Friday, April 30, 2010

May Facebook Fan of the Month - Garrett from Tulsa


What's the name of your bus (and why)?
My bus answers to several names. I think it likes all of them, but I generally refer to it as "OttoBus". There was no deep thought process that led to this name, it just fell into place based on the original automatic transmission the bus has. Otto seemed cooler than Auto, spelling things incorrectly is hip, right? At some point it made an attempt to transition into the name "ReproBUS". When I purchased the bus there was a small St. Christopher charm glued to the "empty gauge block-off plate" to the right of the gauges. St. Christopher also went by Reprobus and was placed in history as the "Patron Saint of Travelers", I'd like to think that little charm has gotten me home more than once. The name didn't stick but the charm is there for good.

Why did you buy a VW bus?
I think a large part of my Volkswagen "addiction" can be traced back to my mother. I remember from a very young age my mother recalling her first 2 vehicles (Both 60's Bugs.) I remember her fond recollection of the "Volkswagen Smell" and her floor pans being so rusted out that she had to layer multiple floormats to keep from seeing the road beneath her feet. She often recalls her first bug that she never got to drive, She was returning from school one day and arrived home to see her bug up in flames in the driveway....I guess she shouldn't have let her boyfriend work on it. I'd hate to think it was the VW Gods spiting her for having redone the interior in furry black fabric.

I actually bought my first bus a few years ago, it was a '75 that had previously been a Church Bus. It's got a deep history from which I've uncovered many "artifacts". I began gathering parts and a motor for this project, but soon realized I was in over my head. I bought a daily driver ($200 Hippie painted 1988 Chevy Celebrity) to drive until the bus was ready. About 1500 miles later, I blew the Chevy engine, I then decided I should find a bus that was near road ready that I could drop my rebuilt 1.8 engine in. This search led me to Otto.

My Church Bus is still anxiously awaiting the day it can be properly restored...

Church Bus.

What makes OttoBus unique?
OttoBus has a few quirks, it's a big part of the charm. I would think very few Volkswagen Bus owners have a vehicle that just anyone could hop in and drive without instruction. The paintjob on Otto is a home-done job that my father and I have poured several hours into, the seat covers were constructed and sewn by my mother and I, the motor is a rebuilt 1973 from my friend Lance M. in Springfield, MO, and of course the automatic transmission is a bit odd. I'm also planning on adding Moon Discs sometime within the next month or so. It's really just a work in progress and it will probably always be. In fact, I placed 2nd in the "Under Construction : Clearly Unfinished" class at the 2009 VW Club of Tulsa show. Everything I do, or add to the bus has it's own unique flavor that adds to the overall vibe.

What are the ultimate plans for OttoBus? Camping? Daily Driver? Roadtrip?
It spent several months of 2009 as a daily driver and the only car I owned, actually. I'm currently working on fitting a late Westfalia camper interior into the bus. I am stripping the cabinets of the laminate and staining them a lighter color, restoring every inch of them as I go. I can say with a bit of certainty that it's main focus for quite some time will be camping. You just can't beat camping in the bus! Some day in the far, far future I would like to do a full country trip in a bus, and if funds allow at that point I would like it to be a late bay, high top camper with full fuel injection and a 2.0 motor. Everyone can dream!

If you could have any VW in the world, what model would you want?
That's a tough question! It'd have to be aircooled and old. I would probably throw it back to the last question and say an all Pastel White Hightop camper, fuel injection, 2.0 motor, and with all of the amenities for a several month long roadtrip.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The swag bag from Bus City 2009 - Gearing up for 2010

One lucky man got a Big Blue t-shirt!

And everyone got t-shirts, stickers and hats:

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Bus (van) review in True Magazine

You can click on the images to make them bigger and easy to read.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Vintage Tuesday! - Split window bug back in the day.

Split window bug back in the day.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The ultimate Bus Bus (or Bus Bus Bus)?

This one is for Ludwig's Drivers. I know they love these...

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Hall of Shame: November 1989 VW Trends - Bay Window photo shoot

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Life and Times of Peter Aschwanden

Profile of the artist by his widow, Deborah Reade as told to Big Blue's Driver

Peter was an artist and illustrator from grammar school. He illustrated many things including his school paper, yearbooks etc. from that young age. Right before he did the VW book, he was carving and painting signs. At the time, he was working at a coffee house here in Santa Fe called “Three Cities of Spain” for which he had painted a sign. John and Eve Muir saw the sign there and decided he might be just the one to illustrate the book (How To Keep Your Volkswagen Alive).

I think Peter got more involved in commercial illustration after the VW book as there’s a large body of work including a lot of books after that time. But even before that, he did cards and labels and logos too. He always considered himself a fine artist first, though and was a painter for many years before the VW book as well as a sculptor. He continued painting after the book and there are some gorgeous paintings—some on a theme like the Billy the Kid series, The Grapefruithead series and self portraits. There are several wonderful and humorous sculptures too.

I worked on the Honda book with Peter and he would work from both photos and the actual parts. I’m sure he worked on the VW book in the same way. Sometimes we would take parts off the car or he would go out to the car and draw directly from it. He would start with pencil sketches of each drawing, working on it over and over until it was just how he liked it. Then he would ink the drawing, erase the pencil and ink the drawing again where the erasing had deleted parts of the ink. Peter was a master of perspective which is why he did such a great job on the “exploded” engines and parts. In the later books it was almost like the parts were flying into outer space!

Peter never actually owned a VW himself though he was surrounded by friends and family who did. (Except he might have owned a Rabbit for awhile. Certainly he drove a Rabbit and there is a story in the Rabbit book of when he fell asleep and crashed it. Everything collapsed perfectly and protected him so he was able to walk away even though the car was totaled.) He wasn’t totally into cars but was a great mechanic and maintained his cars himself until he got older and started having Subarus. (Though even then he did some repairs himself.)

When he was younger and living in the country he had a 51 Ford Panel Flathead Straight 6 (Hence the name Flathead Graphix!) and a 50 or 51 red Ford Pickup. He kept the Straight 6 and a friend of his has it now and is restoring it. He also had an International and a 3-cylinder Saab for awhile. Starting about in the 80s he had Subarus which he always said to me was like having a VW with a water jacket. Don’t know if that’s really true but I went from a series of VWs and VW buses to Subarus and now the whole family has them. I’m a complete convert—though when I go to VW shows and see those beautiful buses I really miss mine.

Peter was the one that started Flathead Graphix (Also sometimes spelled Flathead Grafix) and on some of the posters you’ll see “copyright Flathead Graphix.” The T-shirts were produced originally by John Muir Publications and sold by them for a few years. Their T-shirts had a wonderful rainbow from red to yellow behind the circular back designs, but we couldn’t produce a large enough number of shirts to be able to do that many colors so we just print in the one color. Peter never produced the T-shirts, but started producing the posters himself quite awhile ago and never stopped producing and selling them. In fact, about a year before he died he came out with the Santa Fe 3-D map poster. We sell that as a “reprint” even though it was actually produced by him. But he was never happy with the colors in it so we don’t sell it as an “original.” (The colors are beautiful in the poster but if you compare them to the original painting there is a big difference.)

Peter would print different posters over the years and therefore they are printed on different types of paper depending on the print runs. We are almost totally out of the Cutaway City Posters now (We’re keeping some for the future but I think we’re down to less than 20 for sale now.) but still have a lot left of all the other posters he had printed.

After he passed away there was a lull for about a year or two when we didn’t produce or sell anything but then a young friend of Peter’s, Sean Castner, who worked in a local print shop where Peter had a lot of his pre-production work done suggested we start up the T-shirts again. With his encouragement we printed up the classic designs and started going to car shows to sell them and the posters we had. I loved going to the shows but the expense of travelling there and paying the fees, hotel bills etc. wasn’t cost effective so now I’m trying to build up the business through the internet.

So Flathead Graphix is now run mostly by me with the help of our kids Francisco and Sophie. Sophie does the Facebook page. Francisco’s gone to shows with me and also is writing some articles about his Dad—I think one’s coming out in a zine fairly soon.

Lately, I’ve been trying to convince one of the local museums to include him in a 60s show they’re thinking of having. Right now though, they think there isn’t enough interest in the 60s. I think this isn’t true as there is a huge age cohort from that era and I’ve even seen ads in magazines and on TV using the 60s so I think they’re coming back into popularity.

Peter has so many beautiful designs—many of which aren’t related to the VW book. My hope is to build up Flathead Graphix first with the fans from the book and hopefully to expand it so we can produce his other work as well so everyone can see that too. I’m also working on a retrospective show of all his work (some years in the future).

For more info, including the chance to buy some of the original posters, visit

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

VW bastard children of the "Vannin'" movement

I found these poor creatures at (which, other than VW mutilation, is a pretty cool site).

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Vintage Tuesday! - 1974


Monday, April 19, 2010

More Vintage VW images from the web!

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