There is something special about vintage Volkswagens.
They were the ultimate hippie vans, the first choice of the surfer set, and the little round Beetle model was popular - even before being immortalized in the anthropomorphic 1968 Disney film, The Love Bug. It's no wonder the literal English translation of Volkswagen is "the people's car."
On Sunday, April 23, the Connecticut Volkswagen Association (CVA) held its 27th yearly Spring Dust-Off, at Mansfield Hollow State Park, to welcome back members after a long winter.
"These were the cars we grew up with. That's why we love them," said Club President Bill Arute. "My very first car was a '67 bug. Back in the day, you could get one for about $400."
Arute said the Spring Dust-Off usually features 100 to 200 cars depending on the weather, mostly the older air-cooled cars and vans but also some newer models. He said the club was formed in 1985 and is presently approximately 200 members strong.
Don Lemay, of Bristol, Rhode Island, came with his shiny red 1966 13-window deluxe van, the second VW van he's owned.
"I'm a surfer and this van just fits with the surfer way of life," he said.
Like the typical VW, it has the same basic unique features - an engine that is air-cooled and is located in the rear of the vehicle.
"What I like most about VWs is that you can repair them yourself, usually quite easily in your own backyard. Roadside repairs are easy enough too, and I carry around a few spare parts for those situations," said Lemay. "In comparison, if my wife's modern car has a problem, you open the hood, see a huge piece of plastic and decide you'd better just take it to a mechanic."
Arute said VW parts are also quite easy to find, and the club often holds swap meets where owners can buy, trade, and sell spare parts.
"As part of the club, we all try to help each other out," he said.
According to Beetlebugs.net, the design for the iconic car was first drawn by Adolph Hitler, in 1924 while languishing in a prison cell. The future leader of Nazi Germany envisioned a "people's car" that could be driven on Germany's new road system, the autobahn.
The idea was that it would be affordable to the masses, fuel-efficient, easy to maintain, and would comfortably fit a typical family of four. He contracted Ferdinand Porsche to design and build it. WWII got in the way, and mass production did not begin until long after the war - and Hitler's ultimate demise.
"The Beetle's heyday was from about 1965 to 1973, with the last bugs in production made in 1979. Those were the convertibles," said Arute. "The last standard models were made in 1977."
Arute said Volkwagen struggled to compete with Japanese manufacturers who were pushing Toyotas and Hondas, and they came out with the 1974 Rabbit in answer to the competition.
"The Beetle was a great first car for a young kid starting out. It was one we could afford and when you had problems, they were easy to repair," said Arute.