A follow up to an earlier interview we did during the infant stages of 1967beetle.com; 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.
What’s your opinion of the vintage Volkswagen Beetle market?
The vintage VW market is going very well for the ’67 and earlier Beetles. I see them appreciating in value year-after-year at least 10%-15%. They are a great investment–you will not lose money. They go only up, not down. The ’68 and later Beetles are doing ok too, but have slower appreciation.
What are your long-term business goals?
Ha! Move out of New York, maybe, and find a place in the South and pump out more rare vintage VW rides. The more rare they become, the more drive I have to hunt, find, and restore that baby for the road.
Anyone you’d like to thank or mention?
Well…I have to thank my Pops for traveling with me down this amazing and joyous road of restoring the vintage VW Beetle. My fam, of course, for supporting me through this journey. Nothing can beat the number of incredible people we have met along the way. My good friend, “Lucky Larry”, who worked for VW back in the ‘60s and ‘70s, and my amazing historian and VW friend, Vince Vespe, who has been the sole owner of a 1965 Karmann Ghia Convertible.
Also, I want to mention Herman Schauer, who was the East Coast Regional VW Tech for over 35 years. Herman actually builds my motors on a regular basis now. He is an encyclopedia of VW and automotive knowledge. And of course, YOU, Eric Shoemaker. We are two artists working the VW Scene and helping each other.
so much bromance!
Ha! Chris and I share the same passions for sure.
I want to congratulate especially the Find-a-Bug Department which Chris operates. And…specifically where Chris helps clients to locate “project” Beetles that probably otherwise would eventually see the scrap heap. There are literally thousands of these “project Bugs” across America. People begin these projects without counting the costs with the result that yet another car bites the dust unwittingly. I have predicted that due to the untimely demise of Beetles, especially due to mismanagement, in another 4 years a nice driver quality Beetle will be, for all practical purposes, too expensive for the average person to buy. I am urging people NOT to under-take projects which they cannot complete. I also am urging people to purchase cars with care and fore-thought in order to stem the demise of these vehicles. If you want a good Beetle but cannot complete its restoration presently but can store the car in a covered garage, then I would say to buy it. Then, build your “war chest” of funds which you eventually can use to restore your car or to have it restored–by Chris and his Staff–of course! Let’s work on the bleeding! Let’s save the Beetle from the scrap heap! Thanks Chris for all that you do! jay
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