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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Bug-Eyed About Beetles Volkswagen Fanciers Display Their Loyalty At Fairgrounds

They speak their own language, live their own way of life and tour the Northwest to meet others of their ilk.

Just call them Bugheads. They’re not fans of the creepy-crawly variety, but of the four-wheeled Beetle.

“It’s the personality,” said Tom Vandenberg of Touchet, Wash. “How else can you describe it? These people name their cars.”

The 11th annual Volkswagen show at the Spokane Interstate Fairgrounds Sunday featured 27 cars and about 30 “swappers” - people selling parts and other Volkswagen paraphernalia.

The show also featured prizes - trophies with splatter-painted bugs sitting on top. Dennis and Pat Long of Spanaway, Wash., won for best engine and best of show. Sheldon Van Etten of Spokane won for best paint job. Brad Lugenbeal of Kennewick won for best interior.

The field was a candy-colored buffet of Bugs, revamped vans, convertible Karmann Ghias and Cabriolets. About 600 people checked out the cars and the wares at the show, which lasted for five hours.

“There’s a lot of the vintage-type guys,” said Steve Ward, of Mead. “There’s the hot-rod-type guys.”

And there’s the Frankenstein-type guys. Mad-scientist Ward is one. His Bug is made of different parts from different years. It’s camouflaged. It has a snow plow attachment. It can be used as a forklift.

“I got it from a junkyard for $1,” Ward said. “I saved her from the wrecker.”

The Bug’s called the Enterprise. It’s Ward’s second Enterprise, the Next Beetle Generation. His first Enterprise died after a five-year mission. The body’s now a children’s playhouse, and the engine’s in a race car.

On his “new” car, a bumper sticker reads “Vulcan Science Academy.” It’s mission is utilitarian: to plow snow, to move things, to get firewood, to pull down barns.

“It boldly goes where no Bug has gone before,” Ward said.

Like Ward, many of the people at the fairgrounds had at least a halfdozen Volkswagens at home.

The saying goes: “First you buy one Bug. Then you buy another. Pretty soon, they start breeding.”

There’s a philosophy.

“There’s nobody who thinks Volkswagens are just OK,” said Sherman Franklin of Mead, who keeps about a dozen at home. “You either like them or you hate them.”

Dave Fast of Kennewick likes them, and he’s loyal. He’s worked for a Volkswagen dealership since 1960. On Sunday, Fast showed off a blue 1956 Bug. At home, he’s got another ‘56, two ‘55s, one ‘57 and a ‘63.

“I bought that one new,” Fast said. “That’s the last new car I bought.”

Ed Bruneau of Spokane was showing his 1974 burgundy Karmann Ghia convertible. He also was selling it. Bruneau’s owned the car for 6 1/2 years. For the first 3 1/2 years, he fixed it up.

“I called it a Flintstones car in the beginning,” Bruneau said. “The pan was gone. You could pedal it home if you wanted.”

Like hundreds of others, Justin De Armond of Coeur d’Alene checked out the cars. De Armond came to the show on crutches. He’s a diehard Beetle fan, and he’s only 16 years old. De Armond bought his ‘66 green Bug 1 1/2 years ago. His family owns another ‘66 Bug. It’s rust-colored.

“They’re just cool,” De Armond said. “They’re nice cars I guess - dependable, and you can restore them.”

Basil Steinle came to the show with his 9-year-old daughter, Callie. They were getting their dose of Bugs after selling a 1965 Beetle four years ago.

“We’re still Volkwagen fans,” said Steinle. “But we’ve moved on from Bugs. We own both a Rabbit and a Jetta.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo