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A Bug's life: Volkswagens run in his family

Staff writer

People who grew up around Volkswagens seem to keep them around for life, if just for sport.

Volkswagens always have been a part of Dan Schaefer’s life. His father owned a VW when Schaefer was born. He had a great-uncle who was a mechanic at a Volkswagen dealership in Emporia. Schaefer’s mother had a white 1962 VW.

In 1970, his father bought a new red VW, and in 1978 he gave it to Dan, who was 16 at the time.

“You can have it,” he told him, “but you’ll have to rebuild the motor.”

With a neighbor’s help, he got the job done. Two years later, he wrecked it.

“It was a rust bucket,” he said.

Schaefer, a 53-year-old from Hillsboro, figures he has owned at least 15 VWs in his lifetime. One time he owned 10, including three buses.

“Prices went through the roof, and somebody wanted them really bad, so I sold them,” he said.

He owned a 1983 GTI Rabbit that went through a flood in Texas. He still owns a 1961 VW convertible, a 1971 square-back, and a 1965 Beetle.

The ’65 Beetle was white when he bought it. He painted it red, and in 1990 he painted it pink.

He hasn’t done much with it since, and it’s showing some wear. It has more than 200,000 miles on it. He still enjoys driving it around the area.

Schaefer likes VWs because they are easy and cheap to fix. He said it cost him less than $1,000 to rebuild a motor, and a new one is just $1,500.

The Beetle has a 40-horsepower motor. It can reach speeds of up to 65 miles per hour going downhill, 60 on a good day, and 50 when bucking the wind.

Ben Biesel, 60, of Ramona was 4 years old when his father bought a new 1959 Beetle.

“I remember riding around in it all the time,” he said.

He called the vehicle “one of the most important cars of the last century.” He has owned eight in his lifetime including one bus.

Biesel learned to drive in a VW. His father owned two at the time, and his older brother had bought a new 1968 model.

Biesel was in high school when he bought his first VW, a new 1973 “Bug” purchased in Hutchinson for $2,300. He said it was a “Super Beetle.”

He once owned a 1968 Beetle that had thousands of miles on it.

“I like Bugs,” he said. “You have to get to know them.”

The VW he owns now is a 1963 Beetle bought at “The Bug Place” in Wichita for $2,500. He said it’s worth $4,500 now.

“It’s a little less than perfect, but it drives like perfect,” he said. “If I sell this one, it might be my last one.”

The Volkswagen, or “people’s car,” was developed in Germany during Hitler’s Third Reich. It was first exported to the United States in 1949.

Last modified May 28, 2015

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