Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Volkswagen, Ken And A Life Of Automotive

In 1967 while working for the Boeing company at the Renton assembly plant I quickly came to the conclusion that bucking rivets was NOT the life for me.  I left the factory floor and since I belonged to the local machinist union I went to the hall looking for other possibilities.  I started as a lube technician at one of our local Chevrolet dealerships.  In fact, I worked for two of them before it became very apparent that service managers didn't last very long.  It was like musical chairs here in the area and every time the service manager was replaced the new guy would bring in "his crew" and you would be looking for work.  Not a good plan for the future.

Once again I went back to the union hall and that is how I found the parts side of business.  I began working in a warehouse in south Seattle called Chanslor and Lyon.  We supplied parts all over Washington, Idaho and Alaska for independent local parts houses.  I started pulling parts and worked by way up to counterperson and finally manager of the night shift.  Unfortunately there wasn't enough business to keep the Seattle location going so the rug was pulled out sometime in 1969.

I went to work for a local independent NAPA parts store in West Seattle.  I had always loved VW having already owned two.  The future wife and I did lots of traveling around our part of the world in our 1967 VW Bug with the Northwest VW Club.  We met lots of VW people.  Gene Berg, likely the first person to mess with the Beetle engine and ended up making a cottage industry out of hopping up Bugs for all kinds of people.  Muscle cars were big, but non of us could afford them so we looked to Gene to turn our little sleepers into rear wheel drive Muscle Car crushers.  While I could never afford to go all the way, my little 67 was a potent little blue Bug.  Then came marriage, home, responsibilities and kids.

I had met a Parts Manager for the local dealership that I purchased my first new car from.  My little 1967 Colbalt Blue VW Bug came from Moore Motors in Bellevue.  It cost me $1995. plus tax and license and I was in love with that car.
1967 Beetle Stock

First 12 volt Beetle

Stock 1500 cc Engine
Mia and I were married in 1969 and we ended up trading that car in on another Beetle…this time a green 1969.  I didn't modify the 69 as much as I had the 67.  We needed dependable transportation and at the time I was working for Metro Motors one of the first distributors turned dealership in Seattle, Washington.  The little air cooled, rear wheel car was becoming a cult favorite with younger individuals who couldn't afford to own the American gas guzzling muscle car.  Besides that all you needed to keep your Beetle running was sting, duct tape and a gum wrapper.  They were so simple to work on and parts were cheap.

I worked for Volkswagen into the 70's and 80's until they lost their luster.  It came the day they introduced their first water cooled car.  It was coming, everyone knew it but no one wanted it.  VW was not as good at building a quality water cooled vehicle as they were with the air cooled.  Momentum from years of record sales of the Beetle went into the toilet as VW continued to not understand the American market nor what they needed to do to make things right with their customers.  Sales declined and I left VW in the mid eighties.  But I will never forget these little air cooled beauties or the variations that we came up with over the years. 

Here are some pictures from my visit to the Lemay Museum earlier today.  I love cars and this place is the place to see them, lots of them.  I went for their current VW display.  Enjoy, I did.


  1. I loved my '69 VDub! I could fix it myself. When I went to visit my parents over on the Oregon coast, the distributor camp would get damp inside. I would wipe it out & then roll down the hill by Mom & Dad's, pop the clutch & zoom zoom--away we went! I wish today's cars were that simple!

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  3. Some nice cars.

    Thank you. Love love, Andrew. Bye.