Sunday, October 4, 2015


Years ago when I was much younger I found myself drawn to an economical, funny looking, little car from Germany that had very little power when compared to the American muscle cars of the period.  It was the 60's and lots of younger folks found the Volkswagen Beetle since they were very economic to operate and you didn't need a bunch of special tools to work on them.

In 1967 I purchased a brand new Beetle from a dealership in Bellevue, Washington.  I chose a cobalt blue one that had a stock white interior.  I wasn't to hot on the white interior so the dealer swapped me for a black interior from another bug on the lot.  It was an easy swap.  The only option that I got was a Blaupunkt AM/FM radio that wasn't even stereo.  FM was becoming the thing to listen to and I had never had one in any of my previous vehicles.

Credit to for the picture
Over the next two years I would meet Gene Berg and Donald Ruckman and join the newly formed Northwest VW Club.  My future wife and I used to enjoy the outings to the ocean and up to Canada that the club organized.  There was an element of the club that spent time studying the German engineering and working to make the little engine produce a bunch more horsepower.  Before long, Gene Berg had started a business modifying the little engine and even developing parts to make it go faster.  It wasn't long before a Gene Berg modified VW Beetle showed up at Seattle International Raceways and became feared by some of the American muscle cars in bracket racing.

I slightly modified my Beetle and began to run it in the local Autocross and Rallye classes.  I did okay but at that same time a smaller car that looked like a matchbox on wheels was eating up every class in Autocross.  The Mini had invaded the Autocross courses though out the U.S. and it could corner on short tracks like nothing else.

I began working for Volkswagen at a dealership in downtown Seattle in the late sixties.  I worked as a parts advisor, warranty clerk, service advisor, assistant manager, parts manager, and finally service and parts director.  I moved from dealership to dealership as my career advanced.  I spent many years with Volkswagen and watched as the product slowly deteriorated as we moved into the eighties.  The once funny, economical car could no longer meet the new U.S. emissions regulations, sales were dropping as customers went for newer front wheel drive technology.  VW was forced to move from the air-cooled engines to the more conventional front wheel drive water pumpers.  A few years later, 1978, VW would open a plant in Pennsylvania and make a rather weak attempt at building the Rabbit in America.  It failed from the start.  Comparing the German version with the American built version and one could easily see the quality differences in body fit, finish and overall quality.

It was during this time that I was a service and parts director at a local Volkswagen dealership.  It was incredible difficult with very little factory support and vehicles that had obvious manufacturer issues. I finally got tired of telling owners that they were driving the best in German engineering and I quit my job with no prospects for the future.  It was difficult to deal with the day to day customer issues while getting no assistance from the factory.  The technicians were upset with the time allotments given for warranty operations and the owner was always getting calls from upset customers whom we were unable to satisfy.  VW sales dropped significantly over the next coming years and the factory decided to shut down the Pennsylvania factory in 1984.

I moved on to a different manufacturer as a parts manager where I remained for several years until I learned of a dealer who was seeking an experienced parts manager for his Mazda, VW, Subaru franchise.  I applied and got the new job.

Tomorrow I will continue the story.

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