Controversial

Chop Top Convertibles
Interesting News Items
Spectacular Is As Spectacular Does
Donna Pell Responds
Toyota Got Its Sums Wrong
Front-Wheel-Drive: Who Needs It?
President’s Report
Car Of The Year / Best Car Awards – A Closer Look
VW Power To The People
Sequel - VW Power To The People
Sydney Motor Show 1993
How to Write and Article for ‘Super Australian Best Hottest Street VW Power Scene’ etc
Open Invitation for Phil Matthews
Trouble In Paradise
Phaeton – VW Gets It Wrong!
VW Turns its Back on its Air-cooled Heritage
Charles steers into Trouble
Murray River run
VW’s advertising agency needs a history lesson
VW fails to see the funny side

 

Chop-Top Convertibles

By Rod Young
November 1987

One thing that our magazine has always lacked is a ‘Letters To The Editor’ section, which has always puzzled me. Surely Club members feel strongly about certain issues, so why don’t they make known their feelings through the magazine, which is one of the reasons it exists? Perhaps they need to be stirred into action to state their opinion, which is why this month I am going to be deliberately provocative and try and stir up a bit of controversy.

The subject of my diatribe is ‘Chop-Top Convertibles’, ‘Aussie Convertibles’, ‘Sun-Bugs’, ‘Back-yard Abortion Beetles’, call them what you will (I call them circumcised Beetles). It is my opinion that the great majority of these conversions are carried out very badly from the point of view of design, workmanship, safety and looks; many should not approved by the authorities and that, in the long run, the whole trend goes against what our club is trying to achieve - the preservation of VWs on Australian roads.

To expand on these points in turn: most conversions I have seen are so crudely designed that they make little attempt to keep air and rain out of the car. The ladder frames built into the chassis are not properly designed from the point of view of stress distribution, so that they are frequently much heavier than necessary (but cheap to make). No attempt is made to provide glass in the rear of the car, as is the case with the superbly designed (of course!) VW Cabriolet. When the back edge of the door is cut away, the door glass falls out the back when it is wound up!  I could go on.

The standard of trim can be appalling. It may look just passable when it is driven out of the factory, but after a while the edges fall off and you see the non-rust-proofed unprotected metal edges. Roll bars are often unpainted beneath the tube of foam rubber. Body filler is used liberally to cover up gaps. Some of the paint jobs are disgusting!

Safety is the most important consideration of all in a car's conversion. Shouldn't a car be rigid instead of twisting and shuddering when it hits bumps? Shouldn't you be able to see out the back of the car? I have never been so frightened in traffic in all my life as when in a ‘convertible’ that had a translucent rear screen through which you couldn't even distinguish the shape of cars! Why can these cars be allowed to get a pink slip? The more pertinent question is why insurance companies will insure them. NRMA has given converted VWs their seal of approval, while at the same time it is difficult to insure a car with fibreglass panels. Where's the logic? In most countries it would not be possible for a company to produce such a vehicle and have it approved by the authorities, as human lives are at stake here.

Finally, to looks. When the top is up, the whole Beetle shape is lost amidst bows which stick out and the shape of the screens doesn't even resemble the original window shape. Once again, they don't look a patch on the genuine Cabrio.

I believe that the trend will go the way of all fashionable things and fall flat on its face, or people will get sick of putting up with the shoddiness of these vehicles (just look at the trade of them in the papers compared to intact Beetles!), or the worst scenario of all, the supply of Beetles will dry up. In the long run, few of these cars will be kept; they will rust and crack up long before equivalent unmodified cars. You find that the sort of people that own them don't tend to give them proper servicing and they rapidly deteriorate through misuse. The bottom will have to fall out of the market. (Maybe the share market fall will start it off). These cars I consider already lost.

Why then do these butchers continue to prosper, how can they get away with poor design and shoddy work and still command outrageous prices? The answer is that the sort of person who is attracted by them is usually young, has more money than sense and no experience with cars, let alone an appreciation of Volkswagens. These people are so ignorant and trend-inspired that the badly engineered Chop-Top frequently commands higher prices than good factory Cabrios - up to $15,000! The converting companies are unscrupulous, being driven more by the profit motive than the desire to produce a good product. Where the customer doesn't demand a good product, it won't be produced. It's just unfortunate that the VW Beetle is the victim of this way of thinking. The mentality is that the Beetle is cheap, in never-ending supply and very saleable when converted. Why can't they pick on some other factory's mass-produced effort than our beloved Beetle?  A converted Toyota Celica or Valiant looks a whole lot better anyway.

Top

 

Interesting News Items

By Rod Young
March 1988

• A recent test by the German car magazine ‘Auto Motor und Sport’ has revealed what has been suspected for a long time – that the claims of Japanese manufacturers for co-efficient of drag (Cd), were exaggerated, by as much as 14% in the case of the Subaru Vortex. Only the Volkswagen Golf (0.34) showed the same figure as the factory claim.

• Watch out for your VW badges! In Britain, fans of the American heavy-metal band ‘The Beastie Boys’ have been ripping off VW badges, especially the big Kombi ones, often damaging the cars in the process. VW has been giving away free badges to its customers as a result. Unfortunately it’s starting to happen here as well. The latest is that rock star Angry Anderson is sporting a VW badge on his jacket. Let’s hope that nobody feels like copying him.

• In a recently published book entitled ‘Porsche 917 – The Ultimate Weapon’, it was revealed by the designer of this incredibly successful race car, Ferdinand Piëch, that Volkswagen provided funding for the project to help Beetle sales. The idea was to show what air-cooled engines could still do.

Top

 

Spectacular Is As Spectacular Does

By Dave Long
August 1989

I am going to take a pot shot at a sacred cow.

I admired Rod for sticking his neck out some time ago on the subject of Sunbugs, but this is a bit different. It has to be said, goodwill not withstanding.

About this time every year, VW buffs from all over head to Nambucca Heads for the VW Spectacular show. As we all know, this Event is the baby of Mark and Donna Pell, and it probably has been going for six years or more. They do it every year, and I have no doubt it’s a lot of work. The result is consistently a success, and they deserve all credit.

What I don’t understand is, how those who make the trip are so regularly drawn into believing that the Pells have a special on-going need for overwhelming congratulation. Every year it is the same, if only one takes the final windup coverage in magazines and the regional papers as evidence. It’s nauseating, and in my view it makes some people look foolish, including the Pells.

The trouble with this sort of thing, whether it is warranted or not, is that the superlatives dry up. Every year there has to be something more glowing to say about the people, the sacrifices and the dynamite organisation.

It’s like being on a metaphorical elephant; an obsequious one, and not being brave enough to get off – not in case it tramples you, but in case it refuses to go any further.

I haven’t been for a couple of years, so I am possibly out of order, but as a suggestion let’s come to some arrangement with Donna; tell her honestly that what she does with the Spectacular is great, and that we all hope she doesn’t get tired of it. Then leave it out, at least for a while.

The key to this is to recognise that the sponsors of the annual VW Spectacular are not doing it altogether from the goodness of their hearts. They are making a fortune on just about everything, especially kickbacks on all the accommodation (total in many thousands of dollars), and spin-off benefits for their business. They do very nicely, thankyou very much, but of course they don’t advertise the fact.

It would appear that what we are afraid of, especially those with commercial interests, is that Donna Pell will collapse under the pressure and responsibility, and there will no longer be a VW Spectacular at Valla Park.

I go back to my earlier remarks – all credit to them for the idea and having the initiative to get it off the ground; 10 years ago or even less, no one would have thought such an event would have a chance of success, or of lasting 5 minutes. But it did, and it has, and the rest is history, thanks to we enthusiasts and lots of others like us.

If it should fold for whatever reason, I have no doubt someone else will pick it up and go with it. There’s no patent on ideas of this nature, although it would need a new name. Whether it is as good is another matter, but uncertainty has always been a familiar part of day to day life.

I won’t try to ignore the fact that all human beings like to be recognised and appreciated; it just needs to be kept in perspective. The foregoing remarks may not coincide necessarily with those of other members – sorry.

Top

 

Donna Pell Responds

By Donna Pell
September 1989

Dear Dave,

I have just received your club’s magazine. I was upset to read your story on the VW Spectacular, but I read it through and this is what my answer is to your story.

1. We are open to any suggestions, good or bad. If we react to them, that is our decision.

2. It is not compulsory to attend and, as you have said, you haven’t been for the past two years.

3. You find, when you organise something like the VW Spectacular, that if it works, why change the itinerary? Until this day you are the first to complain about the itinerary.

4. As far as making us money, this is run as part of our business. If you work out the time organising it, we probably come out square. Yes it is good advertising for our business, and as I said before, that is what business is all about.

5. For your information, Valla Park Resort is booked out for 1990 already. So I guess that says it all. There mustn’t be too many people with your thoughts.

6. As the saying goes, “it is a free world.” Freedom of speech.

7. If you have any suggestions regarding the show, please don’t hesitate in writing to me personally, not through the club’s newsletter.

8. I hope you will print my answer in your next club newsletter.

9. As far as I am concerned, I will still be organising the Volkswagen Spectacular until we find that the demand isn’t there any more.

10. Just another point. If you help organise the VW Nationals, do you make money out of that? Also, will you be changing your itinerary?

Top

 

Toyota Got Its Sums Wrong

By Rod Young
October 1989

Has Toyota got its sums wrong? There have been numerous press reports recently, claiming that production figures for the Toyota Corolla and derivatives will surpass those of the Model T Ford this year, and the VW Beetle by 1990.

Granted, Ford made 15,007,033 Model Ts, and the Corolla will overtake that number with no problem. But approximately 21 million Beetles have been made. Do they really expect to churn out six million Corollas in one year?

Quite aside from this fact, there is also the point that Toyota entirely changed the design and appearance of the Corolla every few years of its life, even allowing it to metamorphose from a rear-wheel drive to a front-wheel drive car in the process! The engine has also changed from north-south to east-west, and the body shell has been completely redesigned not once, but six or seven times! All that has stayed the same is the letters on the nameplate. So is it really the same car?

At least the Beetle has always been recognisable as such. If Volkswagen were to have followed Toyota’s example, they could have just as easily named the Golf, ‘Beetle’ - after all, a Beetle is a Type 11 and a Beetle Cabrio is a Type 15; a Golf is a Type 17!

Top

 

Front-Wheel Drive: Who Needs It?

By Peter Robilliard
April 1990

After roughly 30 years of rear engine rear wheel drive production, VW progressively swit¬ched to front wheel drive for all its range of cars. I've owned and driven cars from both eng¬ineering camps and for me, the pragmatic dec¬ision by most of the world's carmakers to use FWD has meant hanging on to and preserving my Beetle. Why?

It has nothing to do with a roomy interior, or heaps of luggage space, unless of course we are talking about Kombis! There's no doubt that a Golf or Passat is a very efficient package for transporting people. I never ceased to be amazed that my TS Passat was the same length (4.19m) as my 1500 Beetle (4.06m), give or take a few mm, yet it had so much sprawling room for 4 or 5 people, plus their luggage.

No contest over which car won the interior room award, but I don't think VW tried too hard to ‘create’ a bit more room in the Beetle. It co¬uld have, for example, used seats similar to the Renault 10, with a recessed section built into the upright squab of the front seats to make room for the knees of the rear seat passengers. It could have used less depth (front to rear) in the rear seat/luggage area in a variety of ways i.e. a smaller luggage area, or a more shallow rear seat cushion.

The reason I like rear-engined cars, in my case at least, is easy to justify to myself but not necessarily to other people. There are some relatively minor tactile pleasures such as rear engine noise mentioned in a previous article, but the major reason basically revol¬ves around the handling and traction areas.

For most of my life I have been keen on cars that can go places without getting bogged or spending embarrassingly long times at the tra¬ffic lights on hills when it's raining, while the driving wheels search/look for grip before moving off. When I owned my TS Passat, I can't say I never enjoyed spinning the front tyres! In fact, in dry weather it was the only way to get the thing off the line smartly without frying the clutch (tyres being cheaper and easier to replace)!

In the time I owned my first car, a front wheel drive Renault R4, and when FWD was still a bit of a novelty in OZ, spinning the front wheels at the traffic lights was a great way to stir a Porsche or V8-engined car into act¬ion. Little did they know that under the bon¬net of the tyre-shrieking French funny car next to them lurked a 32hp motor with the wheelspin easily produced via weight transfer on soft suspension to the rear.

However, the amusement factor was for other people, not the driver, when, for example, the only way to get up a long muddy hill at the old Catalina Park car races at Katoomba in the R4 was to ‘turn it into a Beetle’ by reversing up the hill.

Now I know that even a rear-engined VW can spin its rear wheels, especially the big-engin¬ed ones, but I bet not too many drivers give a second thought to pulling out into traffic, or turning right across oncoming traffic in wet weather. The VW drivers who are that little bit cautious (read slow) will be the Passat and Golf drivers. Sorry, I'm only stirring because taking this traffic example a bit further, it's much slower/worse driving an empty van or Tarago, my other vehicle!

Leaving aside the traction advantages for the moment, I will relate the linked rewards of rear-engined handling. Using my Passat experience as being reasonably typical of front wheel drive motoring, I have to say its handling was a bit of a good and bad mixture. In general, when driven hard it understeered i.e. plough¬ed straight ahead instead of going around corners. There was plenty of warning, generally, through the excellent feel provided by the steering, and the appropriate steering and/or throttle applied.

The rear of the car could be made to slide under certain conditions e.g. backing off or braking on loose or slippery surfaces such as a hairpin bend on the Amaroo dirt circuit, and then one could actually steer the car. However, wet weather driving in general was a sobering affair with too many unsettling moments caus¬ed by a sudden loss of adhesion of the front wheels. They were interspersed with the occasional, “This is ridiculous, but isn't it fun!” moments such as driving up a long sweeping corner on the Putty Road in the wet, and being able to wind the steering from lock to lock while steering the car with the throttle.

For me, though, a rear-engined car is the car I prefer to drive quickly through corners. By adopting the relatively slow in, relatively fast out rule, the weight of the engine stays up the back, giving the rear wheels plenty of traction while the front wheels go about their job of steering. If there is a rear end slide, the quick ratio steering can be used to catch it.

To date, I don't think anybody has proven conclusively either front wheel drive or rear wheel drive is quicker through a corner. As for handling safety, from 1968 on Beetle handling has not been a serious issue, particularly aft¬er the introduction of the CV-jointed rear ends when motoring writers were quick to point out the Porsche-like handling.

So until the current surge of technology tapers off and we get acceptably priced, good handling, constant 4WD rear engined vehicles (for the sound, remember), I'm staying with my poor man's Porsche, or maybe a second hand Kombi syncro!

Top

 

President’s Report

By Steve Muller
May 1990

Having been president of Club VW for the past four years and being directly involved with the VW Nationals, I have learnt a lot about attitudes.

I am sick to death of other clubs trying to persuade or tell us that we are right or wrong in running VW Nationals at Easter. Club VW Sydney has only once been involved with the National Bug-In when the VW Club of N.S.W. ran the Bug-In in conjunction with VW Nationals '88. This was the first attempt at an amalgamation of two different types of VW events. After having received letters from N.S.W., South Australia and Western Australian VW clubs, I ask them, who are they to say that we should not run the Nationals because they are running the Bug-In at the same time? The vast majority of Sydney members are not interested in competing in an event with the Bug In format. We have catered for some thousands of Sydneysiders each year, with a liberal handful of interstate guests, and therefore our priorities lie with the majority. If people want to support an event with a 25-year-old tradition, I am definitely not going to stop them, or even write letters asking them to refrain from attending - it is solely the individuals' choice. That also goes for our own club members. It really P***es me off when a club has the enthusiasm to organise and put on a successful event, only to have its reputation dragged through the mud by other clubs or their representatives. This seems to be just another example of the Tall Poppy syndrome. How childish and off-putting this must all seem to the new VW enthusiast?

Back in the early 1970s, Volkswagenwerk knew that their traditional bread-and-butter Type 1 was totally outdated in the market of the day. The factory took the initiative and the appropriate steps to produce the Golf as the replacement. This kept VW on the world map as it is today. A parallel applies with the Bug-In. Long gone is the time that you bought a new VW and competed in rallies and sporting events. The event format of the Bug-In needs to be drastically changed if these clubs want to attract VW enthusiasts of today (If they don't, all well and good). Study the market of today's VW shops. What are they selling? Rally bits, or customising and restoration parts? The answer is very clear. In order to survive in this market place, VW clubs need to follow the current trend in VWs worldwide. This opinion may appear one-eyed and perhaps I've stuck my neck out a little too far, but I really think it needed to be said.

In no way do we want to influence other clubs or tell them what to do, and we would like to same courtesy to be extended to us.

We have been asked by three clubs to reconsider the timing of VW Nationals, so as not to cause conflict with the Bug In. If it had been possible to take advantage of another time of the year, we would have done so, not just because of the fact that Easter is invariably a time of lousy weather, but also because of the clash which we acknowledge and regret. Our committee has looked at every possible date through the year and found no other time suitable for the sort of event that Sydney's VW enthusiasts deserve. We are sorry if this upsets some people, but it's not because we're inconsiderate that we're holding the Nationals at Easter, its because we have no other options and its what the VW enthusiasts in Sydney currently support.

Top

 

Car Of The Year/Best Car Awards – A Closer Look

By Phil Matthews
April 1991

I don't know how you feel, but I don't buy Australian motoring magazines any more (except for the deteriorating VW Power). In high school a decade or more ago I used to read Wheels, Modern Motor and Motor Manual (or Car Australia as it's now known) every month, catching up on news and views, naively believing everything I read, and enjoying it too.

Nowadays, things are different. I browse them in newsagents, looking for anything of interest, like VW, Audi or Porsche articles, by quick scanning. If I find something I like, I might borrow that magazine from a friend, or from the local library. Those magazines won't get my money!

Do you know why? Can you guess? In my opinion, I believe glossy Australian car magazines today are full of crap, written by morons and wankers who don't know what they are talking about! They write as if from some higher level, spoon-feeding us mere mortals our load of drivel every month, then accuse us of being ‘emotional’ or ‘ill-informed’ if we dare disagree with them.

I'm sure you can think of lots of instances yourself, but in this article I’m going to talk about the 'Car of the Year' or 'Best Car Awards’. In days gone by they were a believable indication of the relative merits of some cars against others, judged according to criteria based on technical excellence or innovation, build, economy, value for money, affordability, etc. Some fine cars have won these awards previously, most memorably in our case the VW Passat in 1974, and VW Golf in 1976 (Wheels). Then again, cars such as the Valiant Charger, Leyland P76, Mitsubishi Sigma and Magna, and Mazda 323 have also won in other years, so you could argue that the awards are not as perfect as they would have us believe.

But this year things got beyond a joke. Firstly, Wheels magazine awarded ‘Car of the Year’ to the Lexus LS400, a $110,000 Toyota that scored highly on refinement and value for money (?) but offered nothing new technically, was bland and, really, rather ugly to look at, and certainly not ‘affordable’ for the average motorist. Certainly a ‘good’ car, yes even I admit that, but Car of the Year? I don't have the issue in front of me so I can’t quote, but I remember the long editorial rambling on about how the Lexus redefined the motor car, had the US and German car industries in paralysis, proved that the Japanese now owned the world and the Europeans may as well give up etc etc blahdey blah blah. Well, it so happened that so many indignant letters fell on Wheels from ordinary motorists like us that even in the latest issue they are still trying to justify their decision.

I don't know exactly how they made their choices, but I understand that no more than a dozen people were involved. I'm not going to speculate as I hope you prefer cold facts as much as I do, so I'll move on.

Instead, I have the Feb 1991 Modern Motor front of me, borrowed from one of my brothers. Apart from such ‘knowledgeable’ gems as:

“Audi's 100 model has always been the least glamorous in the range”…”Audi has tried for years to rival Mercedes and BMW, but never quite made the grade”…”The new Audi is extremely competent in every department, but we didn't discover a personality,” they came up with this classic:  “...the current Toyota Tarago is less like a Fiat 600 Multipla, and more like the product of an act of unsafe sex between a Celica and VW Kombi Van.” Wankers.

This issue also explains the results of the Modern Motor Best Car Awards, 1990/91. They work like this:

They use 47 different motoring writers, 5 from Modern Motor and the other 42 from many varied newspapers, magazines, radio stations, agencies and independent houses across Australia. These 47 writers are given a list of 48 cars, all of which were released in Australia in 1990. The judges are each required to allocate 20 points between 5 cars of their choice, with a maximum of 10 going to any one. The results of all 47 judges were added together, and the winner thus democratically elected. Last year's winner was the Mazda MX5, and the VN Commodore the year before.

What were the choices? The 48 cars consisted of one Alfa, the Audi V8, 7 BMWs, 4 Fords, 5 Holdens, 2 Hyundais, the Lexus, 2 Mazdas, 6 Mercedes, 2 Mitsubishis, 3 Nissans, the Peugeot 205 GTi, the Porsche Carrera 2, 2 Renaults, 3 Subarus, 1 Suzuki, 4 Toyotas, and finally the VW Golf 1 Cabrio and Golf 2 GTI, both VWs finally released on the Australian market last year.

The result?

The winner was the Toyota Tarago with 226 points, achieving 10 points from four judges in the process, including Wayne Webster from the Telegraph and, surprise surprise, the ever Tarago-fetished Alan Kennedy from the Sydney Morning Herald. Only 6 writers failed to award the Tarago any points, but an average of 4.8 points from EACH is quite astonishing.

Second was the Lexus, with 153 points. Two judges awarded it the full 10 points, but 16 gave it no points at all, for an average of 3.25 points each.

Third was the Mitsubishi Galant VR4 with 89 points. No one gave it 10, the highest was 8, and in fact 26 judges ignored it.

They were the publicised results, but what if you look a bit closer?

For starters, the seven BMWs got only 47 points between them, the six Mercedes got 62 points altogether, the 500SL scoring 55 of those. No cars except the Tarago and Lexus got 10 points from anyone. The Audi V8 got 1 - yes, 1 - point, from John Wright of 2GB. Well known respected motoring historian and writer, Pedr Davis, voted 4 points each to the SS Group A Commodore and Statesman Caprice, 5 points to the Mazda 121, 3 to the Subaru Heritage and 4 to the Tarago. The Subaru Liberty was voted superior to the Porsche Carrera 2 Tiptronic as it beat it 31 points to 2. The Celica GT4 beat the BMW 850i by 13 points to 7. The Nissan Pintara Superhatch beat the Peugeot 205 GTi by 22 points to nil!

And how many cars failed completely? Well, the Audi V8 got only one point, as I said. But there were seventeen cars that scored nil points - in other words, not one of those 47 'knowledgeable' writers thought these cars made the slightest impact on our society last year. They were:

The Alfa 33QV, BMW 325i convertible, BMW 520i, BMW 730, Holden Barina, HSV SV90 Commodore, Mazda 929 V6, Mercedes Benz 190E, Mercedes Benz 300CE, Mercedes Benz 420SE, Nissan Maxima, Peugeot 205 GTi, Renault 21, Renault 25, Suzuki Swift, Volkswagen Golf Cabriolet, and the Volkswagen Golf GTI.

That's why I don't listen to 'COTY' awards in Australia, or buy Australian car magazines any more.

Top

 

VW Power To The People

By Dave Long
April 1991

How many Club VW members follow Australian VW Power? Enough to keep a library, complete from issue number 1?

I have only about half of them, including No 7, given out at the 1990 Nationals (I was surprised when reading the 89/90 Balance Sheet, to see that the Club had to buy them).

Much of my written work is qualified with a preliminary explanation; this thesis is no exception. It might be fun even to qualify the qualification by explaining that I believe dogmatic statements to be inherently dangerous (of course, I wouldn't like to be too dogmatic about that). That’s why I always admire others brave enough to make definitive statements - so long as they are accurate!

I am about to enter into a one-sided discussion on VW Power Magazine; to give my opinion of the magazine to date, and to offer some bouquets and a serve or two along the way. Sorry guys!

I would prefer to think that every VW enthusiast who can read would have an opinion, which may vary from my own. I have the advantages of incentive, being articulate, and having access through the Club magazine to a forum for these views. If you have read the magazines as I have, I hope you don’t disagree with me too violently.

To empathise even further with the publishers, I will apologise in advance for taking so long over these observations, but I have only just caught up with some of the subject articles (through magazines loaned to me by another member).

They may get a feeling as if they have received in the mail a summons months after the event, but the record should be set straight, otherwise some of the more impressionable among the younger VW freaks may accept some of this stuff as gospel.

Worse, they might go to the expense and frustration of trying it for themselves without first checking a really reliable source.

First off, I thought Issue No 1 was great! The tech articles started off well, as they seem to have continued. The article on the Schwimmwagen was well put together, and there were further excellent features.

A few ‘typos’ (typographical errors) jarred here and there, and still glare out from issue to issue, but overall, a bloody good debut. I would like to see authors of stories identified by name, if that hasn’t been taken care of yet.

Page 23 of Issue No 2, I think they got a couple of the Hebmuller illustrations reversed. The tech article standard remains high, and there is a feature on Richard Holzl’s successful 2-litre racecar. Page 47 carried a profile on Club VW Sydney. The Club page was a great idea. In ‘Readers Cars’, I was just rapt, reading about Richard Newbury’s ‘56 Split Beetle.  It was a genuine ’50 split window grafted onto the back, so its OK, really. Could it catch on?

It was Issue No 3 for May/June 1989, which I had my critical sights on, so I will say loosely that from this issue on there was one of a number of Editorial changes, and there was much evidence of sloppy, or non-existent proof reading.

In Issue No 4, the black Baja feature was extremely slick, both car and article. On p78 ‘Readers Cars’, a ‘Playmate’ buggy was featured. I always knew those as Apollos. Just for VW Power future reference, the name of that two-pack synthetic enamel is Glazurit, a U, not A (Issue 5, red feature car, P6).

Reading the same issue, I had to suppress a cheer at the small broadside over Toyota’s feeble claim to the production volume record with its ‘Corolla(s)’. VW Spectacular ’89 coverage was excellent.

The writer conceded he was attending for the first time, and Donna Pell said at the ‘89 event that the 1990 Spectacular accommodation was “already nearly booked out.” Pity he didn’t realise she says the same every year, 12 months early! Great drag car article, ditto the aviation piece. A ‘Sojourn in Mexico’ by the young guy who splurged his uni funds and invited himself on a visit to the Puebla VW factory, was brilliant. Graham Wilson is the guy's name. Author, Author! Bravo! Same with ‘Technical Tip’ on handling, very well presented; again, who was responsible? I for one would like to know, particularly as it was so good.

By Issue No 7, I discovered that someone had beaten me to the punch in my belated criticism of details in Issue No 3, but that won't stop me, since I believe to set the record straight requires more than three or four column inches on the second last page. Good on you, anyway, Dave Harding, for bringing it to notice. I'm sure that otherwise they wouldn't have advertised the fact that someone screwed up.

And what happened to the Editorial around Issue 6? It sank without trace, but was back again with a different Editor by Issue No 8.

Reverting, as I intended, to Volume 3 of May/June 89 (they probably thought the errors had been put to rest long before this) –The ‘Porsche-Eater’ article on the Corvisy Powertune car was excellent (Tim Britten appears to know his stuff), ‘Technical 2-litre’ build-up was tops, ditto ‘The Animal’ and the beaut VW/Porsche 914.

But the Karmann Ghia Type 1 material - Ugh !

The un-named writer states that K-G Type 1 values have gone from $3000 on average in 1986 to about $9000 in 1989. I certainly hope he's right, because I have a couple. I wasn't aware they were so cheap in 1986.

But where it gets truly clever is at the point he says, “…below the surface, the car is absolutely 100 percent Volkswagen Beetle. If you were lucky enough to find a good Ghia body, you could build your own by getting hold of a Beetle and pulling the body off. It's then a simple matter of bolting the Ghia body (with absolutely no other changes, and bingo! you're in business). And only an expert would be able to tell the car from a genuine Ghia, because the only thing not quite right would be the chassis number. (Chassis were delivered to Karmann in batches, so it's easy to tell which ones saw the inside of the Osnabruck plant and which ones didn't).”

Talk about uninformed; he doesn't know when to stop. Where do they get these guys? Karmann Ghia floorpans are NOT the same as Beetle; Ghias are wider and squarer at the front, a bit like the Type 3 shape. A Ghia body will NOT bolt onto a Beetle floorpan. And the bit about chassis number ‘batches’ is nonsense; Karmann Ghias are VW Type 14 and have a ‘14’ prefix on their special floorpans after 1965.

If it wasn’t bad enough not knowing his subject and giving himself away, he blunders in deeper and deeper, making a complete clown of himself. And to be so breathless about the details - like he knocked over a dozen or so of these pushover conversions before breakfast.

A magazine like that has its credibility on the line with every article it publishes, and they don't need whackos like that, ruining an overall fine effort.

Then he has the little elves at Karmann hammering out the Ghia Type 1 prototype bodies. The quality of course was “all but flawless.” Anyway, so the legend goes. He keeps referring to the “1100cc” engine, condescending to admit it was closer to 1200c. It was actually 1192cc - how close to 1200cc can you get?

And of course, because from end of 1958 the bodies were still largely hand finished, these “early cars are therefore the most collectible of Ghias.” I think he means the ones with the lower headlights and rounder ventilation grilles are more valuable, but it's not because they were constructed any differently.

He states, “The 1100cc engine continued for the 1959 model year, when it was dropped in favour of the 1200cc engine.” That is like saying the 1192cc engine was replaced by one of 1192cc, since the displacement of 36 and 40hp engines is the same, although they are entirely different units. Also I have my doubts about the information on camshaft bearings; probably he has got it back to front.

He harps on later again about the “hand-formed bodies.”

Karmann Ghia bodies were built from panels stamped by machines and welded. The front mudguards in particular are unusual, being made in three parts and welded, allowing replacement of only progressive parts of a ‘fender’ (US slip of the tongue), in the event of an accident or rust damage (when you could get them). Welded seams and other areas were ‘leaded’ by hand rather than crude non-metallic filler.

What a turkey! I’m so angry, I don’t want to talk about it. (Exit)

Top

 

Sequel – VW Power To The People

By Dave Long
May 1991

A complaint has been lodged on the Old Boy Net by the Editor of ‘VW Power’ for the article published in the April '91 Zeitschrift.

I have also heard expressed the view of certain Club members that this item was  “in bad taste”, but particularly in the framework of industry relationships.

From the Club Veedub viewpoint, it may have been seen as unnecessary, and possibly in conflict with sponsorship interests, which is not a welcome consequence. For this outcome, I apologise.

I would like to place all this more in context.

From comments over the past year, I have the impression that Zeitschrift is well received. That is probably to say that readers of the magazine, especially our Club members, are happy with what they read, 95% of the time.

Zeitschrift has now got ‘guts’. If you want to emasculate the content for fear of treading on toes occasionally, it will lose its strength.

The item was ‘in the public interest’, to the extent that the original VW Power article in particular gave erroneous information. VW Power is a commercial magazine aimed at a readership of VW enthusiasts, (us), which sets itself as an authority on matters VW and is sold on newsstands for a not inconsiderable price. It therefore has responsibilities to be accurate and reliable.

The publishers of VW Power may well feel they have cause to be offended. They may feel the article in Zeitschrift, while correct, was ‘below the belt’. Perhaps I neglected to point out that I acknowledge VW Power as a magazine has improved out of sight in recent issues.

VW Power is not a ‘sacred cow’, nor should it be considered so simply because it helps in a small way to support the Nationals.

It was intended as comment on a subject within Club Veedub’s area of interest, and on the premise that no publication is immune from criticism. Those club members who feel badly about this one, why not write a ‘Letter to the Editor’ to appear in the magazine?

It has been pointed out that the opinions put forward are but one point of view, and should not be misunderstood as perhaps the view also of all the voiceless remainder. That may be so, but my points on Karmann Ghia floorpan shapes, numbering and body construction are facts, not opinion, and facts that VW Power got wrong. The article was in the nature of an Editorial. Ideas for articles are inevitably based on the thoughts of one person only, in such cases.

Unfortunately, for me in making observations, the down side usually is offset against the interest of ‘telling it like it is’.

Top

 

Sydney Motor Show 1993

By Phil Matthews
November 1993

All too soon twelve months roll around, and once again October arrives and it's time for the Sydney International Motor Show at Darling Harbour. I never miss this, as it's always good fun, and a perfect opportunity to check out the latest wheels from around the world, VW/Audi and otherwise. This time I wasn't able to organise a group of VW boys to go along with, so instead I saw the show in '93 with my mate from New Zealand, Brian (Ay!) who, incidentally, recently sold his rust-box Sigma and bought a Laser. No VW bias there.

We entered the exhibition halls from the south, and made our way around in a clockwise direction, the opposite from what I remember doing last year (just to be different, I suppose). We visited on the last Sunday it was open, but all the same the hall was not terribly crowded, just enough to make photography of the cars a real hassle. I'd stand back to fit the Ferrari in the viewfinder, then wait interminably until there was no one thronging or passing by in front of my lens.

But I digress. We got off to a bad start by viewing the impossibly ugly Toyota Raum (German for ‘room’), then the ridiculous Spacia which, as you probably know, is merely the previous model Tarago with a severe tarting up to make it look relevant. What a joke! The current Tarago also remains laughable, but sells extremely well all the same.

I spotted a strange sign in the Holden stand that was promoting ‘Holden Golf’, and it got me wondering. I can only conclude that if TKM does decide not to go ahead with importing Golfs, then perhaps GM would like to use the ‘Golf’ name instead.

Brian was impressed with the Land Rover Discovery, Dodge Viper and Mitsubishi 3000GT, to name a few, while I liked the Harley Davidson Springer and Fat Boy models; less so the Heritage Softail. One particular metallic green Porsche 911 with red brake callipers was my show favourite, however. I also liked the HSV Commodore (but it needs the 200 kW motor), and the wonderful red 1959 De Soto in the foyer.

And so finally we came to the VW/Audi stand, which, thanks to some better organization this year, were adjacent (unlike last year). I spotted the solitary Golf Mk3, the first time I'd seen one in the flesh, in metallic blue VR6 form. Crowds mingled around it and it was some time before I could get a clean photo.

Several T4s were on display, ranging from a Trakka camper conversion to the delivery van and Caravelle versions. In my opinion it is a serious mistake to offer the five-cylinder motor only on the Caravelle; the four cylinder delivery van, at only 62 kW, is less powerful than the previous wasserboxer and will be a joke with any sort of load on board, particularly when compared with the far more powerful rear-drive Hiaces and Urvans that will outsell it. I'd like to see a VR6 Caravelle, and 5-cylinder motors as standard in the rest of the Transporter range. There was also no consideration to any diesel-engined versions, which are very popular in Europe.

Also from the many comments I overheard, most of the crowd were still unaware that VW made these modern units. Didn't Kombis have their engines in the back? They would get quite a shock to learn that they've now been available here for more than a year. Perhaps some TV ads might be a good idea.

There was one of the previous model Golf Cabrios on display, a car with a very limited future given that the new Series 3 Golf Cabrio had appeared at the Frankfurt Show only a fortnight earlier. Somehow the old Series 1 Golf shape seemed sadly out of place. I didn't get a chance to examine the VIN or Build Plate to determine exactly how old this example was, but maybe next year we might see the new model.

The biggest disappointment was going to the VW information stand to secure some brochures for my archives, as I collect VW’s sales brochures each year and have them going back to the 1950s. The attendant on the stand was not a sales executive or corporate rep, but rather was a familiar mechanic from a Lakemba VW dealer dressed in a suit but with grease under his fingernails. He did well with mechanical questions from the crowd, but when presented with questions regarding model availability, pricing and distribution matters he tended to reply, “Uuuhh, I dunno.”

Furthermore, on picking up some VW brochures, I was curtly informed by the mechanic (who had once dated my sister!) that I was not allowed to take them, because if I did, a TKM supervisor would “cut my balls off” (quote). I laughed. We can't have people picking up VW brochures willy-nilly - they might get interested and actually BUY one! I called their bluff, took them anyway and departed the VW stand.

As I said, we visited on the last day of the show, so perhaps my experience was the exception rather than the rule – I certainly hope so. In any case, Brian had the last word as we left the show and headed for the Pumphouse for some beers – “Who was that wanker?”

Top

 

How to Write an Article for 'Super Australian Best Hottest Street VW Power Scene etc’

By Phil Matthews
June 1996

* WARNING - Controversial *

With the rise of the VW movement in Australia in the last ten years or so, we've seen quite a number of glossy VW magazines appear on our newsagent shelves. You know the ones I mean - there's the traditional American titles like Hot VWs, and VW Trends, and the British ones like VW Motoring and, more recently, VolksWorld.

However in this article I'm thinking more in terms of the Australian efforts, which appear quite regularly under many different titles, many of which you can discern from the title above. They're colourful and glossy, contain many wonderful pictures of owners' VWs, and generally provide a much-needed local VW fix after years and years of nothing. Long may they continue.

There is a certain ‘style’ to local magazine articles that isn't seen in the foreign ones. It's not just an ‘Australian-ness’; it’s something more, like a formula or pattern for article-writing that is always followed. I've become convinced of this because it isn't confined to one Australian magazine alone; they all do it!

Here then are the rules to follow if you want to write an article on your VW, and see it published in one of the Aussie mags.

Start your article with an awful pun in the title. If you own a Beetle you could try 'Bug Me’, or ‘Got the Bug’, or even ‘Bugger Off’. Kombi owners might try 'Catch the Bus', or ‘Vantastic’, while a Type 3 article could start ‘One Notch Up’, a ‘Square Deal’, or maybe 'A Fast Buck' (get it? Fastback.) I’ve also seen ‘Top Ghia’ and ‘Hold On I’m Karmann’. Cute, hey? Many, many more puns open up when you move onto Golfs. Tee Off, Golf Driver, Hole in One, A Fair Way, Golf Club...the list is endless. Or why not make a play on your VWs colour? 'White On!' is a good one, or what about ‘Back in Black’, S-Cream’, or  ‘Mella Yella’? You can be ‘punny’ about anything to do with Volkswagens – ‘Vee Dubble Ya’, ‘Wolfsburger’  or even anything remotely German, such as ‘Two’s a Kraut’; the sillier the better, really. If you can't think of any play on words, stick to the trusty ol' alliteration - as in Kamper Kombi Kapers; or Porsche-Powered Passat; or just a simple Bad Ballistic Bug, Big Bulging Bug, Budget Bug and so on. With Audis, make sure the pun depends on pronouncing ‘Audi’ incorrectly, such as ‘Out of the Audi-nary’. The worst pun I ever saw along these lines was by Wayne Webster in the Telegraph, who wrote, ‘It’s Audi you ever wanted’ – horrible.

Mention Hitler. This shows some Teutonic historical flavouring. Refer often to the Fatherland, Der Elves in the Black Forest, the good Doktor Porsche (note spelling), das is gut, and so on. Pig German is OK – schweinhund, dumkopf, and any other Colonel Klink-style Germanisms that come to mind. Ja Wohl! But you can get a much bigger impact than just German-ness. Make sure you include mentioning Adolf Hitler, the Third Reich and the Nazis. Feel free to mention the war, ruling the world, the V1 and V2 bombs, goosestepping in Berlin and all the tired nasty kraut clichés you can think of. Don't worry about the fact that Volkswagens sold here were actually made in Melbourne.

Tell us irrelevant facts about your car's history. This is where you have to fill up column space, but can’t think of anything to write about the car itself. So you ramble off at a tangent. You tell us that you bought the VW from your Aunty Nell, who had used it for shopping and driving to bowls for 20 years after she and Uncle Clarrie were married (the wedding was in an old woolshed in Jerilderie). They went on honeymoon in Ballina, which is known as the prawn-fishing capital of Australia. She and Uncle Clarrie once drove on a holiday to Lightning Ridge, where they hunted for black opals. She once ran over a dachshund on the way home from the bottle shop at Roselands (she'd just bought two bottles of cooking sherry). Roselands was built on a golf course and once had a cinema. And who can forget the Raindrop Fountain! Aunty Nell had originally bought her house in 1923 and added a garage for her Austin 10 in 1928. However she suffered a turn and decided not to drive any more, especially as the new 827 bus went right by her door. She found buses really hard to climb into with her sore legs. She put her VW in your Uncle Clarrie’s garage, next to the Victa, Uncle Clarry’s home-brew beer-making kit and the rooted whipper snipper, where it lay for the next 15 years under a canvas sheet until you turned up and bought it for next to nothing. Stupid old Aunty Nell, she knew nothing about the value of her old VW, so you got a real bargain, etc.. etc.. etc.. etc..!

Be colloqial when describing engine details. Your VW doesn't have 92 mm cylinders and a 78mm-stroke crankshaft, an Engle 110 camshaft and a Bosch 009 distributor. Come on – that’s way too nerdy and square. No, it’s got 92 mil pots, 78 mil big stroker, a hot Engle 110 bumpstick (which 'pops' the valves) and a 009 dizzy. Similarly, it might have CIMA slugs, Dell carbs and bitchin' rubber.

Always exaggerate. This is most important, because you want to impress your readers with your VW and your knowledge. For example, your new 12V Bosch coil becomes a 'high power' coil. Any spark plugs or leads other than your old ones can be called 'racing' plugs or 'racing' leads; in fact the term ‘racing’ can be used for any after-market part you like. Use 'Porsche' whenever possible to add additional ‘cred’. You've got 'Porsche 356' wheels (made in Brazil); Porsche tacho (80mm VDO), or Porsche headlights (US-style sealed beam). Naturally, you’ll spell it ‘Porche’. Power output is very important – 150 bhp is a good, round number to claim that will have the readers whistling with respect, even though you’ve just pulled it out of thin air. You won’t know that a stock VW 1600 made only 50 DIN hp, so you’ve tripled the stock output. Qualify your lack of quarter-mile times by stating that you haven't dragged the car yet due to running in. The best ‘power guesser’ I ever saw was some guy in Melbourne with a 2080cc Type 3 that supposedly developed '240bhp+' at the wheels (no turbo or nitrous!) So VW Power magazine claimed, anyhow. Not surprisingly, we never saw this thing racing at the VW Nationals.

Be descriptive. Adjectives are your friends! Your engine isn't just fitted with 40mm Weber carburettors. No! The big VW donk breathes pure Avgas go-juice through huge 40 mil Webbers (note incorrect spelling), while the fire is lit with hi-power racing super plugs. The hot spent gasses are efficiently dispatched through a neat black steel Thunderbird Hi-Flow mega racing exhaust. Similarly, you 'aggressively dump’ lower the front, you 'lay on the cool tunes' with the stereo and you 'put the power to the tarmac' with your wheels and tyres.

Criticise the Stock Components. You enhance your engineering prestige by putting down the stock Volkswagen components you've replaced with hottie bits. Thus, you replace the 'skinny stock wheels' with big chrome ones, and the 'weak' 6-volt system is upgraded to 12-volt. The stock 'pea-shooter' exhaust is an expression I've been seeing for years, and it crops up again and again. Old motors are always ‘gutless’, 'tired' 'wheezy’ or even 'asthmatic'; the standard paint colours are always 'bland’ or 'boring’, and standard interiors are always 'plain'.

Mention those who helped you. This is not actually a criticism, as you should always show appreciation for people who have helped you. However, in Aussie magazines you must refer to professional Volkswagen mechanics, tradesmen and parts suppliers in first name terms only, as if you're good mates with them all. This applies even if you only went in once to buy oil strainer gaskets. Thus, it's thanks to Stan, Steve, Richard and Boris or Jeff as appropriate. The effect is to give the impression that you’re at home and recognised in the VW scene. One final touch, if possible, is to misspell the name of one or more of them, or get the name of their company wrong. Thus, thanks go to Richard Hozel and Barras from "Vintage VW".

Your Next Project. In closing, a fancy touch is to mention the next change, engine or even project that you're about to start. Your beautiful VW stands there gleaming in the big glossy photos, but you're not happy. In fact, it’s for sale. In the pipeline' is a bigger, more powerful motor, different colour, tyre/wheel change, etc. etc. This gives the reader the final impression that you're a real dynamo who is never content to rest on your laurels. You are actually sick to death of working on bloody VWs every weekend, but you would never actually admit it.

Top

 

Open Invitation For Phil Matthews

By Geoff Paradise
August 1996

I read with interest in your June 1996 edition the story written by Phil Matthews, titled "How to Write an Article for 'Super Australian Best Hottest Street VW Power Scene etc".

It seems that P. Matthews is keen to have an each-way bet.

On one hand he is happy to criticise the writing style, editorial license and creative design of locally produced publications, but readily admits that after years and years of nothing they provide a much-needed fix. Long may they continue, he said.

He also alludes to the fact that various magazines (and let's not beat about the bush here, he's obviously talking about the discontinued VW Power, our 'Volkswagen Australia' titles which for commercial reasons appear with different main titles regularly, and VW Scene), have perhaps capitalised on the popularity of VWs.

The fact is, if it wasn't for these publications Volkswagens would not be enjoying the popularity they are and the industry that supports the hobby would not be doing as well as it is!

Mr Matthews has indulged in selective cynicism. Of course Australian magazines have a certain style, just the same way that the British ones have and the Americans have. What he fails to acknowledge is that the 'Australian-ness' (is that like Elliot Ness?) of our publications is that they are all colour, whereas many overseas publications still feature cars in black and white!

The Poms prattle on for 2000 words or more on where Nigel or Julian found their rusty old oval (normally at the bottom of the garden, just near Secret Seven's clubhouse) while the yanks mention all the parts advertised in their magazine. The latter's idea of a car 'feature' is maybe three pages, one of which is bound to be monochromatic.

It's painfully apparent that Mr Matthews has never worked for any specialist magazine publisher and has little or no understanding of journalism or production techniques. If he had he would realise that magazine editors and/or writers depend on information supplied to them by the car owner and/or constructor.

For the most part they are honest in their revelations but occasionally their egos get in the way and they tell some whoppers! What are we to do? Pull the engine down and measure the cam profile, piston size and generally double check everything told to us? Hardly.

If magazine writers were to follow Mr Matthews inferred writing style car enthusiasts magazines would be as exciting to read as a combination of the parliamentary Hansard and the White Pages telephone directory.

Mr Matthews missive demonstrated the sarcasm of an individual who is happiest sitting on a fence but he did show a flair for coherent writing and since he thinks Australian magazines are written to a formula I would like to offer him the opportunity to write a feature for the next 'Volkswagen Australia' title.

How about it Mr Matthews? Do you think you can teach old dogs new tricks? Call me during business hours and we'll set the ball rolling. Who knows, you may have an (as yet) undiscovered talent.

Top

 

Trouble in Paradise

By Phil Matthews
September 1996

To Mr Geoff Paradise, Editor, Volkswagen Australia Magazine

Dear Geoff,
How delighted I was to receive your letter (as reproduced in August 1996 Zeitschrift), together with your kind invitation for me to contribute to your publications. I would be delighted to accept! Should you require a feature article on someone's VW, you need only provide me with the owners’ name and phone number, and about four weeks notice, and I will provide you with an appropriate article written in an informative and entertaining style. I can be reached through the postal address of Club VW Sydney.

Rare indeed it is that offers of this nature are made to VW enthusiasts such as myself who, as you correctly surmise, have "never worked for any specialist magazine publisher" and have "little or no understanding of journalism or production techniques." You're right, I don't know how to produce glossy, colourful magazines and you obviously do. However I know about Volkswagens, and you obviously don't.

I'd like to make a few observations on your letter if I may. Once again I make it clear that these are MY opinions, not Club VW's.

It's true that I think the appearance of local magazines is a good thing, and I repeat, long may they continue. However, they (including yours) could be improved in my opinion, and there's nothing wrong with that.

I had a good laugh when I read your claim that your publication (and others like it) are the reason VWs are as popular as they are. Not only that, but the VW parts businesses also wouldn't be doing as well otherwise. Are you for real? I've never heard such nonsense. You and your magazines are a very recent arrival. The modern VW scene can be traced back to the first VW Spectacular at Nambucca Heads in 1984; prior to that the VW clubs were the 'dirt motokhana' style leftovers from the 1950s.

It is the club scene and the people behind them who deserve the applause, not you. People like Donna and Mark Pell, Bret Crothers, Steve Muller, Chris Edwards, Dave Birchall, Mike Martinez, Dave Cameron Rogers, Tom Subi and other pioneers who did all the hard work. VW Power magazine didn't appear until 1988, following the first Club VW-organised VW Nationals in fact. That magazine folded only a few years later, but funny how the VW scene didn't. Your first VW magazine, ‘Red Hot Volkswagens #1’, appeared in October 1993, less than three years ago and we’d already run the VW Nationals six times by then. You’ve been here barely five minutes in the greater scheme of things.

I'll leave it up to the professional VW trade repairers and parts suppliers to comment on how much of their business they owe to your glossy Australian VW magazines, and how much to their standard of service.

I was also amused to learn that the best thing about your magazine is that it's in colour…really, is that it? The content is always more important than the appearance, so who cares if overseas mags are partially black and white? The most popular car magazine in the world by a country mile is Hot Rod magazine, and guess what - they publish a mixture of colour, and black and white photos. Not only that, but they are THE last word in auto customisation, as a V8 enthusiast like you will well know. They also sell more than a million copies per month. You should be using them as your guide, not Womans Day (which is all colour, I'm told).

If the “Poms prattle on for 2000 words or more” etc etc, then how do you explain pages 40 and 41 of your latest effort, Street VWs No. 1? (as distinct from Street Volkswagens No. 1 which appeared last year). Precisely two pages of meaningless waffle. And precisely what I'd already observed about Australian magazines in my article.

As for the Yanks - if they tell you where the owner sourced his parts, then it makes it easier for the reader to obtain the same parts or service. Once you read a few of these you start to get a very good idea of what works and what doesn't before you spend your own money, which is precisely the point. And you'll be less likely to fall for the ‘whoppers’, which you admit you can't detect.

Which brings me to my next and most important point. It is crucial that you, as an Editor of a specific ‘Volkswagen’ magazine, show some familiarity with Volkswagens. It is only natural that owners are going to exaggerate their cars, but that's no excuse for you not showing some grasp of what's reasonable and what's not.

Of course you're not expected to pull an engine down, etc etc, but if someone says they've got a 'racing' cam, then don't just parrot them! Ask them what sort – they will know. Remember that 150 hp is three times or more a VW's original output, and that 8000 rpm is nearly twice the standard rpm upper limit.

I co-founded Club VW in 1985 and have been to many events over the years (though less lately), but I'm yet to bump into you at any of them. Getting out and about with other VW owners is the best way to learn more about the marque, and thus be less likely to be caught out writing 'whoppers', yours or otherwise.

As for my inferred writing style, you seem to imply that it's dull and dreary, yet your very reaction to this whole matter shows it's the exact opposite. Again, I refer you to Hot Rod magazine for an example of the content and style you should aspire to. And just when was the last time you read the parliamentary Hansard? Question Time can be quite interesting…

You call me sarcastic and you're correct. I'm also skeptical and cynical. I've been in the VW scene a long time and I've seen many people come and go. I thought I made my opinions fairly clear. Sitting on a fence is one thing I never do, and if that's the impression you get then I'm afraid you've misunderstood everything I've written.

You can read more of my boring writing style in my book Knowing Australian Volkswagens, the first complete history of VW in Australia, published in 1994. It's available through the publisher, Ian Whitefield at Bookworks, Punchbowl (you've even advertised it in your magazine).

Why not come along to Boris's BBQ day at Vintage Veedub Supplies (Sunday 22nd) and we can have a chat, or failing that, I'll definitely be at the inaugural Hamo Grog'O'thon (stay tuned to Zeitschrift for more details). In the meantime, keep up the good work but don't be afraid to ask for help if you need it. You'll be most welcome.

PS. I know you don't think much of my good mate Phill Lander, but take my advice and listen to what he says. One of his great strengths is his attention to detail, and while you might find him abrasive at least you'll learn something.

Top

 

Phaeton - Volkswagen Gets It Wrong !!

By Phil Matthews
March 2002

Volkswagen's new ultra luxury saloon based on the D1 prototype has been in development for several years. The all-wheel drive, 6-litre 12-cylinder 309 kW limousine was recently shown at the Geneva Motor Show. While a front-drive 3.2-litre 6-cylinder engine will also be available, the new big VW will also have the option of a 230 kW V10 turbo diesel, making it the world's most powerful diesel passenger car. This monster will have a staggering 750 Nm of torque (a Passat V6 has 260 Nm).

The car will be VW's answer to the BMW 7-series and the Mercedes Benz S-class. It will be built in VW's shining new transparent factory in Dresden, built at a cost of $A320 million especially for the new car.

Oddly, the new saloon was given the awkward and unusual name – the VW Phaeton. VW explained at the Geneva Show that Phaeton had its origins in Greek mythology and means 'the shining one'. Phaeton was said to be the son of Helios, the sun god, and drove the sun carriage.

It sure sounds like a wonderful story, and this Phaeton character sounds like a glowing celestial hero and a good thing to name a super limousine after. Well I hate to put a damper on the festivities, but readers are encouraged to get out their encyclopedias to check the facts. If you do you'll find, as I did, that this story is not right! The spelling is also incorrect.

Firstly a definition of the word 'phaeton', and enthusiasts of horses and buggies are probably ahead of me. A phaeton is a light, open, four-wheeled door-less horse carriage that was popular in the 19th century. It usually contained two seats facing forward, with a folding top for the front seat, and had large front wheels.

The most spectacular phaeton was the English four-wheeled high-flyer, with a body consisting of a light seat for two resting atop two great crossed springs and reached by ladder. A curved iron stay attached the springs to the axles.

Much more reasonably constructed and graceful phaetons were the mail, stanhope, spider and tilbury phaetons. The mail phaeton, used chiefly to convey passengers with luggage, met incoming stagecoaches. The spider phaeton was of US origin and was a light vehicle made for gentlemen drivers. The stanhope and tilbury phaetons were also fashionable carriages, both used at horse shows.

But ‘phaeton’ in the horse carriage sense is a French word, not Greek, and so we have to look at the Greek mythology thing next.

Helios (Greek for 'sun') was the sun god to the ancient Greeks. He drove a chariot daily from east to west across the sky, and sailed the northerly ocean each night in a huge cup. Helios was especially worshipped in Rhodes, where from the early 5th century BC he was regarded as the chief god to whom the island belonged. Helios later became increasingly identified with other gods, particularly Apollo who had originally been a god of light but gradually took over the role of sun god from Helios. The Romans dropped the idea of a sun god entirely and instead worshipped the sun itself.

Helios gives his name today to scientific instruments to do with the sun, such as the heliograph, heliometer and heliostat; heliotropic plants grow towards the sun, and the inert gas helium is also named after you know who, as it was first discovered by looking at spectrographic lines from the sun.

In Greek mythology Helios and the heroine Clymene had a son named Phaethon (note the spelling!) In Greek, that means 'shining' or 'radiant'. According to Greek legend, Phaethon was taunted with illegitimacy, so he appealed to his father who then vowed to prove his paternity by giving him whatever he wanted.

Phaethon asked his father to be allowed to drive his chariot of the sun through the heavens for a single day. Helios, bound by his oath, had to let him make the attempt.

Phaethon set off, but was entirely unable to control the horses of the sun chariot. It veered off course and came much too near to the earth and began to scorch it with heat and light. To prevent further damage, Zeus himself hurled a thunderbolt at Phaethon, who fell to the earth at the mouth of the mythical Eridanus river. Phaethon's sisters, who had yoked the horses to the chariot, were then transformed into poplars and their tears into amber.

Not quite the pristine myth from the VW press releases; something of a ‘stuff-up’ in fact. I think VW could have picked a better name!

Top

 

Volkswagen Turns its Back on its Aircooled Heritage

By Ken Davis
May 2002

Ask a friend what comes to mind when they think of Volkswagen. Odds on they will relate a story about an old air cooled Beetle or Kombi. A real enthusiast may conjure up an image of a Karmann Ghia. You don’t get many people rhapsodising about Passats or Polos (yet, anyway).

According to the April 2002 edition of the US ‘Hot VWs’ magazine, Volkswagen of America is having trouble understanding why thousands of people still love their aircooled Volkswagens, and are not flocking to their local VW dealer to snap up the latest offerings. Well, apparently the senior management of Volkswagen of America has determined to do something about it.

Volkswagen has declared war on all those businesses and clubs that support the aircooled models and use the logo, trade marks and images of Volkswagen without the factory's blessing. This means no Beetle images on your club tee shirts or other merchandise. Unauthorised advertisements for ‘Volkswagen Parts’ are illegal. Apparently ‘parts for Volkswagen’ is acceptable, providing the word ‘Volkswagen’ is not written in one of VWs distinctive fonts.

Volkswagen of America has forbidden their dealer network from selling any air-cooled parts, servicing air-cooled models or supporting clubs running shows for air-cooled models.

Our club actually received a letter recently from Volkswagen of America in New Jersey – they apparently found our club website on the internet. They demanded that we desist from use of the Volkswagen name and logo, and remove any images of air-cooled Volkswagens from our website as it ‘contravened US law’ and we could be subject to US court action. Well I can tell you that, after some legal advice, our committee wrote back to tell them to get stuffed. Our club is incorporated in Australia and is subject to Australian law, not US law. We have permission from both Volkswagen Group Australia, and the previous importers, TKM/Inchcape, to use the VW name and logo where appropriate. They have financially supported and sponsored our VW Nationals every year without exception since 1988, and we have a great working relationship with VW Group Australia . At least the US madness does not extend to Australia.

On another tack, I recently read a book, dealing with the development of the New Beetle. According to the author, many within Volkswagen Germany have very little regard for Volkswagen's air cooled past and bitterly opposed reviving the shape of the Beetle with the new car. Apparently it reminds them of the years of poverty and struggle as the country recovered from the ravages of war. They prefer to focus on the prosperous, modern Germany and all that it stands for. However, the New Beetle was styled in California and was built expressly for the US market – as a clever way to ‘connect’ the millions of US air-cooled enthusiasts to the modern range. For that it has been a success – at least in America. 

My view is that Volkswagen's current American attitude is misguided and I hope they are defeated in their current efforts to curb the after market aircooled industry. Volkswagen's poor performance outside of Europe, in today's markets, has more to do with the strength of the competition, than any association with the aircooled past.

The Legend Will Never Die!

Top

 

Charles steers into trouble

By Paul Allente
February 2003

In an impassioned plea, he urged shoppers to buy British food. But when it comes to cars, Prince Charles has slammed the brakes on patriotic purchasing. Although Britain's motor industry is rooted, eldest Windsor kid (formerly Sachsen-Coburg-Gotha, lest we forget) is awaiting a whole fleet of German made Audis to replace his pool of ageing, British-assembled Vauxhall Omegas (think of a Holden Vectra on an all-pie diet).

The Brits are not, of course, amused.

To appreciate their pique, envisage our Prime Minister, or Governor-General, replacing their traditional locally-made Holden Statesman or Ford LTD limo with an Audi or a BMW.

‘Karl’, as his fellow Deutsch drivers may as well start calling him, has taken delivery of an Audi A8 Quattro, which he will use as a loan car until his own is handed over in a few weeks. He said the firm had offered him a fantastic leasing deal for the luxurious, 4.2-litre V8: $600 a month instead of the usual $3000. It must be because they respect his stance on the environment.

St James’ Palace has confirmed that palace staff are already leasing five Audis. The final total could be as high as 30. Charles, who is apparently hugely impressed by the reliability of German engineering, became an Audi admirer after hiring Audis on his skiing holidays. His partner, Camilla Parker Bowles, is already known to drive an Audi. The late Princess Diana was also seen driving Audis, although her last ride was in a Mercedes.

The Prince has confided to friends that he signed the lease agreement in a bid to cut his costs. But Labour MP Tom Watson, whose West Bromwich East constituency, in the Midlands, contains factories that provide parts for Jaguar, Land Rover and MG Rover plants attacked the decision.

“Charles should put his money where his mouth is when it comes to the British car industry,” raged Watson. “This is hypocrisy from the heir to the throne, who appears not to care about workers in his own country.”

Charles's sons, William and Harry, drive Volkswagen Golfs. His royal mum and dad drive LPG-powered Bentleys (Bentley is owned by Volkswagen). The Prince’s ‘Buy British’ plea came at the end of last month in an article in Farmers' Weekly magazine.
He said it was the only way to help the nation's struggling farmers.

“Our public bodies buy enormous quantities of food. Just imagine the amount purchased by our hospitals, armed forces, local government, schools and universities,” Charles said. He added that buying British was vital in preserving the threads in the complex tapestry of rural Britain.

But he signed the deal with Audi UK after approaching the car giant last summer.
An Audi spokesman said, “We can confirm that the palace is an Audi customer, and we are very proud to be associated with the royal family.”

But British rivals are aghast. A spokesman for MG Rover, which makes the jolly old oil-dripping Rover 75 and MG-ZT, deplored the Prince's decision. “Why Charles can't simply buy British-made cars is beyond all of us.”

Audi sales are rocketing, thanks to high profile customers like Prince Charles. The Prince has been criticised in the past for his double standards over cars. He has highlighted the need to preserve a green, healthy environment, while keeping powerful, gas-guzzling cars among his runabouts.

They still include an armour-plated Bentley, provided and paid for by the police, as an official car, and two Aston Martins.

Top

 

Murray River run

By Ken Davis
July 2003

Wendy and I decided we would attend the Murray River Run over the Queen's birthday weekend. I am always keen to take our Superbug on longer trips.

We motored down on the Friday and encountered very fierce cross winds. I decided to slow down a little but not so most of the big trucks. A B-double passed us that was so affected by the wind that the prime mover was travelling immediately adjacent to the right hand lane line, and the second trailer was tracking just in the left hand shoulder, but the driver pushed on at his 110 km/h.

We arrived in Albury late in the afternoon and booked into our motel. The motel was a favourite with the coaches, which is probably why a very good smorgasbord meal was put on each night.

Unfortunately the organization of this event did not eventuate. Eight or so cars came up from Melbourne late on Saturday and a cruise was organized on Sunday to Yackandandah. Wendy and I did our own thing on the Saturday but joined the cruise on Sunday. However we stayed behind for a while in Yackandandah. We eventually left for Beechworth, traveling solo.

About 20 km from Beechworth we were stopped by the Victorian police. The conversation between myself and her majesty's constables went something like this:

Ken: Good afternoon officers. What can I do you for?
Plodd: I see you have historical vehicle plates on your vehicle.
Ken: Yes sir, that is because it is an historic vehicle.
Bigfoot: The plates on your vehicle are unfamiliar to us.
Ken: That is probably because they were only introduced in NSW last year. Would your time not be better spent chasing criminals or speeding hoons?
Plodd: Can I see your license please Sir?
Ken produces license and hands it to Plodd. Plodd hands it to Bigfoot who takes it to the police car and gets on the radio.
Plodd: Are you on an organized event for historic cars?
Ken: Yes.
Plodd: Have you proof of the event?
Ken: Yes.
Ken hands Plodd a copy of ‘Zeitschrift’ with its full page advertisement for the event.
Plodd: Are there other cars on this event?
Ken: Yes, they are up at Beechworth.
Plodd: We have just come from Beechworth and did not see any Volkswagens.
Ken: (under his breath) They probably saw you coming.
Bigfoot returns to join Plodd and Ken and hands back Ken his license. Plodd and Bigfoot then do a comprehensive check of Ken's vehicle.
Plodd: This car does not appear to be 30 years old. It appears to be in original condition.
Ken: Thank you. I can assure you that it is over 30 years old and, yes, it is in original condition. Would you like to see the rego papers?
Plodd: No that will not be necessary. Have a good day.

Although we were stopped for about 20 minutes I must say I enjoyed the encounter. I felt that I had won the day. The moral of the story, though, is always carry documentary evidence of the event that you are participating in.

Although the organizers of the event failed us, we enjoyed the trip. Yackandandah and Beechworth are historical old gold mining towns and Beechworth in particular draws you in and is where I picked up plenty of VW memorabilia.

Top

 

VW’s advertising agency needs a history lesson

By Simon Glen
August 2003

Volkswagen Group Australia currently has a full page advertisement for the new VW Touareg super off-road 4x4 SUV, in the July 2003 issue of Overlander magazine. It is headed in bold script, in the usual Volkswagen Futura font: “Announcing our first ever 4x4 award. Come to think of it, announcing our first ever 4x4.”

This is just amazing. I don't know what they do at the marketing section of Volkswagen HQ down in Sydney but...

Don't they know that the Volkswagen T3 Syncro Kombi was awarded the coveted ‘Overlander magazine Australian 4WD of the Year Award’ in 1990? Don't they know that a Volkswagen T3 Syncro Kombi won its class in the off-road Australian Wynn's Safari rally in 1990?

Don't they know that a Volkswagen Type 183 Iltis 4x4 won outright the world's longest and toughest rally, the Paris-Dakar Rally, in 1980? And other VW Iltis 4x4s also in came 2nd and 4th outright?

Don't they know that even today thousands of Volkswagen Type 183 Iltis 4x4 military vehicles are used by the armies of Germany, Belgium, Canada, Netherlands and other countries in exercises and in war areas like Bosnia, Kosovo, Congo and Afghanistan?

Don't they know that since 1986 Volkswagen have sold thousands of off-road 4x4 versions of the Volkswagen LT series of vans and light trucks in Europe and in developing countries? Don't they know that Volkswagen sold thousands of VW Taro 4x4 off-road pick-ups between 1989 and 1999 in Europe?

Don't they know that from 1989 to 1992 an off-road 4x4 version of the all-wheel-drive Golf Syncro, the Golf Country, was sold in Europe?

Don't they know that between 1942 and 1946 Volkswagen manufactured more than 14,000 amphibious 4x4 off-road VW Type 166 Schwimmwagens?

Don't they know that between 1942 and 1944 Volkswagen manufactured more than 500 off-road 4x4 VW Type 87 Kommandeurwagen versions of the humble VW Beetle?

And, of course, all this does not include other 4x4 all-wheel-drive Volkswagens which are not really off-road vehicles at all such as the T4 Transporter Syncro and the T4 Caravelle Syncro; the Passat Syncro, the Sharan Syncro, the Golf Syncro, the Golf 4-Motion, the Golf R32, the Bora 4-Motion, the Passat 4-Motion, the New Beetle RSi and the VW Phaeton.

Perhaps, somebody at Volkswagen Australia Group in Sydney needs to be enlightened about the world of Volkswagens!

Top

 

VW Fails to See the Funny Side

By Steve Carter
March 2005

Politically incorrect email marketing has raised its head in the car business again -with predictable outrage from the company it apparently promotes. Volkswagen plans to take legal action after an unofficial ad was distributed by email.

Some carmakers have successfully used viral marketing (in which short films are distributed via emails forwarded to multiple recipients, who then forward them to multiple recipients and so on) but recently the technique has backfired on the industry.

This time Volkswagen is on the receiving end and is threatening legal action in Britain over an outrageous advertisement for its Polo model, which spread by email around the world in a matter of days.

It begins with a man of Middle Eastern appearance wearing a black-and-white chequered kaffiyeh around his neck, leaving a house and climbing into a Volkswagen Polo. After a short drive through city streets he stops in front of a crowded restaurant with people sitting at outdoor tables. The driver pulls out a detonator and presses the button. There is an explosion, but rather than causing widespread death and destruction, the muffled blast is contained within the apparently undamaged car. A slogan appears on the screen: ‘Polo. Small but tough.’

A spokesman for Volkswagen in Britain, Paul Buckett, denies that the manufacturer had anything to do with the ad, saying that: “two creatives known to our advertising agency, DDE [Doyle Dane Bernbach] London, sent in this work on spec. The agency wouldn't have anything to do it. I can only assume the people who made it put it on the web.”

He says Volkswagen in Britain is “horrified” and its legal department is planning an action.

According to The Guardian newspaper, the suicide bomber spot was created by the Lee and Dan team, a British pair which has produced a number of other advertisements (including virals) known for their peculiarity. The duo maintains that the clip is self-promotional work not intended for public viewing.

Ford last year issued a public apology for an email ad in which a cat jumps onto the roof of a Ka model, peeks inside and as it does, the sunroof snaps shut, trapping the cat's head. It struggles to free itself, until the limp headless body slides down the windscreen. The agency responsible claimed that the ad's release was "a genuine leak" and that no cats were hurt in the computer simulation.

Ford previously had used viral marketing to promote the SportKa model with a video that showed a pigeon flying towards the car before being swatted away in an explosion of feathers - and presumably killed - by the car's bonnet.

Top

Back | Next