My first introduction to Timm was about as normal as any other email exchange. As he mentions below, we first connected via Twitter. We have a similar background, both professional work and upbringing. We’re also both very passionate about these old air-cooled gems. I’m happy to call Timm a good friend, in spite of the fact he stalked my ’67 on 580 in the pouring rain. Some things are just meant to be.
Timm, tell me a little about yourself, your background and how you got into vintage Volkswagen Beetles?
I was born in Northridge, CA in 1958. My Dad owned a ’58 Beetle at the time. Our family of five took many trips all over the West Coast in that bug. Since I was the youngest, I rode in the back package tray area. Safety first!! My Dad was a preacher and needed a bus to transport people to Sunday school so he then bought a VW Bus. Oh, my Mom was so pleased! She still talks about having to ride around in that Bus. I don’t have the heart to let her know that “The Bus” we had is now worth more than any new car she has ever owned. So that was my early years with Volkswagens.
In 1976 I lived in Redondo Beach and start hanging with some guys who were into VWs. I was driving a tricked out Pinto. I apologize. Chuck Adamson had a shop called Performance Service (We called it Perverted Service and I have the hat to prove it!) I started hanging out at the shop and going to watch Chuck race his ’54 (?) bug at the Bug-Ins at Orange County Raceway. That was the hook! I still have dreams of his original Empi wheels painted yellow lifting off the ground!
In 1978, I sold the Pinto and bought a ’70 Porsche 914… kind of a VW. Loved that car! Chuck Adamson and Mark Jungly did some tricks to the motor and trans. I lowered it slightly with some nice Koni shocks… and new paint. Topanga Canyon was my playground!
Around 1980, I sold the 914, bought a wedding ring and a ’66 Beetle. Now married, I spent a whole summer not at the beach but in my garage for hours building a Cal Bug out of that ’66. Sweet car.. amazing paint. Again, Chuck at Performance Service helped me build this car. It was finished except for minor electrical work I was having Chuck do at his shop. When I went to pick it up he handed me the key and said, “It’s in the first spot in front of the shop.” I looked at the first spot. It was empty. He thought I was joking. Yep, that’s right it was f**king stolen from the front of Performance Service! Which was, by the way next door to the Redondo Beach Police station! WTF?! No one’s fault except the A%$ who stole it. Hope he liked his Karma.
Chuck had started racing a Class One buggy. He raced desert and stadium events. I traveled to all of these events with them. The Mint 400 was always a great race to be a part of. What happens in Vegas… Loren Pearson of West Coast Metric was part of this group and I still buy parts from him today.
I began buying bugs, squarebacks, fastbacks anything VW and tearing them apart and putting them back together again. As a result I learned the basics of air-cooled VWs. Plus I made money selling them which helped me fund building a Class 5 Baja Bug.
After hours Chuck built and taught me how to build a HP Motor, step by step. Patience is a virtue. I never ended up racing that Baja professionally other than in Corva Events and running desert roads with other off-road enthusiasts but it had plenty of hours on it. It was not street legal so I would trailer it to the desert and it was used as a support vehicle at the desert races.
In 1983, I ordered a black GTI from Downtown Los Angeles VW dealership, my first of many watercooled VWs. Great car!
In 1984, I finished photography school and my photo career started. I worked for a short time for Trackside Photo shooting off-road racing. I broke off on my own and with the help of pre-running the courses with my Baja, I found the best spots for shooting desert races. I shot racing for a few years providing images for magazines before selling the Baja and bringing my photography into the studio to begin my career in advertising photography.
Somewhere in 1987, I decided to concentrate on my business, raise kids and sell my Baja and other VWs. And in 1989, I moved to northern CA and bought a ’67, 21 window Bus with actual “hippie” propaganda on it. I owned it for a short time and sold it for under $2,000 to a friend in So Cal. I even towed it the 500 miles for this price! This is my, ‘kick me for that move” moment!
In 2001, I bought a ’66 Beetle I saw on the side of the road. The sickness began again! I started buying them one after the other. My 16-year-old daughter got the “Bug” as well. The garage was filled with a ’65, ’66, ’70, ’72 bugs as well as a ’59 single cab. Many thanks to Ken at Vintage Technology in Santa Rosa, CA during this era! And my wife Beth for letting me store all those VWs in the garage!
In 2004 I sold all VWs to help send daughter to college; and clean out our garage!
In 2007 we moved back to So Cal, warm weather, warm water and VW heaven! We bought a partially done ’62 Anthracite, ragtag Beetle on Ebay from Washington…. the one I drive today… and my favorite Beetle so far!
What is your favorite year VW? Why?
Almost as hard as the question, “Do I look fat in these jeans?” I own and love the ’62. They have the vintage look, bumpers, deck lid, lights, low back seats but have good driveability. But like most with the VW sickness, I would like to have various years and models to satisfy my needs on a day-to-day basis but trying to just have one at a time. It’s a 12 step program.
You work professionally as a photographer. Have you done any work specifically around these old cars?
Back in the 70’s and early 80’s I shot for magazines and spent many weekends in the So Cal and Mexican desert shooting desert races with some now classic Bajas, Class 11 and other air-cooled buggies. I also have old shots from Bug-Ins, Bugoramas and VW car shows. My shots were used in many of the VW magazines. Recently, I was fortunate to photograph Lenny Copp from West Coast Classics. What a great VW guy! Thanks Eric!
How did you first meet Eric? (1967beetle.com)
HA! Crazy. I got a message from a guy on Twitter. He asked me a VW related question because I had a VW shot on my blog and my Twitter name is oldVW. We talked a few times. He mentioned that his car is a 67, color, etc. He told me he lived in the SF Bay Area. Suddenly, I have this flash of, “I wonder…?” I had taken a photo in the pouring rain of a 67 Beetle on the 580 freeway when I was in the Bay Area a few months before. I sent him the photo and he says that his wife just fell to the floor laughing. It was Eric and his wife Amanda driving in that crazy northern California downpour! Knowing Eric and Amanda was meant to be…
What do you think about the vintage Volkswagen culture?
Over the years I have met the coolest people. I belonged to a VW club in Nor Cal and we would cruise to Bodega Bay and other spots… always a good time. Here in So Cal when driving the Bug you are constantly giving “the signal” to other Vintage VW drivers. It’s a nod, a thumbs up, a high-five, some sort of signal. I always meet great people on Twitter and at all VW shows. Vintage VWs have people from all walks of life and ages. I like that. You wouldn’t find that at a “Saturn” show.
How many VWs have you owned?
Not 1 but not 100. Somewhere in between.
There are many vintage cars to get involved with. Why VW?
Family history. It’s in my blood and growing up in So Cal almost everyone has a VW story. Easy to work on, the German engineers were brilliant. You actually drive these simple cars, gas, clutch, brake, speedo and sometimes fuel gauge. They fit nicely in a garage.
I am glad I was in Southern California and able to actually be at original Bug-Ins, Desert races, participating and being a photographer on the tracks. Sitting on a stool at the counters, like being in a bar, at some of what are now the Classic VW Shops like Johnny’s Speed & Chrome, A & D Buggies, Performance Service, West Coast Metric, Simpson Safety, Vasek Polak Porsche…some of my best memories. Rolling the race car through tech inspection on Fremont St in Las Vegas at the Mint 400s, testing at Hungry Valley in Gorman, Mickey Thompson Stadium Races, Glen Helen Raceway, Riverside Raceway. Good times! VWs have allowed me to meet some great, down-to-earth people along the way and I am still meeting more to this day!
How do you think the Internet has changed the vintage VW hobby?
I love and hate the internet. I miss the days you had to find that part by trolling junk yards, people’s garages, etc. If you couldn’t find it, someone would fabricate it for you in their shop. I am old enough to remember going to the VW dealership to get your parts. Loved that! But today you can get anything on the internet. If you have the money, you can get it.
I guess that is good and I am happy to see people who are true VW enthusiasts making money at what they love. It has helped me build my ’62 so I can’t complain. I even bought the partially built car on Ebay in the exact color I wanted. I guess it is helping keep these vintage cars on the road, so it’s good.
Stock or custom?
Both. I love a perfectly stock VW but love the art in creating a custom. My car is a blend between the two. I do like a big motor on the So Cal freeways and taking out that lowered Honda from light to light!
What advice would you give someone wanting to restore one of these cars?
Research what year. Go to as many VW shows you can before buying and restoring. In the early years, I bought many VWs to build and then later found they weren’t what I wanted for the style I was building. Driver or show car, decide before you build it. Rock chips will happen!
Anything else you’d like to say?
I need correct bumpers on my car!
I would like to thank my wife, Beth, for being so understanding of my time and money that has gone into this hobby. I think she may be getting soft for VWs as well. She recently mentioned a VW Bus would be nice! Also, thanks to my daughter and son who have spent time lifting engines, pushing cars, holding the flashlight and pumping the brake pedal all the times I was bleeding the brakes.