Motoette -in forward motion

The plight of a little 1970 Volkswagen bus known as Dorothy – Page 1



Well, I think I stated way back when that the purpose of this blog was about living life in forward motion and this ongoing story will definitely be another example and hopefully, not disappoint.

I think everyone can recall a Volkswagen story of their own and I certainly have mine with surprisingly vivid memories of three separate buses throughout the years during my childhood. When I reflect back on how much they were a part of my family and the contagious love my step-dad instilled in all of us, with his obsession for the giant tin boxes, it shouldn’t surprise me that I have come full circle in purchasing my first bus 40+ years later!

A snapshot vision of my dad from the back of the bus (as my sister and I drifted in and out of sleep), watching him navigate with his right forearm leaning across the big steering wheel with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth, as we drove back on a Sunday night from our summer-house in Russian River, listening to old radio shows like “The Shadow Knows”.

I never gave my past experience with VW buses a thought until last March when a good client of mine started chit chatting about his history with Volkswagens, more specifically a square back he drove until the wheels were about to fall off! How he sold it to another guy for pretty much what he paid for it and months maybe even years later, to his amazement, he passed it on the road….”The damn thing was still running” he exclaimed to me, eyes wide-open, as though he had just witnessed the square back cruising down the road again!

Eric digressed on to tell me about an old college friend who owned a 1970 Westphalia (Westy) living in Wichita Kansas. He continued on to say that his friend, Dave of 30+ years, wanted him to transport the bus back to California to sell it for him. Saying that he felt the bus would fetch more money here than in Wichita. Eric went on to describe in detail how the bus looked, what great condition it was in and how it had a unique fireplace feature…..”What?” I said. “Hold on, did you just say a fireplace?” Eric laughed and nodded. “Yes, it’s where the sink should be. It’s a full size gas fireplace.” He said, saying it like he was trying to convince me he wasn’t pulling a fast one. Needless to say, I requested pictures!


Dad (on the right) and our 1969 VW bus

Dad (on the right) and our 1969 VW bus

This single casual conversation sparked a life altering experience for me (and my fiancé, Matt) and to all those involved.

I’m not sure if it was the fireplace that “got” me or the nostalgic idea of owning a four-wheel childhood memory, but I had to have that 1970 Volkswagen bus that resided in Wichita Kansas, come hell or high water!

As luck would have it, Dave was coming into town at the end of April, just a few weeks before I was to go back to England to live with Matt for four months. Call it fate, call it destiny and I would agree with you, finding it a little strange after a few emails to Dave enquiring about the purchase of his bus, he and I would be soon discussing the transaction face to face. We met on a cool early spring evening at Eric’s house not far from my salon. Dave was a big guy with a kind face and I instantly liked him. I was also introduced to his lovely wife Sherrill, who politely retired to the living room, soon after I arrived, to read the last few pages of a good book she was dying to finish. Eric, Dave and I exited out the back slider and made ourselves comfortable as we got to know each other on the deck around a glass circular table munching on tortilla chips and salsa.

Dave and Eric talked about their personal history which subtly transcended into their love for Volkswagens. Dave went on to say how he acquired his beloved bus on eBay from a guy in Pennsylvania, who paid way too much at an estate auction. “I really bought the bus for my grandson, so we could camp out together, he explained.” He loves sleeping in the hammock that hangs over the front seats”.  I had to admit, after hearing the heartfelt story it made me feel a little guilty about the possibility of taking something precious away from his grandson! But, with Dave’s reassurance in his desire to sell the bus, we talked money and the time frame in which I would be able to actually purchase the bus with my upcoming extended trip.

We agreed that if he still had the bus when I was ready to come back to the states in late August, he would sell it to me.

While in England, Matt and I had discovered from a request by his future daughter-in-law, how popular vintage buses were as a special occasion transport. This sparked our interest. What was to be a nonsensical sentimental buy was starting to have money-making possibilities!

Matt’s oldest son, Chris was getting married at the beginning of August and his fiancée, Helen had wanted a vintage Volkswagen bus to escort her and her granddad to the church on her wedding day. We had no idea this was even possible, moreover, how ridiculously expensive it was, once we found we actually could rent one! Needless to say it further peaked our interest, followed by several visits to local bus fests (yes, they have a lot of them!) and bus mechanics to gain as much knowledge as we could on how lucrative this could actually become.

Westy fireplace!

Westy fireplace!


“Kansas is no mere geographical expression, but a “state of mind”, a religion, and a philosophy in one.” Carl Becker (1910)


To be continued….

September 16, 2013 - Posted by | Volkswagen bus | , , , , ,

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