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This Bug is Hard to Get Over; Show Features Beloved VWs during Llano Earth Art Festival

Marble Falls resident Chris Carter first fell in love with VWs back in high school, but he didn’t have the money to buy one in his teens. In the early 1990s, he purchased his first classic VW. Carter currently owns a 1964 21-window Deluxe Microbus and a 1967 Beetle. He plans to show the bus on the second day of the Free Flow on the Llano VW Car Show, which is Saturday-Sunday, March 10-11, during the Llano Earth Art Festival. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton

As Chris Carter was motoring through Johnson Park in Marble Falls a few years ago, just tooling along in his 1964 VW bus, he suddenly found himself surrounded by a wedding party. The group was taking part in nuptials near the park’s waterfall when they spied the blue-and-white classic 21-window Deluxe Microbus.

“They ran over and stopped me,” Carter said. “They wanted to get a photo with it.”

Carter gladly obliged.

“If you’re going to own one of these, you better like people because they’re going to share stories with you about some VW they had or a friend had,” he said. “And people are going to want to take a picture.”

If you’re looking for your classic VW fix, and you’re a little shy about flagging one down, check out the Free Flow on the Llano VW Car Show on Saturday-Sunday, March 10-11, at Grenwelge Park, 199 E. Haynie St. in Llano. The show is held in conjunction with the Llano Earth Art Festival, which is Friday-Monday at the park.

Tickets for LEAF are $10 in advance on llanoearthartfest.org and $15 at the gate. Ages 15 and younger get in free when accompanied by a parent. The VW show is free for festival attendees, but VW owners who are participating in the show need to register and pay a fee through the LEAF website.

What is it about VW Beetles and Buses that catch our attention? Carter, who also owns a 1967 Beetle, believes the classic VWs — Buses, Beetles, and Super Beetles — ingrained themselves in America in a way many other classic cars didn’t. While many people love classic Corvettes and Thunderbirds, few owned them, especially when compared to VWs.

“If you are like me and grew up in the ’60s and ’70s, if you didn’t have one of these, you knew somebody who did,” Carter said. “They were all over.”

In fact, Volkswagen produced more than 21 million Beetles, also called Bugs. As such ubiquitous vehicles, almost everyone has a story or two involving the Beetle and Bus.

“That’s what makes them so special, even today,” Carter added. “Even if you don’t have one, you probably got a story about one. And people love to share those stories. If I’m somewhere with my (Beetle), someone will probably stop me and want to talk about one they had or a story about one.”

Which is why Carter advises if you own one or want to own one, you better be a people person.

Though he wanted one as a teenager, Carter had to wait until his late 20s for his first classic-style VW. Since then, he’s owned five or six of the cars. Along with their classic style and charm, the VW Beetles and Buses were, and are, a model of practicality and efficiency. They came rather basic with no air conditioning and “not even cup holders.” In the Bus models, VW configured the bodies in any number of ways from passenger to ambulances to even a dump truck.

“They were very practical,” Carter said.

His Deluxe Microbus features 21 windows, including several small ones placed above the main passenger windows. They seem out of place, but when Carter explained their purpose, they’re a testament to VW’s practicality.

“In Europe, they would use these to give tours of the Alps,” he said. “These windows (above the main passenger ones), they were so people could look up at the mountains. If they didn’t have these, you would kind of have to crane your neck around in some uncomfortable way.”

The classic VWs, with their air-cooled engines, were fairly easy to work on and maintain. The company used the same engines in the Beetles and Buses.

Even now, years after the last of the classic Beetles and Buses rolled off the assembly lines, finding parts and pieces is fairly easy with the incredible after-market supply line and manufacturing that’s built up to support VW enthusiasts and their passion.

Carter’s 1967 Beetle serves as his get-around-town car, while he mainly reserves the bus for shows, parades, and just special days. It even earned a part in Richard Linklater’s 2016 film, “Everybody Wants Some.”

Yet, for all the nostalgia and fanfare surrounding the classic VWs, the real reason people like Carter love them boils down to something as pragmatic as the way Volkswagen designed and built them.

“They’re just fun,” he said.

daniel@thepicayune.com

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