Lakeport Bryce Allemann’s 1967 Volkswagen bus isn’t just a piece of history — it’s a connection to his past, to his family.
In the 1970s, he and his brother and sister piled into the Westfalia Tin Top Walkthrough for family hiking and camping trips up and down the California coast. First, the Volkswagen belonged to Allemann’s grandparents, but when they grew too old to keep it running, his parents received the car. For a number of years the car sat broken down and unused, until Allemann obtained his driver’s license. His father said he could drive the bus if he fixed it up. So Allemann got to work.
The ‘67 Westfalia took him through college, where he met his wife, Kathy Hicks. He was thankful she wasn’t “scared away” by his old rusty car, he said with a laugh.
About five years ago, the couple finally found themselves with enough time to begin restoring the bus. And while Allemann isn’t too handy with body work, he’s always had the mechanical expertise needed to keep a classic car running. “If you own a Volkswagen that means you’re going to break down somewhere, sometime,” Allemann added. “You have to be ready.”
The cars were relatively cheap back in the day — his Westfalia cost approximately $4,000 in 1967 — and they require constant upkeep. Every 3,000 miles the valves have to be adjusted and the oil needs to be changed.
But Allemann doesn’t mind the work. In fact, it’s what he likes most about the car. “I’m fascinated with the mechanics of it,” he said. “I have a very organized mind and it’s the puzzle of it, that great feeling of success when everything does go right, because there’s plenty of things to go wrong.”
Allemann has kept the car on the road ever since he was a teenager. Sometimes he and Hicks head out to car shows, like the VW show at Library Park in Lakeport last weekend. The couple is from Richmond, but they made the trip to Lake County for the relaxed atmosphere and the impressive camping.
Car shows are something of a highlight for the couple. They’ve found that Volkswagen people are a universally friendly bunch, always willing to lend a hand to another VW enthusiast. As such, Allemann is constantly learning something new about his bus. “You’ll see somebody straight and proper wearing a tie talking to someone with dreadlocks and they have this common connection,” he said.
But Alleman and Hicks don’t only drive the bus to shows. Sometimes Allemann takes the Westfalia to work and on errands. He and Hicks load it up for weekend camping trips regularly.
Volkswagen buses aren’t exactly known for their safety, not when the driver and passenger are sitting right at the windshield. There’s no crumple zone, nothing to stop you from getting maimed in an accident. Some might call Allemann and Hicks brave for taking to the road, but Allemann disagrees. “You have to be kind of crazy to drive it,” he joked.
And with other cars zipping by without a thought, handling a VW bus is more dangerous than ever. “You actually have to be, nowadays, even more vigilant than you were in the past,” Allemann said.
But there are benefits to getting behind the wheel of a Westfalia Walkthrough, too. Although you’re forced to constantly drive in the slow lane, the paces allows you to enjoy the journey just a little more.
Whenever Allemann steps behind the wheel, there’s a weight to the bus’s history. His grandparents and his father have passed away, but he feels closer to them when he heads out on the open road.
It’s an interesting contrast to his father’s opinion on cars. He believed that vehicles were for utilitarian purposes only, that they were objects, not sentimental pieces or anything to show off. “My dad used to always say, a car should never be an extension of your personality, and yet I feel that it is,” Allemann said. “Because to me this is partially my father, this is partially my grandparents.”
In that vein, they plan to keep the car in the family for a long time to come. Allemann and Hicks don’t have children of their own, but they have nieces and nephews they’ll pass it along to when the time comes.
Until then, they’ll enjoy everything their 1967 Westfalia Tin Top Walkthrough has to offer. And you can be sure they’ll be back to Lake County soon.
Jennifer Gruenke can be reached at 900-2019.
Article source: http://www.record-bee.com/article/NQ/20160621/NEWS/160629967