Calgarians fondly remember Volkswagen vans

The Calgary Eyeopener put out the call for road trip stories involving VW vans, and was overwhelmed with responses.

Have your own story? Add it in the comment section below

Volkswagen fan Ken King with two of his immaculately restored micro buses. The last VW vans rolled off the assembly line last week. (Paul Karchut/CBC)

The last Volkswagen vans have rolled off the assembly line.

It's the end of the road for the cultural and automotive icon first built more than 60 years ago.

Believe it or not, the classic hippie van has been produced — largely unchanged — until recently at a factory in Brazil.

Ken King has owned roughly 100 hippie vans. (Paul Karchut/CBC)

But new safety regulations in that country halted production as of the new year.

The VW van inspires nostalgia in many people — including a Calgary man who turned his love of the VW bus into a career.

Ken King owns of Concept 1 — an independent Volkswagen and Audi repair shop in Calgary — and takes a lot of pride in his work. He also has an extensive collection and has given them lady-like names such as Roberta.

"Like females, you love them but they can be difficult," he said.

He said he has owned close to 100 buses.

  • Listen to his full interview here:

The Calgary Eyeopener put out the call for road trip stories involving VW vans, and was overwhelmed with responses. 

Below are a few emails and tweets sent to CBC. Have your own story? Add it in the comment section below.

From Sara Cross Moulton:

Picture this — a father and four-year-old, each with a car seat in hand, hitchhiking on the Deerfoot Trail beside the broken down Westphalia pop top.

They were on the way to pick up mom (me) and new baby sister at the general hospital to take us home. Luckily a kind gentleman took pity on them, and we all did make it home later via taxi with new baby in the obligatory baby seat. Unfortunately the pop top did not survive and was sold for parts. Thanks for your great show. 

From Lindsay Foster:

Our family has owned a 1975 VW Westfalia camper since the first of our three daughters was born. Now all three girls are teenagers and we still travel and camp in the bus.

Our most enduring memory is during a trip to the Silverwood theme park in Idaho a few years back. The VW's starter quit working during the trip but we persevered by getting all three girls to push start the bus each time, and then pile in to the sliding door as the bus slowly rolled along — much to the amusement of onlookers. It was a scene right out of the movie Little Miss Sunshine!

From Janet Hees:

In May/June 1971, my husband, 22-month-old daughter and I began a tour of eastern Ontario and Quebec to do interviews for five-minute segments called "Assignment" which used to precede CBC Radio news on the hour in those days. 

Our Volkswagen camper van was easy to inhabit. There was the tiny kitchen and lots of storage. A hammock over the front seat was where our daughter slept, and not having sleeping bags we used sheets and blankets on the bed in the back. At that time we could not afford sleeping bags. 

On Canada Day we were camped in a site on the north shore of Quebec. It was a break day so I decided to do laundry. During the rinse cycle for the sheets the washer stopped. Nothing I or the site manager could do would get that washer to work. In the end he and I took out the sheets and began wringing them out, one of us at each end. We got wet but laughed a lot even though he did not know English and my high school French was sporadic. I had no idea how to translate "wring!"

Through hand actions and expressions we managed to twist out most of the water from the sheets and hang them on the clothesline at the manager's house because all the dryers were in use. Later, he invited me to his family's house for tea. With his daughter loosely translating with her high school English we had a lovely visit. 

I always remember that time when there are questions about Quebec's sovereignty. We still managed to communicate with each other and have such a positive connection no matter the languages we spoke. It was Canada Day after all! 


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