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!
Out of all early cars, why the Vintage Volkswagen?
While in South America, I married Neva, who was a member of our Mission. At one point, we had a trail bike for local transportation but never a car. When we returned to live in Texas, we had two small children, no house, no job and certainly no car.
But, let me back up here. We came to the states at intervals to visit family and friends and the people and churches who supported us and our work. Dad had a new ’65 Beetle. He gave me a couple of lessons in it and sent us off to Washington State to visit Neva’s folks…then down the Coast to California to visit others.
On another visit, we purchased The Red Baron, a ’67 Beetle that had few miles on him. We loved driving this car and put our share of miles on him during that visit. He stayed in the family and eventually came to Dallas with my sister.
By the time we returned to live in Texas, we settled near my sister, who was very ill. Since we had no car, she lent us hers. About the same time, I answered an ad in the newspaper and bought our second Beetle–yes, you guessed it, another ’67 Beetle. This one was a SunRoof Edition. We were immediately a two-car-family.
I took that black SunRoof to have a tune-up done. When I retrieved it from the shop, it ran no better. Dad had given me his old VW tools and a Clymer Repair Manual. I opened it and read. Removing a spark plug, I found that it wasn’t set to 28. I fooled around and gapped it properly. I thought that since my hands were already dirty, I should check another plug. Same story. And, so it was with all 4. The next time I saw that mechanic, I told him about the plugs. He said not a word—just shrugged his shoulders.
I thought—“Self—you can read. Why are you taking your car to have it repaired?” And, thus began my “VW Career”. LOL
And, so, I say—if I could do it, so can anyone who can read!
I began to find these cars and bring them home to repair for our own use or to sell. Hey—while my colleagues had but one car, we had at least 4 running, driving, registered and insured,very nice VWs sitting at the ready. I’d get home from work of a Friday afternoon and we’d jump into a Beetle and head for the highway to drive several hundred miles to visit relatives.
At one point, we had a ’69 Special Edition luxury Oldsmobile Delta 88 with a 455 engine and a high dollar stereo. We sold it because we could park two Beetles in its footprint!
Being able to repair these cars at just the cost of parts made owning VWs the only way to go for a young and very mobile family.
Speak a little about VW of old, compared to modern cars on the road today.
Well…there’s no comparison between vintage cars and modern cars. You want comfort—go for a “today’s vehicle.” But, the more electronic technology that is applied to cars, the less I like them. There’s no real feel for driving. I learned to drive because I liked driving—not being driven. I love the feel of the road. It’s an ego-thing, I guess—being in charge. Besides…unless a guy has lots of money and owns some super car, no one notices his ride. Jump into a vintage Volkswagen and the “whole world” takes notice. Is that good or is that good!?
After completing my present ’67 Beetle, I showed it to our son (who grew up in VWs). When I had finished my explanations about why I had done this and why that, he said: “So…that’s what it’s all about, is it?” I responded: “Of course. I have a daily driver ‘big car’. This one’s for the pleasure of driving and so that people will take notice!”
You seem to favor the ’67 Beetle. Let’s talk about that. Why the special interest?
I go back to that first experience in The Red Baron. He was such a special car. Our son later remarked, after having done his share of driving The Baron and other VWs—“That’s tightest little VW we have driven!”
Then, to have lucked onto that second ’67. After that…they just seemed to fall into my hands. I liked the 12 volt system, the ball-jointed front suspension and the wider track of the rear suspension. Two speed wipers, seat-back lock-and-release, increased horsepower and many other of those changes for 1967 turned the Beetle into a vehicle to be cherished. Oh, to this day I gripe about certain things, but over-all, those VW engineers had it right on the money. Oh—and I hate the plastic that began to be more and more noticeable in the later VWs. The 1967 Model Beetle retains the mysticism of VW but coupled with the pizazz of the modern.
How did you first connect with Eric and 1967beetle.com?
I sell used VW parts. Beth Leverman, is restoring a 1967 Beetle. She came by the house to look at some parts for her car. Being a faithful Reader of 1967Beetle.com, she told me that I should look at the Site. I did, right away. I cannot recall the first e-conversation which I had with Eric, but soon, we had e-mailed back and forth. I recall being asked if I might be interested in helping with the editing of an article. I said that I would give it a try. My wife and I have spent our entire lives writing and editing. When I returned the piece, Eric said that he had the next one ready to send. This thing just sort of fell into my lap. If I die tonight, it will be with a smile on my face as I think of the great time that I have had with Eric Shoemaker at 1967Beeetle.com!
What do you think about 1967beetle.com’s effort to connect ’67 owners globally?
Whooa! Thinking Globally about the 1967 Model Beetle was a big undertaking for 1967Beetle.com. We’ve run into a maze of situations involving Beetles manufactured in Germany that were specially fitted to comply with standards in other countries. There are so many variations from what we in the USA are expecting. Now—compound this with the fact that 1967s were manufactured in countries other than Germany and we’ve uncovered even further complications. If that weren’t enough…these cars were moved about the World at will by subsequent owners so that often it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to determine whether a specific ’67 Bug is a correctly outfitted vehicle or not.
A result of the Global Outreach has been the establishing of friendships around the World. We have come to depend upon ’67 owners everywhere in the determinations of what is correct for a specific vehicle and what is not correct.
Tell us a ’67 Beetle story
My wife reminded me of one. We had headed out to Lubbock, TX. from our home in Garland, TX. The distance door-to-door is 372 miles. When a person drives VWs, he has the distances pegged. You have to know your gas stations, rest stops and so forth. LOL That Friday afternoon was blisteringly hot. We jumped into The Red Baron and an hour later were on the western edge of Fort Worth. I noticed that the car was going more and more slowly. I’d heard, all of my life, about “vapor locking”. Thinking through the fuel system as I drove, I decided that the stock metal line which passes through the firewall into the engine compartment must have become compromised by the heat of the day and the engine. We pulled into the last gas station on the way out of town. I explained to the mechanic what I thought. He agreed to remove the metal line and replace it with woven hose. That done, we got under way.
We had driven only a short way out of town when I found that I could barely coax the car to go 15 mph with the pedal to the floor. I found a turn-around and we started back. At each expressway interchange, I took our lives in my hands, hoping to avoid side traffic. Praying hard, we made it back into town and found a parts store. I purchased a fuel pump and located a shaded place where I could put the family while I changed the pump.
Again we got under way. And, again…the car just would not respond. Realize that already we are miles and miles from home and not wanting to turn back. Had we turned back, we didn’t know if we’d make it home or not. So, I located yet another store and went in to purchase a carburetor rebuild kit.
I told our tale of woe to the man at the parts desk. He looked at me, thinking, then asked if I had a fuel filter on the car. When I told him that, indeed, I did, he asked if I could bring it to him. I fetched the filter. He tried blowing through it. Not a whisper of air would pass.
“There’s your problem!” he announced. I felt like a fool. The most simple of solutions and I had made a big deal of the situation!
We modified a Honda filter, I installed it and…the engine roared to life. We got to Lubbock without further incident.
I had tried to out-think those German engineers and their years of testing parts and weather conditions and I had lost. It’s a lesson which I never forgot.
Stock or custom?
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again—the more stock the car, the more intrinsic value it possesses. Modify the car and its value drops.
That said, I have done a few things to my 1967 Beetle. Yes…Baby is not “whole”! I did some things which I’ve never done. I’ve always driven bone-stock VWs. For this “last one”, I decided to add just a few touches to “personalize” the car. I can tell you that everything which I have done easily can be reversed at little cost.
Yes…I know that I devalued the car. But, that’s the way it will stay as long as I am its conservator.
Quickly—let me add that from time-to-time, I do something stock to add value to the car. Already, I have in mind something which I want to do which will make Baby even more stock. I’ll let you know when it happens.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I do not drive my Beetle enough! But, I think about driving it all of the time. When I read comments from you readers of 1967Beetle.com about your outings in your Beetles, I get jealous. You are having all of the fun! Your stories really invigorate me. I want to thank everyone who writes in because you are encouraging all of us to enjoy our cars! These are the peoples’ cars—they are meant to be enjoyed and used.
Thanks, Jay, for sharing your ’67 with 1967beetle.com.