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Q97 Snapshot: Van on the Run

04/02/2014 03:47PM ● By Billy Pilgrim
April 2014

By Billy Pilgrim

I bought my first one from SunWest Volkswagen in Hollywood when I was a college student at the University of Redlands. I heard Wolfman Jack on the radio saying, “I’m Wolfman Jack, baby — come on down and see me at SunWest Volkswagen.” And I thought, “Sure, I’ll come see you, Wolfman.” I was so naive. I thought Wolfman would be there and sell a car to me. He wasn’t, of course, but I had $1,000 cash in my back pocket and bought a beautiful ‘66 split window — blue and white and perfect. The dealer carried a $200 balance for a month and my love affair with VW vans began.

I babied that bus for several years. I hauled dogs, people, furniture, camping gear, lawn mowers and firewood. How I loved that first bus!

Over the years, I bought and sold two Westphalia pop-top campers (VW built a tent in the roof!). My son and his buddies would put up the tent and camp in our driveway. One year, I was followed by a local character who pulled me over and asked me to sell my magnificent Vanagon. It wasn’t for sale. But he offered a great price, took an overnight test drive without my knowledge (I thought he was driving a few blocks), and brought me a stack of cash. Don Burton from KSHA needed a car one year, and I sold him a gorgeous seven-passenger. I think it is still running around town. Five of these wonderful machines have come to live with us, and subsequently found new homes.

And I look at these vans here and wonder, where did they travel? Who owned and loved them? How did they come to their demise? What happened to these once beautiful transporters of families and pets and cargo, these vehicles of character and personality?

I wish I had one still. The original ‘66, the ‘69 Westphalia, the ‘72 that ended up in Humboldt, the ‘73 transporter and the ‘81 Vanagon. I should have kept them all.

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