A brilliant Sunday morning outside the Briarwood Mall enjoying all sorts of bugs, microbus, and things at the Michigan Vintage Volkswagen Festival.
The Michigan Vintage Volkswagen Club has been putting on a Michigan Vintage Volkswagen festival for over 30 years. They started back in 1987. In previous years festivals were held in Ypsilanti. This year due to pandemic precautions it was moved to Briarwood. Not that we don’t love Riverside Park in Ypsilanti, but Briarwood is just a couple of miles from the house. This made it a no-brainer to head over and check it out.
The skies were blue and the temperatures perfect for a late morning stroll to enjoy some classic VWs. The festival includes any Volkswagen-powered vehicle that is over 25 years old. Here you can find the ubiquitous Beetle and Microbus along with Manx kit cars and buggies, bug rods, the Thing, and a few cousin Porches.
There was even this cute and seriously tricked-out Sears Funderbird. Ok, technically it isn’t VW powered but has a Manx vibe. Plus, just look how cute this damn thing is.
What is it about the VW Beetle?
As I was checking out all these fantastic vehicles, I was struck by the passionate care celebrated at car shows like this. Brenda will confirm that I am not even remotely mechanically inclined. However, I do have a deep respect for those who are. To me, they are magicians. For example, this vintage VW jeep had to be restored piece by piece. That takes skill and dedication that I find magical.
I wonder what it is about car shows like the Michigan Vintage Volkswagen festival that pull in folks like myself who don’t own or rebuild these classic beauties? As I’m finishing my thought, the word beauty rang true. There is an artistic charm in the lines of classic automobiles like the iconic Beetle. The Ann Arbor Rolling Sculpture car show springs to mind. These classic cars are mobile sculptures. Art you can use as well as admire.
A Brief Beetle History
Adolf Hitler and Ferdinand Porsche tried to claim they were the inspiration of the “People’s Car” or Volkswagen. However, the real hero is Béla Barényi who in 1925 at the age of 18, developed the technical specifications which would provide the foundations for the Beetle (aka The Bug). Technically, Porsche brought the Volkswagen Type 1 to life, but I like to credit Mr. Barényi.
All that said, the beloved Bug didn’t actually become the people’s car until after World War II. Under the stewardship of British Army Major Ivan Hirst, Beetles for civilian sale began in 1947. Initial sales were sluggish in the U.S. but found their stride with a clever “Think Small” campaign in 1959. By 1972, the Bug would surpass the Model T’s as the most popular car with sales of over 23 million. Not too shabby for a little round car that is cute as a bug.
VW in Pop Culture
I remember going to the drive-in to see Herbie the Love Bug. If nothing else, that movie series brings to life the spirit of the Beetle. A sturdy little car with a heart of a champion that was ready for any and all adventures.
One of my most favorite VW characters is Fillmore from the movie Cars. Not only does that movie hit upon our nostalgia for the mother road of Route 66, but it also puts a personality we can all identify into some of the cars we love.
Sure Sally and Lightning are fun, but for me, Fillmore steals the show. Decked out in paisley and brewing his own “organic” fuel, Fillmore captures what we love about the legendary VW Microbus (aka The Hippy Van)
Get in the Van Man – Microbus and Van Life
In addition to a lot of cool bugs, the Michigan Vintage Volkswagen festival showcased a number of sweet vans. From the super cute Microbus to the snazzy Westfalia camper, these vans shout fun. Seeing the camper vans kindled the desire to explore the blue highways.
During a hot minute of daydreaming, Brenda and I considered retiring to van life. The thought of being able to spend some quality time touring the country is appealing. However, the reality of actually living long-term in a van is daunting. I mean, at some point you get pretty happy with showering in the comfort of your own home.
In the end, we are opting for condo life. Yet the dream of exploring the roads via a VW campervan is not dead. There are plenty of companies such as Rocky Mountain Campervans that will rent you a VW van for your next escapade. Shortly after retiring, we plan to rent a van and check out part of Route 66. Maybe we’ll try again to find Maynard from Tool.
We’ve got a lot more pictures from the Michigan Vintage Volkswagen festival in our gallery. The festival was a fun way to spend a sunny Sunday morning. We’ll be looking forward to checking out future festivals. If you were at the festival, why not share your story with us in the comments.
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