Our thanks to Peter Ferguson for letting us have a glimpse of his native Ireland. His story helps to enlarge our understanding of the global 1967 VW Community.
First, Peter, tell us a little about your part of Ireland to give us some background. Most of us readers have little idea of your country.
Hi all, my name is Peter and I am 35 and married to Amy (12 years married) with three children: Rebekah (7), Daniel (4), and Caleb (18 months). I am an Anglican clergyman/pastor and live on the Emerald Isle (Ireland), currently serving in Carrickfergus just outside Belfast City. Our wee Country is blessed with some of the most scenic drives and countryside in the world, although is does rain a lot – that is why it is so green!
How did you first become interested in Volkswagens?
My love affair with all things air-cooled Volkswagen is due to one man, my late grandfather, George Megahey. He drove Beetles throughout his working and retired life. My earliest memories are, along with my two brothers, jumping into the back of his Beetle and heading ‘round the coast and along the waterways and little villages of the Ards Peninsula. I was intrigued with the shape of the car, so different from all others and how the tiny side windows popped out. One stand-out childhood memory is when my family would holiday at Newcastle Co. Down in view of the Mourne Mountains. Our grandparents would come to visit us. We would hear the whistle of the Beetle before we saw it and knew they were here! My brother and I would jump on the runner boards and hold onto the gutters while grandpa would drive us slowly and safely to our caravan!
Papa George worked at Harland and Woolfe shipyard in Belfast (incidentally so did my great grandfather, who worked as a cabinet maker–he would have worked on the Titanic and all those great ocean liners of times past). He told us how that in the winter months, his colleagues with their water-cooled engines would get frozen, but he would hop into his little Beetle and away he went every time!
Were Volkswagens imported directly from Germany into Ireland?
Yes. Volkswagens were imported directly into Northern Ireland (United Kingdom) from Germany. However in the Republic of Ireland there was an assembly line in Dublin which put together CKD cars from all the parts. These are rare and sought after today. One unique feature of the Irish built beetle is the shamrock logo stamped on the windows.
You mentioned a VW Club–are there still many Volkswagens in Ireland or, are they scarce?
At one time Volkswagens were a very familiar sight on our roads. Everyone of a certain age has a Volkswagen story. They were seen as cheap and reliable transport and as such were used for transporting kegs of Guinness to bales of straw in towns, villages and on farms throughout the Country. They would have been used and abused, so many didn’t survive. Now they are a rare sight, but there is a small yet growing community of Volkswagen enthusiasts throughout the Island – north and south. They are now seen as a prized and iconic vehicle and bring a smile wherever you go.
Now, let’s get to your car. Tell us something of its background and how you obtained it.
Let me share something of my Volkswagen history. Having saved hard from several part time jobs, I bought my first Beetle when I was 18. This was a 1985 Mars Red Mexican-built Beetle, my first car and I LOVED IT!! I made all my mistakes on that car – I bought a set of cheap reproduction Empi 8 spoked wheels and threw on all the cheap chrome dress-up parts I could find. I took out the original and correct plastic surround dash and painted the metal Mars Red, since I liked the older style painted dash. My goodness–I shudder now to think of all the mistakes I made on that car, all due to the enthusiasm of youth. But my, how I loved it and have so many memories driving all ‘round Ireland, often with my mates, heading on camping trips and mountain expeditions. I remember one night when some loose wires in the dash went up in flames and all the electrics failed. I phoned a mate and he came and drove behind me with his lights at full beam to get me home. Young and foolish, but great fun at the time! After university I headed to Tanzania, East Africa, for a year with a church project and that car became my sister’s.
My next Beetle was a lovely 1976 Karmann Cabriolet Beetle. Having a bit more experience behind me, I began to appreciate different models and year-type differences. This Beetle was original and I kept it that way, serviced it regularly and it never let me down. After the birth of our daughter, Rebekah, a Convertible was not the most practical, so it went up for sale. But I wasn’t Beetle-less for long!
Now the Internet came into play and I spotted a lovely Blue 1967 1500cc Beetle for sale by Terry’s Beetle services in London. I booked a flight to London and was met at the train station by Luke of Terry’s Beetles in a 70’s Bug he thought I would be interested in. However it was the vintage look of the 67 Blue VW that won that day. A deal was done and I arranged to have it shipped to Northern Ireland. Now, I must be honest, at this stage it was simply an original vintage Beetle in great condition I had bought. I was yet to learn to appreciate the one-year-only and best-model-year Bug status of this car. It didn’t take long for me to realise how special a 1967 Beetle is, as driving this car was a revelation. The H code 1500cc engine had power and acceleration that I had never experienced before in a Beetle. This car was a joy to drive and a joy to own. It was all original and totally factory stock. I was becoming more and more educated and interested in the originality of a stock factory VW. It was a sad day when this car was sold (within four hours of being advertised on a local website). However with a growing family I had bought a 1964 Split-screen (Split-window) Camper and promised my wife that the Beetle would go. Interestingly, for you guys, it is a Californian import with the lovely Hehr windows of a Sundial/EZ camper conversion – very rare here in Ireland. I still have this Split-screen and smile every-time we head on day trips or camping trips round the Causeway Coast Road – which is one of the most scenic coastal drives in the World. Google Causeway Coast Road Northern Ireland and you will see what I mean.
Driving the Split-screen is a dream come true and a joy, but since parting with the 67 Beetle I always missed (compared with the Camper) the relative ease of driving a 67 Beetle. It was at a BBQ last summer with my VW friends that I happened to mention to a mate how I love the Split-screen but that I miss driving a Beetle. His reply was: “I know of a Northern Ireland registration (a local car with all the history and rarity) 1967 Java Green Beetle that is undergoing a totally stock restoration in a secret location. This guy knows his VW’s and scours the world for original parts.” Russell even had pictures on his phone. I persuaded him to let me have the restorer’s number and the next day I beat a path to his door. This car was located in a shed which was an Aladdin’s Cave of VWs – Splitties, a Lowlight Karmann Ghia, Oval- windows, Bay-windows and more. He had discovered the Java Green Beetle in a shed and it was a real survivor. It was a great car to begin with and he was tastefully restoring it for himself but was willing to part with it if the correct person came along. As we talked and I enthused about the ‘67 one-year-only features and my passion for originality, he knew that I was that guy.
The car had all the original parts you could hope for–original seats and upholstery, head-liner, door cards, door handles, floor rubber mats in great condition, original bumper mounts, firewall…and I could go on and on. I shared with Paul my VW way-of-thinking, how for me, if a part has a slight blemish, such as a tear in a seat, but it came from the factory, it goes back in the car. He just shook my hand. We did a deal the following week. I agreed that the car would be finished stock and original. The paint-work is immaculate and a testimony to Paul’s time and skills. The best compliment of all was from a fellow ‘67 Beetle driver, who saw the Java Green parked beside an original paint ‘60s Bug at a show: “Pete, they both look like original paint cars,” he told me. That is what I am after in this car. I don’t want it to look new or like a show car, but to look like a car that has survived almost 50 years but still looks and feels like a 50 year old car. I want it to proudly show and honour its history. I am enjoying owning and driving this car and, bit by bit, am adding original parts. I sourced a set of OG ‘67 flat hubs, an original rear bumper and over riders (which will replace the reproduction bumper–just looking for an OG front bumper now), a correct year owner’s and service manual. The car came with an original bambus parcel shelf, as a gift from Paul the restorer, from his stash of period goodies! Thanks Paul.
Is your Beetle typical of a ’67 Beetle in Ireland? Or, were various models imported into your Country? For example, in the USA, the norm was the “Deluxe” Beetle for 1967 but we know that this is not the case for all other countries.
This car is a 1967 Java Green Deluxe 1300cc Beetle Sedan. Paul had a nice 1500cc H code engine which has gone in and which is doing nicely. However, I can’t help but think about returning it to 1300cc with an original code engine. There is even the possibility that I can locate the original engine.
You will see from the pictures that there are several differences between a European and an American export 1967 Beetle. Most notably, European ‘67s were the last year to retain the front sloping headlight design. I know that I am biased, but I love this look as it gives the ‘67 a vintage VW feel. European ‘67s have blade bumpers with simple over riders–American ‘67s have over riders complete with towel rails. European 1500s had disc brakes (mine being a 1300cc has drum brakes) and of course being a German-built ‘67 Beetle for the UK Market, mine is right-hand drive. The one “custom” feature on the car is that the steering wheel has been painted a lovely ivory white and really sits well against the Java Green dash. It really should be black, but I love it and intend to keep it that way–I am wild like that!
What is your plan for your Beetle? You mention using it for your sister’s wedding in July. Do you drive your car daily or only on special occasions?
My plans are to drive and enjoy this Beetle on longer road trips in the warmer months. The car will be dry- stored during our winter months when we put salt on the roads, just to preserve the car. My dream is to drive the Java Green with my son, Daniel, to the Wolfsburg factory and the Autostadt Museum in Germany and possibly take in a vintage VW show such as Bad Camberg or Hessisch Oldendorf. The car already has been used as wedding car at my sister’s wedding and she was delighted with it. She saw the Beetle for the first time at her wedding rehearsal the evening before the big day. I plan to keep the car stock and maybe add a few period parts and accessories as I find them, but not too many. I want to honour the vision and work Paul put into this car.
I would like to do a bit more research on the car’s history to see what I can find. I was told that the car was sold in Co. Down and driven around the picturesque coastal village of Donaghadee for decades, by a policeman called Kenny.. In any case, the car is from the same County as my late grandfather and would have been just down the road from him (counties are very small in Ireland!). It makes me smile to think that one day he met the owner and got to chatting about Volkswagens or passed this car on the road and gave the driver and car a wave.
In some places, it is difficult to find VW parts and services. How is it in Ireland?
There is a very active VW Community and following particularly in England. There are several parts providers, so parts are easily available. I have made several great friends over the years through our local club, Northern Beetle and Bus Owners Club, and have built up great contacts and people I trust who have been working on air-cooled for decades. My contacts include air-cooled guru and local VW legend Tommy Murray and air-cooled mechanic David Hall of Kings Road Motor Services. These guys have kept me on the road. Their advice and patience are immeasurable.
I have a great community of friends, but fellow ‘67 driver, Jim McCallum, stands out as a gent, fellow anorak and all ‘round encourager! Also Turlough, Jason, Russ and Louise, Nigel , Paddy and John and Co. are my “go-to” guys. And of course, a huge thanks to Paul and his workmanship and skills so evident on this special car.
The sun is currently shining here, and I am looking forward to many sunny days Vdubbing along the coast and countryside of our beautiful Country and Island. It is great to get in touch with Eric, Jay and the ‘67 VW Community of 1967beetle.com. It makes owning this classic Beetle very special indeed. Keep rocking the ‘67 air-cooled.
Thanks, Peter, for sharing your ’67 with 1967beetle.com.