Monday, November 12, 2007

Big Blue - The First Forty Years

Please note: this posting will be updated as more information is found.

On May 9th, 1968 (a Thursday), as the revolution was starting in France, a Neptune Blue VW Delivery (Panel) bus rolled off the lines in Hanover, Germany. It came with Dark Blue Leatherette interior, a manual transmission and a 1600cc, 47 HP engine. It would have rolled off the line right around the time the two-millionth Type 2 Volkswagen bus was produced. The bus was then shipped to the USA through the port in either San Francisco or San Diego (no one seems sure of this code).

Over 40 years later, on September 5th, 2007 (a Wednesday), Brett and Elizabeth purchased that same bus, now with some modifications.

Here is what I know happened in between:

On July 13th 1968 (a Saturday), 4 days before Saddam Hussein would come into power in Iraq, the bus was sold to M. Edwin Riddle of 927 Grove Way, Hayward, California. It would have been around $2,295. 0-60 mph took about 37 seconds and top speed was 65 mph. VW calculated fuel consumption with the vehicle traveling at 75 percent of top speed, which worked out to 23 mpg at 53 mph (we have average 18 mpg). The bus had been on the lot at Humphrey Motors, Inc - a Volkswagen dealership at 750 A Street, Hayward, California. The salesman's name was Tom Berberich.

At some point in the next 23 months, police would clash with antiwar protesters in Chicago, Illinois, U.S. spacecraft Apollo 8 would enter orbit around the Moon and Riddle would upgarde the VW panel truck with a new camper interior, including a bed, 12 volt fridge, and windows with screens, installed by California Road Runner Camper of 2000 Laguna Street, Concord, California. This is when the spare tire was added to the front of the bus. I know of at least 3 other conversions by the same company, which was done to a 1966 and 1968, so I have no idea how long that company lasted beyond those years.

On June 23rd, 1970 (a Sunday), a day before the United States Senate would repeal the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, Monty Finefrock, of 12708 Border Hill Road, Los Altos, California, purchased the VW from Wes Behel Volkswagen at 1025 E. El Camino Real, Sunnyvale, California. The salesman was Dan Larsen. The price including tax was $3074.25. He traded in a '66 Mustang and they threw in a spare tire.

For the next 37 years the bus would be Monty's. Monty would change the plates from "WKT398" to "Big Blu 3". He would add a oil temp gauge, a rpm gauge and an oil pressure gauge. He would also add a ASI Riviera poptop on 7-4-1981 at 9829 Bigge Avenue in Oakland, California.

Big Blue spent his time going on family vacations and the annual National Championship Air Races and Air Show (a RC airshow in Reno, NV every September). In July of 1991, Big Blue and family traveled south from Palo Alto to Cabo San Lucas for the

Around November of 2006, it came to rest in a storage spot in Redwood City, California. After sitting awhile, Monty, who had now moved out of the Bay Area, listed it for sale on, where we would see it and buy it.

It would be our wedding gift from a few people. We created an online registry where friends and family could buy parts of a VW bus for us. After our wedding on July 7th, 2007, we were on the VW hunt. The Friday of Labor Day weekend, on our way to Yosemite, we drove down to Redwood City to look at the bus we had seen on Craigslist and we fell in love.

The above bus in not Big Blue, but minus the chrome trim on the side, this is how he would have looked coming off the assembly line.

The first thing we did was create this blog to not only track its history moving forward, but its past as well. The second thing we did was give Big Blue some new wheels and tires. The third thing, was trailer him to Paul of Valley Wagonworks in San Rafael, California and have him go over the entire thing.

Big Blue offers Elizabeth and me a chance to explore both nature and the nature of an old car. When we fix something, which we will do often, it is an opportunity to both learn and be the direct recipient of that learning. We look forward to many happy miles in Big Blue.

Figuring out the M Code:
09 5 Built May 9 1968
UF San Diego (or San Francisco, confusion on this seems pretty standard)
2110 Delivery van sliding door right, LHD, Standard Version
474735 Neptune blue with dark blue leatherette
8154651 the 8 means 68, the rest is the serial number
21 47 HP, manual trans
426 USA specs (Speedometer & Odometer in Miles, Laminated Windscreen, Padded Dash and Dash Lid, USA/CN Specs)
507 vent wings in cab doors
525 seat belts in front


Ludwig's Drivers

Given that BigBlue was first sold at a dealership in the Bay Area, I'm willing to bet that "UF" stands for San Francisco, and not San Diego. Which also solves a little mystery pertaining to our Ludwig--he's also a UF.
Nice research! I wish I could do as well. Any hints?

Big Blue's Driver

Honestly, it was a good previous owner. Monty had stacks of paperwork and the original sales material was still in the glovebox. He actually kept all of his gas mileage records in small notebooks which I have. I have every mile recorded until at least the mid-1980s. Once Monty knew I was into the research, he sent an email out to all his old friends trying to get their memories of the trips they took (which will be coming I hope). He also dug up his original bill of sale and sent it to me. He is sending pictures of it through the years when he gets his stuff unpacked.

Cameron Guthrie

That's great that you're able to piece so much of Big Blue's history together. I wish Lottie's POs had been so kind as to leave me treasure map of reciepts, as yours did.

Great blog, btw. I think it's definitely going to be a role model for my fledgling site.


Wow, it’s amazing the things you stumble across while wandering about cyberspace … in January 1971 Monty and I decided to go back to college and headed north to Humboldt State to complete our education. Since I had to sell my car to afford this venture I spent a lot of hours cruising up and down highway 101 with Monty between the Bay Area and Arcata. Monty was quite the amateur mechanic and did all his own maintenance from oil changes to tuneups to packing wheel bearings and his VW always ran like a top! Great memories.

Monty Finefrock

I can't believe this last post occurred after 15 years of no activity on this blog. The blog has meant a lot to me and I have been "searching" for new comments for years. And now this latest comment.

Rusty or Steve, is that you?

Regardless, best to you both.


PS tomorrow is Woody's birthday as well as Jack Purcell!!

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