Full Article from Edition 6
Wagons on Washpond Lane
Words and images by Mutton Geoff
Overlooking Swanage Bay and The Isle of Wight, Herston Leisure Park was probably the ideal place to hold a gathering of Volkswagens – Kombi vans go so well with sun, sea and surf. September’s unseasonably warm weather didn’t drop a gear, so it was a pretty relaxed atmosphere over the entire weekend of the 20th.
There was a hint of dub coming from the sound system at Bill’s most excellent VW bar, spare-parts emporium and bespoke light-weight caravan display at the end of the field, but also reggae, ska and a few other genres, all most enjoyable on a lazy sunny afternoon but nothing overtly drum & bass-like. Of course, it was a V-dub fest, a celebration of the mighty people’s car, not the musical sub-sub-genre.
Hot hatches, Kombi-vans across the ages, a superb Karmann Ghia, tricked-up low-down pick-up trucks, faithfully restored classics and lovely old rust buckets – they were all there, and more. A fantastic array of past and present, no two alike and a few surprises. Just like their guardians (you can’t really own a V-dub, can you?), each vehicle possessed a certain individuality; it’s as though they roll off the production line searching of their human soul mates. Freaky, isn’t it?
It was none other than Ferdinand Porsche, in 1931, who distilled previous efforts stretching as far back as the 1920’s (the Standard Superior and the rear engine Komissbrot, among others) to create an affordable automobile for hard-working German families, the Volksauto.
Air-cooled rear mounted engine, ground-breaking aerodynamics and torsion bar suspension were but a few design innovations driven by demand (from a certain enthusiastic chancellor of the time in particular) for efficiency and affordability, proving that old adage about necessity, invention and maternity. Functionality, not luxury, was the order of the day. Much of the Volkswagen technology was later transferred directly to the famous Porsches – note the Porsche engine fitted to the black beetle shown on these pages (above).
Although the humble folk’s automobile has incarnated over and again it manages, most of the time, to retain a trademark quirkiness that says – fun. Fun, or terrorist/gangster, but it’s a uniquely VW quality. Arguably, the contemporary models look as bland as every other new small car on the tarmac but, quite essentially, they do go forwards and stop with reliable efficiency. It was the oil crisis of the early seventies that produced another VW innovation, the famous DDB advertising campaigns including lemons and the strapline Think Small.
Suddenly, Beetles became cool, selling in their millions to baby-boomers around the world; no longer the sole domain of long-haired, beach-combing, drop-out, cheap-skate, cider-swilling hippies but the vehicle of choice for the prudent, gin-sipping, middle class motorist. The romance never did fade, though, and the free-wheeling cache still lingers over that iconic VW logo.
Before technology ruined everything, the secret to VW’s success was that they were mechanically very straight forward. Back in the day, car owners were expected to know that a carburettor is not a form of Italian cuisine. It was common practice to carry a spare set of plugs, fuses, filters, bulbs and belts; an extra fuel-tank cap could be handy too (come on, we’ve all done it). Burnt out clutch plate? Why, simply pull over, strip-down the gearbox and replace it with a part from the wreckers, invariably found on the outskirts of the next town; all with five spanners, a screw driver and a hammer. Those were Halcyon days. Alas, VW’s became more or less reliable in the eighties. You can’t kill a Polo with an axe!
So, here’s to the inaugural Dub-feast at Herston Leisure Park, long may it continue, trundling on like a faithful old beetle. Maybe next year, we can expect a procession through town!