Thursday, December 29, 2011

A conversation with Eric Shoemaker of

How long have you been into VWs? When did it become an obsession?

I'd say I've been interested for about 6 years now. To get a better idea of how I got started, read my '67 restoration story. I can't say it's an "obsession." Ok, it might be. My good friend Timm and I call it the "VW sickness." It's just something I've become very passionate about. I’ve worked as a visual designer / art director for the last 11 years. Over the last 6, I’ve been working on my ’67. During that time, I fell in love with creating real tangible objects and working with my hands. I’m obsessed with small details and the idea of bringing something old back to its former glory. I'm even offering restoration services on a few "one year only" parts for the '67

You've become the pied piper for VW lovers on Twitter by establishing the #vintagevw hashtag. How does the online community matter to the VW community as a whole?

The web is just another medium; a place where people can share their content, stories and ideas. It's made it a lot easier to find NOS parts! It's also given companies a business platform where they are able to offer services with a global reach. I'd never have found Vintage Werks, Wolfsburg West, or any of these other great folks if not for the web. Lastly, I've been able to connect with SO many fantastic folks. The VW community is a breed all their own; always willing to lend a hand, advice, or even a NOS part! Not too long ago, a box with NOS German Hella tail light lenses showed up at my door!

The #VintageVW hashtag seemed like a good (fun!) idea to communicate on a global level. Twitter already has that reach. It's grown organically. Little by little, more people are starting to use it who are sharing vintage Volkswagen related content. I really do need to finish those stickers. #VintageVW

Why VWs? I mean, why not vintage Volvos or old jeeps?

I fell into this great hobby. As I might have mentioned in the history article, my grandfather always had the ’67 around. I have fond memories of riding around with him as a child. When I first got the car I had no intentions of doing a restoration. The interest and passion came out of pure necessity to keep the car on the road. I had Advanced VW in Decatur, GA rebuild the engine. After that, I’ve just tried to learn to do things for myself. Little by little, it became somewhat clear that I’m actually pretty good with my hands. The connection between visual design and restoration is there for sure. I take a lot of pride in knowing that my grandfather’s old Volkswagen was very close to being sent to a junkyard, and I saved it with my own two hands.

It seems like you bug doesn't have a name. Some people hate naming cars. Have you ever considered a name?
I have not. Maybe I should call it Panama due to the original color.

You seem to have lucked out into what many think is the best year for a VW bug. We all agree about what make VWs great. But name one thing you wish the VW designers had designed differently in your bug.

I’d say all the ’67 “one year only” parts that have been really hard to find. I do believe that the Beetle is a brilliant example of design done well. It is the longest-running and most-manufactured automobile of a single design platform.

So you have the '67 and are known for that. Any plans for another vintage VW anytime soon?

My wife and I often joke about the idea of a bus. Currently I have more than enough to keep me busy with the ’67. We’ll see!

What would you like to accomplish with your website and VW communication in the next year?

I’d love to become a true resource for people that are aiming to do a stock restoration on a ’67 Beetle. I’m a firm believer that the continuation of great content can achieve this.

I’m open to the idea of advertising if it’s the right fit. Needless to say, you won’t ever see a JC Whitney banner on Sorry, it’s not going to happen. 

Most importantly, I’d love to find a way to combine my visual design, marketing and vintage VW restoration skills into something fulltime. I truly love these old cars. 

How can you be reached?

Editor's note: Eric and I have gotten to know each other over Twitter. Even though we have yet to meet in person, there has been talk about us organizing a "Flash VW parade" in the bay area. If anyone is interested, chime in on the #VintageVW hashtag on Twitter (which feeds into the right side of, to discuss. Perhaps we can make this thing happen... Then, I'd finally get to take a look at Eric's fantastic 1967 VW bug.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Vintage Tuesday - the front row

Monday, December 26, 2011

Vintage images from the web

Saturday, December 24, 2011

We officially have the correct beam for Big Blue!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Big Blue's Beam Blues

I promise you a more in-depth summary soon, but right now I am tired. I spent the entire day either trying to figure out how to get Big Blue fixed or watching a 1-year-old. Both of which have taken the fight out of me. So goodnight.

But, before I go to sleep, here's some video I shot earlier today on my iPhone. I think it will do a pretty good job of describing:

1. What was wrong with Big Blue (look at that damage, man!)
2. The specifics of the beam that we need to replace on Big Blue

Tomorrow I am off to Oakland to track down what is supposed to be the correct beam. Until then, roll the video...

Back to Glen Ellen to return the front beam...

Plan C - Still replacing Big Blue's beam

Okay - on to plan C to replace the damaged beam on Big Blue.

The beam I bought this morning was wrong - even though the guys at Sonoma Volkswagen were convinced it was right. But here is the difference between an early bay window beam (68 and 69 bus) and a later beam. It's in the bolt pattern and way the metal is formed in the beam supports. The top beam in this picture is the later beam, the bottom is the old one off of Big Blue. The circle areas are different, as well as the distance between the holes to bolt it on:

So, plan C is now to return the beam I bought today (they will take it back, so good on Sonoma Volkswagen for doing that). And then head off to an Oakland air cooled scrapyard that says they have the right beam. Onward!

Still waiting for a beam transplant...

And! The new beam is wrong as well. Can you see the difference?

At Valley Wagonworks!

Beam found!

Following the squareback to the warehouse...

Heading to Glen Ellen. Wine country.

Gas station breakfast...

Another item needed for getting vws back on the road...

The new beam- whole axle actually - will cost me $275.

The key to any big vw repair seems to be a pickup truck...

I borrowed this on from work!

Live updates today as we get another beam for Big Blue

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The barn find VW of Josh Yager

We heard from our friends over at Mid America Motorworks that one of their employees, Josh Yager, had found a pretty solid barn find a few miles from their headquarters in Northern Illinois. Having done hard time in Chicago, I am always skeptical of any original car that has spent a lifetime around the Great Lakes. If the road salt doesn't get 'em, then the black ice will.

In this case, though, the the 1974 Super Beetle does seem like a very solid project:

Which leads me to why I am sharing this. Half the reason I dig cars so much is that I love projects. Same is true with other things in my life. I see a house that has character but needs a ton of work and I'll take that 99 times over a finished house without charm. And it really boils down to a connection that seems to build with the project. I went though this with a '71 Landcruiser, a '86 Wagoneer and a '72 K5 Blazer before I set my eyes on Big Blue.

So, I'd like to think I know what Josh is going through right now. And, if you've taken on a project (many of you readers have), you know as well. You find bits of history that blends into the envisioned future. And it's an awesome feeling.

Here's how josh found it:

Feel it? Can you feel what he was in his mind at this moment?

We were able to follow up with Josh and ask a few questions:

Big Blue's Driver: What do you like about VWs?

Josh: I love the way VWs look. Not just Bugs, but all VWs! There's something so iconic about a Volkswagen. You instantly know you're looking at a VW when you see one cruising along. Pair that with the fun and rich history of Volkswagens and it's hard not to be a fan!

Big Blue's Driver: Does the new VW have a name?

Josh: Not yet. I think a name will come as I start getting into the upgrades and the personality starts to come out. It's too early to say right now.

Big Blue's Driver: How many times do people assume you're Mike's [owner of Mid America Motorworks] son?

Josh: At least once a day. It's kind of a running joke at Mid America Motorworks! Even though we're from the same hometown and the name is spelled the same, we're not even related. Believe me, we've checked!

Big Blue's Driver: Is there a place online that someone can keep updated on the restoration's progress?

Josh: It's in the works. Last year we started a VW restoration and tracked the progress on our web site. We'll be doing the same thing with my '74 within the next few weeks.

And they better get started. Josh plans to show the bug at Mid America Motorworks' Funfest for Air-Cooled VWs on June 1-3, 2012. We'll post a link to the restoration blog when it's up. For now, we wish him happy days picking through the history and looking toward the future of this bug.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


When it rains, it pours...

I came across one of these blue VW tether buses about a month ago. Then, about 3 days later, found one really cheap on ebay. So, now I have 2 (do as I say, son, not as I do).

These were made by Wolf/Hawk (seems to be the same company?) (same as this bug that I have) and are stamped (C)1972. They must have been some sort of Testors (the paint company) hobby set as the stickers on the "Super Van" have the Testors logo on them. And both buses had the sticker on the driver's side (only one still does).

Oddly - both of these have motors that appear to have never been used. The motor, when running, would turn the gear in the back wheel (see below).

The idea was that you would tie a rope to the bus, and then watch as it went in circles. Doesn't sound like crazy fun, and that might explain why both motors look unused...

Either way, used or not, they are pretty cool. I dig these old Wolf/Hawk toys.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Vintage Tuesday - early split parking is in the back

Monday, December 19, 2011

May 1975 - Hot VWs Magazine - Van on the Go

Sunday, December 18, 2011

From the Static Files... custom VWs

Friday, December 16, 2011

40,000 miles...

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Carole Brown and the Yes We Can Camper Van...

Lately VW folks probably couldn't help but notice the efforts of Carole Brown and her "Yes We Can" Camper Van (the bus is actually named Dexter). Spend any time at all lately in the online communities and she's sure to pop up - pushing a cause that very few people know about. During the summer, she reached out to VW communities across the country to help her promote her roadtrip to raise awareness.

Well, Carole is now on her way.

She has hit the road in her 1971 Westfalia to promote awareness of Myasthenia Gravis, commonly (if I can say that about an uncommon disorder) referred to as "MG". Until Wikipedia shuts down, you can read up on it here.

I must say that I am impressed with the support. Carole is no VW mechanic. And sometimes the VW community seems to collectively sigh when someone with no mechanical awareness embarks on such an adventure in an old VW. But that hasn't happened in Carole's case. And I'm glad to see the community embracing her.

There have been breakdowns, but people from the VW world - including Wolfsburg West, The Full Moon Bus Club, Jimmy Pierce of Pierce Automotive - a VW shop on Montgomery, Alabama, Laura Anne (who writes at Laura's 78 Westy) and many others - are pitching in to help her make her way.

A few months back, I had the chance to email with Carole. I wanted to get some basics down on why she is doing what she is doing. As you'll see below, she has a very good reason.

Big Blue's Driver: Why MG?

Carole Brown:
Personal reason - my Mum got this disease at age 20 and almost died before she was diagnosed, since it is so rare and so few neurologists have seen a person with MG.

My Mum was 30 when she had me and 34 when she had my brother, so we only ever knew her when she was ill with MG.

Until recently I couldn't look at my parents wedding photos because my Mum had changed from a real beauty to a person who looked twice her age, with hollow eyes and sunken cheeks. She said the saddest thing for her was that she couldn't smile anymore.

The way I think about it is this is an awful disease with no cure, and if that's not bad enough, people with symptoms can take years (one story I read it was 5 years!) to get diagnosed by which time they are more ill and also affected by being undermined every time they tried to explain what was happening to their bodies. I've read stories where people were told to go home because it was all in their head and they just wanted attention. Others where people were only taken seriously when they had been admitted to intensive care due to breathing difficulties (this happens when MG is severe and untreated).

To me the biggest reason for raising awareness is that people could be tested for MG early on and not after years of presenting with odd symptoms that doctors do not recognise. If the public know of it, they can ask their doctor to check or ask the national charity, the MGFA, for a list of neurologists who know the disease. Another reason is that through better appreciation of the disease by the general public, people with MG are likely to feel more understood and accepted, helping them to regain their self esteem and self confidence - making a huge difference to their lives.

Researching the disease recently I have found some improvements in treatment but there is no cure for this rare autoimmune disease. The info' on MG on the internet makes it sound an OK disease but it's not. If you look at groups on Facebook you will see from the online discussions how hard it is for people to manage every day life. MGers are stared at by the public because they often have droopy eyelids and sometimes look unusual due to weakness in the eye and facial muscles. My mother was very self conscious and would not go out to restaurants to eat because she had difficulty chewing and swallowing - a common symptom. It's also upsetting for people with MG to be asked if they are drunk. This happens because they can have slurred speech due to weakness in their facial muscles and difficulty walking without swaying, because of weak legs. Muscle fatigue occurs in a person with MG much more quickly than in a healthy person and only through drugs do MGers regain some muscle strength.

So these are some of the reasons for wanting to raise awareness. By making people aware of this little known disease we could have a massive impact on quicker diagnosis and treatment, and on the way we behave around people with this disease.

How are you planning on raising awareness?
I am planning to:
a) give talks to health care professionals,
b) invite local journalists to meet me and local patients at regional chapter offices of the MG Foundation of America to hear about their stories and publish articles in local newspapers and on the we
c) use my VW van to raise visibility for the name MG by driving about 6000 miles across country displaying a logo on the side and inviting anyone who sees us on the road or parked to call their local radio station, tweet, Facebook etc.
d) attend events at MGFA offices in June MG awareness month and use the Van to attract more people and give hope

How can people help?

a) following my posts on Facebook and twitter and sharing them with their friends
b) commenting and 'liking' my posts
c) let me know of any company's that would like to be a sponsor
d) buy T shirts
e) invite me to their VW club - need to know ASAP so can plan route to include invitations
f) add a VW club event to raise money and awareness for MG, and plan ahead so I can attend if possible
g) send me any advice and other ideas for raising awareness and raising money for the MGFA

If you are interested in helping Carole, you can follow her updates on Facebook here:

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Sunshine's Express - A 1976 Riviera camper in Washington

Our friend Steve in Tulalip, Washington, sent us these pictures from their road trip last summer. I thought it was cool how much this bus - named Sunshine's Express - could be Big Blue's younger brother. The bus is a 1976 Riv and Steve has owned it for about 4 years (the same amount of time we have owned Blue!). Steve saved this bus from a field where it had sat for 10 years. Sound familiar?

Below are a few pictures cross country trip from Washington to Main and back again in the summer of 2009.

Way cool ride!

Above: the day they left.

Above: In Colorado before the big climb into the rockies

Above: In Bucksport Maine.

Above: In Langley BC.

Back home in Washington!

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