Sunday in the Park, Vintage VW Style
Since August of 1985, The Golden Gate Chapter of the Vintage Volkswagen Club of America has been holding their annual car show, known to VW owners, enthusiasts and insiders around the west as the Kelley Park Spring Meet. The 33rd annual event held attracted over 300 cars, at least a few thousand fans and lots of straw hats. Staged in the tranquil History Park section of the sprawling San Jose, California venue, the scene was electric but more importantly, everyone was more or less just stoked to be there. From infants to island-style gray beards with straw hats and flip-flops waiving Shaka fingers, this is a colorful and well-known festival full of all things vintage Volkswagen.
We saw beetles. We saw Westfalia’s and microbuses. We saw notchbacks, fastbacks, squarebacks, Karman Ghia’s and yes – even a few Things. Air-cooled nation reigned supreme. Some cars were fully restored, some were slammed to the pavement, and some had “Cal Look” written all over them while others had patina panels. We couldn’t help but notice that nearly everyone seemed to be smiling. The scene was chill, yet cheerful. Seeing hundreds of 1967 and earlier VWs of all colors shapes and sizes tends to put you in a happy zone. The location for the event couldn’t be more era-correct.
“We chose Kelley Park for its ambiance,” said Rick Spohn President of the Golden Gate Chapter of the VVWCA. “I mean, look around – the trees, the ornate old buildings, the grass, the street lamps, It’s just a nice park setting and it has been our home for 33 years.”
The whole time we wandered the grounds we saw just one post-’67 car – a 1987 Westfalia Vanagon. This show is all about old school VW goodness. We couldn’t help but notice a few pristine examples which seemed a cut above. Cars like Netgear founder Mark Merrill’s 1953 Dannenhauer & Stauss. One of 19 ever built, the black convertible masterpiece was just one of the cars he had on display from his collection. While he made his bones in tech in nearby Silicon Valley, Merrill struck us a regular, fun guy more than happy to talk to anyone who stopped by about his coach built convertible. We also bumped into Paige Pollock from Paso Robles who drove his ’57 Beetle up from central California, bias ply tires and all. Pollock’s factory-coral ’57 is unrestored and bone stock save for the ultra-rare Okrasa engine conversion (upping horsepower from 38 to a whopping 68 ponies). Then there was 25-year-old Shelby V who made the scene in her ’64 beetle which she drives daily to her job at a hair salon. You see things like this at the Kelley Park Spring Meet and meet extremely passionate, Volkswagen enthusiasts.
We doubt the German Labour Front had any clue the automobile company they founded back on May 28th, 1937 would stand the test of time and enjoy the universal appeal it’s had for so long. But the faithful come back here every year to show off and celebrate the Volkswagen and its aura. It truly is the “People’s Car.”