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Dad's Bus, My Bus

Chris Wilburn

Dad bought his Bus, a brand new 1970 Westfalia, when I was less than 1 year old. It was our only car throughout my entire childhood and, 16 years later, it became my first car.

Dad drove it every day through snow and ice, as well as up into the Catskill Mountains full of gear and kids. Dad is tall (6 foot, 6 1/2 inches) and after a decade and a half of rubbing his head on the birch wood panel above him, there was a round spot worn from his hair.

Around 1975 or so, my Dad wanted to trade in our 1970 Westfalia for a new one. Even at six years old, I was not having it. I threw a fit about Dad getting rid of "my Bus." He tried to tell me how much better the newer ones were; bigger motors, better camping layout, etc. Dad even brought me into Queensboro VW in New York to show me the new models and the brighter colors. I wasn't changing my mind, and we stuck with our trusty red 1970 Westfalia.

In 1983, with a bad clutch, our Bus was put in the back yard to await my sixteenth birthday. When the day finally arrived, Dad and I pushed the Bus back to the driveway, pulled the engine and installed a new clutch. We were so proud of ourselves. When I went to start the Bus, with Dad looking into the engine bay to be sure there was nothing we might have missed, I turned the key and it fired right up. Despite the clutch being pushed in though, it ran right into the garage, taking out one of the lower panels of the garage door.

After doing the install a second time, this time with the right parts, I was ready to drive. A few years later, like a stupid teenager, I traded the Bus away. Even though I have had 30 Volkswagens and well over 150 cars, I truly regret getting rid of Dad's Bus.

About two and a half years ago, I spotted an ad for a 1971 Westfalia a few hours from me. All the thoughts and memories came rushing back and I knew I had to have it. We didn't really have the money for it, nor did we need another car since we were pretty deep into street rods by now, but my wife, who I met and dated while I had the 1970 Bus, made it happen. The 1971 Westfalia was in great shape for the price. It was the right interior, the right color and it evokes great feelings and memories every time I drive it.

Someday, after we finish my son's Ghia and then do one for my daughter, my Bus, will be spruced up. Right now, though, she is perfect. From the driveway paint job and the crazy graphics put on to cover some of the wrinkles in the door, to the mismatched stool and homemade curtains, this Bus is like coming home again. Seeing my son and daughter in the rear view mirror when we go places, setting up the tent and camping with our daughter in the over head hammock (my spot from when I was a kid) and working on the Bus with my son are new memories that link me to the old ones. Very few people ever get to truly see something from another person’s point of view, but I get to see through that of my father, thanks to this Bus. No other car could ever do that, and no this Bus isn't for sale...ever!

 

 

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