Beetles. It wasn’t long before we were exchanging photos and talking in depth about our cars. I began to sense that Frank is a person who talks to nuts and bolts and wrenches and they do his bidding.
In Frank’s own words..
Frank…when I saw photographs of your Beetle and of your garage, I knew that we HAD to do a story.
The garage is something I had in mind and have wanted to do for years, so finally did.
You told me that you have some history with Volkswagens. Give the Readers of 1967beetle.com an idea of when you first were involved with VWs.
A. When I was a kid I always had a love for cars and the sound of motors and loud pipes– since around 6 years old or so, that I can remember. I grew up in the time when cars were at their best in the 60’s with the muscle cars. A lot of family members had hot rods. However some family friends had a VW which I thought was a real neat car. I liked that– so different. During that time, I remember that my grandfather bought a white 1968 VW Bug—the first year of the auto stick. We went for a ride and I was like “…wow! How come the brake pedal is so large? And—“No clutch.” Then I saw him shift and asked how he could shift with no clutch? He explained and I said, “Wow a neat invention!” lol
From our conversations, I know that you have a love of all things automotive. What about VWs interested you?
A. Jay, as for the interest in VWs, after growing up around them I became interested in their neat design, so different from American cars. The motor is in the back? No radiator? How is this possible? My interest grew as I got older and starting seeing so many of them. One of my neighbors had a VW Bus, another VW that I thought was so cool. This was back in the time of peace signs and flower power etc. –painted all over it, a “Hippy Van” I believe it was called back then. Also around that time I came across the first VW Ghia that I had seen. I was fascinated by this new wave of automobiles. But when I saw my first Dune Buggy, that was it! I was sold on VWs. I thought that was the coolest thing of all times. They could be taken down the beach, no roof, loud… wow! “I got to have one!” I was around 15 or so when these things were all over and were only $800.00 for a brand new one. However, growing up kind of poor, that was a lot of money back then to lay out for a toy. I told myself that one day I will have a VW Bug and Dune Buggy. It took me many years but I did accomplish that.
Tell the Readers how you came by your ’67 Beetle.
In 1981, a friend of mine had a ‘72 dark green Bug. As I said I always wanted one of them. It just happened he was selling it. I bought it for $900.00. I thought this was cool! My wife and I loved it,
When our son was born, he used to go for rides all the time with us. However the heating system was horrible in it, and we basically froze in the winter. I decided that since I was working 2 jobs and had a son and no time or money to really spend fixing it—I’d sell it. These cars at that time were still plenty available. I figured that I would buy another one sometime down the road.
Of course that didn’t happen for many years down the road. In 2005, I finally bought the Dune Buggy I’d always wanted. I told myself that it was good for summers but not winters. As several years went by, I started looking for Bugs. I couldn’t find anything in my price range that I liked and most were rotted really badly. However I came across a ‘76 gold, Fuel Injected Bug in NJ. I went and tested it, looked at it and bought it. It was not what I wanted but at least I had an older style Bug to drive around.
I kept looking on Craig’s List and Samba all the time for one somewhere local that I could physically go look at and test drive. Well here I saw my Black Beauty and it was located not far from me. I’d always wanted a ’67–the first year of 12 volt and of the 1500cc engine which I liked. It had the same motor as in my ‘67 Dune Buggy. However, it was January of 2015 and extremely cold in NY–about 20 degrees. I called the guy and said that I wanted to look at it. Out of about 15 calls that he received, no one had come to look at the car because of the bitter cold and snow. That didn’t stop me! I am no stranger to the cold; I’ve worked outdoors all my life and knew that if I didn’t go look at that car, it would be gone in no time.
The seller told me to jump in to take it for a spin. The car had instant heat and drove down the road perfectly at 65 mph. We came back and I looked all around it, under it and said “I will take it!”
The car had been taken care of and professionally maintained motor-wise, etc., had new brakes, tires and front end, so I said to myself that it looked like a winner.
The man lived about 40 miles from me and this was a Friday. I needed to register the car, etc. to get it home. However, it was too late in the day to get all this done. The seller was nice enough to drive it out to me on Saturday morning about 9 AM. Here we are are like 2 kids playing in the snow at 7 degrees, swapping license plates etc. But we didn’t care—we both were VW guys having fun. I gave him a ride back home in Goldy, the ’76, and that was its last long ride before I sold her. I have been driving the black Beetle ever since with no major problems, Great Score!! I just love the old cars from the past. They had character and were great looking. One could tell what each car was, unlike today when all look the same, like space ships.
Do you drive your Bug regularly?
Yes, I drive this bug almost every day with a smile from ear to ear. I get compliments on it all the time, everywhere I go. I cannot stop at a light or go down the road without someone blowing the horn to get my attention and starting a conversation. If I go to a store and think “this will be a 10 minute ordeal”, I better plan on at least 45 min to an hour because someone will be looking at my car when I come out or before I go in…and the conversations start. However, I do not drive it in bad weather–only if there is no snow on the streets, I drive as much as possible. I do have other cars to drive but I just love the feel and fun of driving this one. It brings back the younger year memories.
Do you belong to a Volkswagen club?
I did belong to a couple. One of these folded. There is another one called “L.I.V.C”, a local club. I do participate in some events but not as a regular member. I have several cars and go to too many “cruz nights”, etc, to give all my attention to one club. However, there are several other local VW clubs around the area as well.
What have you had to do to make your Beetle more driveable?
I basically put the key in this car and began driving. I did have to fix a few things like the front steering damper. It was leaking and had somewhat of a shimmy at 60 mph. Also there were no weights on the wheels, so I had to get them balanced. I also had to fix the right side heater box cable; it was frozen and there was no heat in the right channel. Other than that, just basic maintenance. I did, however, paint the under carriage with a special rust inhibitor paint. And I painted the inside floor as well, just for my own person protection and peace of mind.
Frank, you told me that your garage was just an ordinary two-car garage. What motivated you to turn it into the show room that we see in your photographs?
Jay, at one time it was a regular workshop, so to speak. As time passed, I told myself, “I need to do something to make this a more enjoyable place to hang out in”. I had told my children about how great the era of the 60’s was and visited many old historical places that inspired me more to do so. One day I said, “Time to do it!”
I put up sheet rock, painted semi-gloss white to help keep it cleaner and make it easier to clean. Then came the black and white checkered floor shortly thereafter.
Now it was time to start my collection of old memorabilia. Once it was done it was a work of art from the mind of memories.
Q. How long have you been collecting automotive memorabilia and where do you find it?
A. Some of the stuff I had, but most of it came from eBay, garage sales, car shows etc. I had stuff from 40 yrs ago and still do. It took me about 3-5 yrs to collect all that I have in there. I wanted a garage malt shop setting from the 50’s and 60’s era look and I believe I achieved that. Those were the best times ever. Life was very simple and fun–not like today’s world which is stressful and has so many problems. Plus, average people could fix their own cars with little knowledge. Today–you need a college degree.
Since you live in New York, you find it necessary to “winterize” your Beetle. Explain to the Readers how you accomplish this.
A. As far as winterizing, not so much. But if the car’s going to lay for the winter, then I change the oil so I have fresh oil in the motor. This way there will be no contaminates in the oil. I put Sta-Bil in the gas tank and let the engine run for 15 minutes, or take the car for a ride. Then I make it a practice to start the engine a least once a week to every other week and run, get to operating temp, turn the heat on and at least move the car around in the driveway and shift gears, step on brakes, etc., so this way nothing sits and starts leaking. When good weather does come most cars will run like they did when put away. [If they are water cooled cars, of course, they need antifreeze. I change that in all my water cooled cars once every 3 yrs and the thermostats as well.]
Frank…we know that your ’67 Beetle is at home in its vintage surroundings. Thanks for taking time to give us a tour!
Note to the Reader: Frank and I worked on his story some months ago. Then, Frank took very ill. About that time came those horrible East Coast Snow Storms and the Article was delayed until he could recuperate and finally complete the photography.