-- El Dub's Nostalgia VW corner --



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We all are collecting old VW magazines. We all knows of the famous VW magazines from back in the days. We also knows of the US cars magazines that sometimes focused on racing VWs on their cover... Usually, those Hot Rod, Popular Hot Rodding or Drag Racing USA are very collectible. But did you know that the great Hot Rod magazine, seeing the ever growing popularity of the little bug, made a VW special issue of its 'Industry News' called 'Small Car / Big Market' back in 1968?

That special issue is full of interesting period facts and that cover is awesome with its full custom bug and the EMPI Inch Pincher side by side. I found that uncommon magazine some years ago and thought it would be cool to share some of its contents here!


About 4 or 5 years ago, this writer decided to make a VW dune buggy. At that time there were only a very few who catered to VW fans. One of these was EMPI. We went for some sportster plans and got out the torch. The magazines weren't doing much in the way of how-to-do-its for VW owners, so everything was cut and try. ROAD&TRACK had a 3 page spread and the sands bugs and there was a photo of a real neat machine owned and built by a guy named Bruce MEYERS. My wife thought the fiberglass MEYERS body was cute, but our second child was on the way and we were a bit short on money. So, I put together a plywood/angle iron creation that cost about 150$ to build. Finding equipment for that car was almost impossible. Wheels had to be custom made, as did many other accessories. There were a few items that were available through the mail. The car was sold and the proceeds were used to pay for my number 2 son.

Last year I picked the "bug" again and built a show/street fiberglass bodied roadster. Interestingly enough, I still had to send away for quite a few items because the local speed shop didn't stock VW goodies. When I did find a shop that carried the item I was interested in purchasing, it had to be ordered. With the exception of a steering wheel (not the kit), a Moon foot pedal, hood pins locks and an air cleaner, every item that I purchased was special ordered. Among these special order items was a set of headers, cam, valve covers, quick shifter and several other pieces of equipment necessary to construct my car. Not counting the original price of the VW, I have invested in a little more than 1.200$ worth of fiberglass, steel and aluminium products to build my car. With the exception of about 50$ worth of genuine VW parts, every other item was secured through a speed shop or by mail. While researching some material for this story, I found much the same story with other buggy builders. Parts were hard to get through the local speed shops. We talked with Norm WISHOFF of WISHOFF SPEED & CUSTOM SALES about VW equipment. He reps a line of VW wheels, exhausts, etc, in addition to his regular speed equipment line. He told us that most speed equipment dealers were reluctant to stock VW equipment.

After two or three visits, he said that most of the dealers come around and order one each of his VW line. According to Norm, the items aren't displayed and because of this, nothing is sold. This means that the dealer isn't 'gung-ho' to lay in some more stock. On the other hand, WISHOFF sells the same items to sports car accessory shops and business is booming in the VW line. Before you jump to the conclusion that VW owners are sports car oriented, consider the amount of editorial material and the VW in magazines like HOT-ROD and ROD&CUSTOM. Another point in the amount of advertising that is directed to the VW owners in these same magazines. One cam grinder told us that the amount of direct mail orders had dropped off to less than 5% over the past two years due to better methods of distribution and stocking dealers. This particular cam maker had advised his dealers that he would be advertising VW cams in national advertising and that they (the dealers) should stock a few. Dealer response was pathetic, but reader response was unreal. The ad stated that the VW cams were available at speed shops everywhere. The only trouble was, the dealers ignored the product and the public ordered direct. In this particular case, the dealers have no right to complain about the manufacturer's direct sales. They had an opportunity to stock the products and didn't. Up until a few months ago, most of the VW equipment was made by companies that specialized just in that field. Some of these firms are EMPI, SCAT, PACER, INTAC and MEYERS. Now manufacturers like OFFENHAUSER, MICKEY THOMPSON, CROWER, ISKY, AUTOPOWER AND JE PISTONS are getting into the picture and others are sure to follow.

Several well known speed equipment makers have called the VW the next '55-'57 CHEVY. They are investing thousands of dollars in tooling, research and advertising on VW products. YEt, there are still a great many speed shops that ignore the possibilities or merely pay lip service to VW equipment. Let's look at the overall picture in terms everybody knows : money! For the most part, VW equipment is inexpensive. A cam sells for 25$, headers go in the neighborhood of 40$-55$ and a distributor lists for under 30$. Sears will even sell you a ready to run rebuilt 40 HP engine with a 24 month, 24.000 mile guarantee for less than for 300$. Unlike most speed equipment, VW stuff is easily sold at the advertised list price. This means that dealers can make an honest 40% mark-up. VW equipment hasn't been footballed by the national mail order outlets and retail customers won't be expecting you to sell an item at 40% off the advertised 'list' price. Stocking VW goods is easy, say, compared to stocking cams for small block Chevrolets. You don't have to invest in a deep inventory to cover the field. For the most part, there are only a couple of variations in the engines. With 12 cams you can fill 99% of the VW cam business. The same goes for headers and other items. There are only three variations in VW intake manifolds over a span of 20 model years! VW owners are prime prospects for steering wheels, shift knobs and instruments too. Many manufacturers offer adapters of kits to allow their regular speed equipment items to fit the bug. Wheels adapters to allow Chevy wheels to be installed on VW's are real hot sellers. By stocking a hundred dollars worth of wheel adapters , you can sell 700$ worth of Chevy wheels to VW owners.


Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, man, it's SUPER BUG! That's right - it's the next Gold Mine on wheels - the next '56 Chevy. It's an aircooled teen-age status symbol than can be money in the bank for the alert businessman in the high performance and custom industry. What I'm trying to say is 'Here come der Volkswagen!'.

Have I flipped my lid? Maybe I've been in the sun too long? Surely the editor of a magazine that claims to be "the voice of the High Performance and Custom Industry" isn't suggesting that funny-looking little "foreign" car is to become an important part of the performance market? Why, it's only got about 1100cc's, what ever that is - heck, a Dodge Charger's got over seven thousand of them. Now that's power and that's what we're selling, power! How true and what could use more power than a car with less than seventy cubic inches it along? Are we agreed so far? OK, on the next category.

Talk about a mega cool parts display... You can spot some EMPI early packaged parts : EMPI Uni-Vent, Quickshift, GTV gadge, Door pulls... The list goes on... All very collectable today...

Obviously, the one thing that has enabled us to become a "major" industry that has enabled us to become a "major" industry is the ability to produce and sell in volume - the cars and the customers are there and, fortunately, so are the dollars. We live in a very affluent society and the young car enthusiasts seem to have more than their share, due I'm sure to the fact that they are not faded with the budgetary problems of their parents. Now, because the manufacturers are equipped to mass produce and have thousands of dealers to distribute these products, good business sense dictates that before an investment is made in a new item there must be potentially large-volume market available. So the question is, are there really enough of those little beetles scurrying around the nation's highways to constitute a legitimate market? The answer is a most emphatic "You had believe it!".

Let's look at a few pretty impressive statistics. There are currently about three and one half a million Volkswagens registered in this country. The nation is literally bug-infested! And what are doing about it? Nothing. We know they are coming from accross the sea, but are we spraying our shore line with disinfectant? No! They continue to arrive by the thousands and now there is a new species that thrives on the sand dunes of America. There is an epidemic among our youth - a kind of automotive mono-nucleosis. Gentlemen, what we have here is... a new market!

Admittedly, I began this editorial ina facetious manner, but now let's get down the facts. The imported car market in the United States has grown from 98.187 units in 1956 to 766.992 in 1967, which increase theit share of the total cars sold in this country from one and a half percent in '56 to almost ten percent this year. Volkswagens represents a whopping sixty percent of the imported car market.

Custom steering wheels and shifters anyone???...

This is going to be an even more impressive year. Let me quote from the June 17th issue of Automotive News - "The imported car sales spree roared on at its hot pace in April, running up the highest total registrations ever for that month and the second highest for any month in history. Sales of imports in April totalled 80.390, surpassing the former April record of 63.26 established last year by a hefty 27.07 percent." VW claimed the lion's share of sales with 46.795 cars and as of this writing they have their first fifty thousand unit month.

Turning to the entire car market in the country, domestic and foreign, the figures remain impressive. The Bug is the 8th largest selling car in America and they seem to be closing the gap. As of the first months of this year, they were only 1.500 units out of 7th place (Dodge) and about 6.000 out of 6th place (Oldsmobile). At the current rate of increase, there should have been over 250.000 new VWs sold here by the end of June, which would give them a total of half a million for the year of 1968. Worldwide, Volkswagen is third in production (1.300.234) exceeded only by Chevrolet and Ford who are producing just over 2 million each. I realize all of these figures are probably confusing - simply stated, I'm saying - the volume is there.

Regardless of the volume, it doesn't mean a thing if there isn't some indication that it is a potential vehicle for our industry to hang things in and on. Believe me, we wouldn't have gone to all this work to bring you this special issue if there weren't some pretty solid and exciting facts to present. As you look through the following pages, it will become obvious that many manufacturers are already on the beetle bandwagon.

Another cool early EMPI parts : oil additive, Map lights, shifter extension... I even spied some early RACE-TRIM windows handles...

Bob LEIF had quite a time documenting all the equipment that is now being made and, because of the rapid development of new products, probably missed some. But even more important than the interest in the industry is the interest of the young people in the remarkably trouble free form of transportation. I'm only going to throw one more statistic at you, but to me it's the real clincher. Our major market, those in the 18-25 year old group, have always looked to Southern California as the leader to show them what to buy, wear and ride in - in Southern California the number ONE best selling car is the Volkswagen - that funny-looking little foreign car we've been talking about.

Those were the prices in the good old days... 44$ for a Cyclone exhaust......

Copyright 2014 El Dub - All rights reserved.

E-mail : eldub@cal-look.com



Below are the complete 3 pages of that parts article for reference. I found them very interesting because of the parts : mainly rims, exhausts, engine parts and fiberglass bodied cars...

First page show the famous Santana from Cosa Mesa degree pulley, the 'different' Wallabug from Hooker Indutries, Autopower engine stand, exhaust from Cyclone and special dual throat Weber kit.

Second page : we have here the now famous Meyer Towd dune buggy, close ration gears from EMPI, Mitchell megaphone stinger and Porsche type extractor exhaust for VWs.

On third page, we have EMPI big valves heads, Cragar US wheels adapter, Hurst line-lock, Lincoln industries fiberglass sport racing type vehicle...


This beats stocking regular VW mags by a mile! Don't get the impression that VW equipment will sell itself, because it won't. You have to make an effort to advertise, display and sell these goods just like any other product line. The biggest advantage that you have with this line is the small space it takes and the limited amount inventory investment. Take advantage of these pluses and make them work in your favour.

Already you're saying that there isn't room for another lug nut in your shop and that you can't possibly take on a line of VW equipment. Okay, we've got a few suggestions. Take a look around your shop. How long have those old 292 FORD heads been laying around, or that super neat EDSEL short block? What about that shifter display that doesn't work because you robbed some parts off of it? Get the point? You'll be surprised at how much room you have when you rearrange a bit and 'deep six' the obsolete junk. A 4X8 sheet of pegboard will hold a set of headers, a wood dash kit, bubble packed shifters, steering wheels, air cleaners, wheels adapters and some exhaust extensions.

Engine displays will aid your VW speed equipment sales. Autopower has a roll around and a bech mounted engine that can be used to show off a full-race mill. The bench mount can be used to the end of your sale counter providing it's built pretty well, otherwise use the roll around engine stand. Chrome plating the sheet metal on a VW runs less than 50$ and is a good investment as far as building an eye catching display. The engine can be used to sell headers, distributors, cas valve covers and intake systems. Several dealers go the full route on these display engines, big bore kits, cam, etc. and put a price tag on them. One dealer sells six full house display engines a year. With another four or five square feet of display case space for knobs and instruments, you're in the VW equipment business. You can have a pretty impressive display with the pegboard, engine and cabinet space totalling less than 20 square feet of floor space.

We covered the advertising media pretty well in the June issue, but in case you missed it, we'll hit some of the high spots. High School and college newspapers are about the best and cheapest way to reach the VW owner. In addition, use the classifieds on the week ends to reach the older customer. Coupons are great in the school papers and they can show you how effective your advertising is. Shift knobs and steering wheels are great items to promote in this media. In your classified ads, try to use a little institutional pitch about how your shop has VW equipment in stock at fair prices. Stress the fact that you stock cams, headers etc... If the rates are right, use some display advertising in the Sunday edition. The best section for VW goodies is the sport section. Go over some of the back issues oh HRIN for advertising tips if you go the display route.

From all indications that we have, VW equipment turns over faster and returns more money on sales per square foot than any other single group of speed equipment around. Although we think that VW equipment is here to stay in the speed equipment industry, there are some areas that bear checking out before a dealer drops some dollars into an inventory. Check with your local Volkswagen dealer and see what kind of accessories he sells, both in the service department and as a dealer installed option.

Many dealers carry a full line of dress-up and performance items while others stock little or nothing. A letter to the state motor vehicles department will bring you some interesting facts. Find out how many VW's are registered in your state or county and what percentage they represent out of the total car registrations. Let's face it, a lot more 'bugs' are sold in California than in North Dakota. We've kind of passed over the VW off-the-road market because of the unstable distribution problems in relationship to dealer/manufacturer programs. Most of the body and frame builders sell direct due to high freight costs and the newness of the industry. The VW Dune Buggy field is whole story by itself. Once you get established in the VW field, it won't take much to include wide wheels and dual brake set-ups in your inventory if customers demand them.

The availability of credit can be important in selling VW goods. Many owners are young married men that oan a 'bug' in the first place because of its low cost and maintenance. These people like to have some extras and they want to charge them. It's surprising the number of young wives with one or two kids that drive VW's with headers, wide wheels and pinstriping! To give you an idea on how strong the VW market is in California, there are a half a dozen or so shops that cater to VW owners exclusively! This is an addition to the many operations that sell equipment for VW dune buggies. Many of these shops operate a very profitable mail-order operation along side their counter sales. One of these retail sales/mail order shops admitted that one of the big reasons for their mail order success was the fact that speed shops and general automotive parts houses didn't or wouldn't stock VW goodies.

Take a look around your shop and do some checking at the local VW agency and then consider getting into the VW business. We don't think you'll be sorry. Remember, most successful businessmen agree on one point : You've got to be flexible and be ready to turn new things and ideas into profitable ventures.