Bug love drives club

May 23, 1999|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Joe and Amy Bausman love their 1965 Beetle so much they gave it a name and let it stay in the house.

The other dozen they own aren't quite so pampered, Bausman said.

"Our show car, a blue Beetle, is actually in the living room of our house," the Smithsburg, Md., man said Sunday when he and about two dozen other Volkswagen families gathered behind the Snak Shak on U.S. 30.

All Volkswagens and their owners were welcomed at the event, said Bausman, co-founder of The People's Car Club. Only about a third of the cars were carapace-shaped Beetles, the venerable vehicle that displaced the Model T as the top selling car of all time.

There were Rabbits, Jettas, a Carmen Ghia and other models dating from 1965 to the 1990s. There were even a pair of Things, owned by John and Desiree Tritle of Greencastle, Pa.


The Things, boxy little multi-purpose vehicles, prompted Harry Springer of Fayetteville, Pa., to pull off the highway.

"I'm a history buff of World War II," he said. Things closely resemble Wehrmacht scout cars, the German equivalent of the Jeep, he said.

The Beetle itself was a pre-war design that started making its way across the Atlantic in the late 1940s.

"I learned to drive on a Volkswagen Thing. You either love it or you hate it," Desiree Tritle said. She and her husband are now restoring that Thing while showing their other two.

"Lee Iacocca was the downfall of the Thing coming into the United States," John Tritle said. He said about 30,000 were imported in 1973 and 1974, but the former Ford and Chrysler executive pressured the government to classify them as cars instead of multi-purpose vehicles.

The Thing, which can be stripped of its top, doors and windshield, didn't have enough safety features to meet U.S. standards as a car, according to Tritle.

"My '68, my dad bought it new," said Michelle Graham of Chambersburg, the membership registrar for the club. She drives that same Bug to work every day.

Michelle and her husband, Bart, also own 1969 and 1970 minibuses and a 1964 convertible. She said the new Volkswagen Beetle introduced last year has renewed interest in the old Bug, a cultural icon of the 1960s and 1970s.

Driving the convertible "is a stress thing," she said. "You can just put the top down and it blows away."

"It's a cheap hobby. You don't have to have a lot of money to fix a Volkswagen," she said. The "common sense engine" means most owners can work on their own machines.

For the Bausmans, Volkswagens are a labor of love and a living. He's a technician at Sharrett Volkswagen, Hagerstown, and Amy is the dealership's finance manager.

Their baker's dozen of VWs range from a pair of 1957 Beetles to a 1999 Cabrio "and everything in between."

The 1965 Volkswagen they've dubbed "Bugasm," was rebuilt eight years ago. "It was pulled out of a field for $100," Joe Bausman said.

The couple tore down "every nut, bolt and screw" in rebuilding the machine. Although they deigned their home to accommodate the car, they've driven it 20,000 miles since it was restored.

Graham said the club has more than 80 members and Sunday signed up a new one from Delaware. Bausman said most members are from Pennsylvania, Maryland and West Virginia, but the club has members from as far away as Albuquerque N.M., and Canada.

The People's Car Club will have a competitive show on Sunday, Sept. 19, at Sharrett Volkswagen, Bausman said.

Bausman said there are some "trailer queens" among the VWs, but most people love to put them on the road.

"This is an enthusiast's car - a driver's car," he said.

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