Observer senior reporter

Friday, January 29, 2021

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ADOLF Hitler may have missed an opportunity to leave a more appealing legacy behind. But he may have done enough to win the admiration of motor vehicle fanatics by provoking the German nation into producing the world's most loved economy-sized vehicle — the Volkswagen (VW).

Volkswagen means 'The People's Car', and the German car company, with headquarters in Wolfsburg, Lower Saxony, was started in the 1930s at the request of the country's then leader, Hitler, to produce a cheap car, eventually designed by Ferdinand Porsche.

Local VW Old School Club President David Wallen, while acknowledging the situation which gave birth to the vehicle, still believes that it is the best priced car and a classic in the Jamaica environment.

“An old Volkswagen is primary among classic cars,” said Wallen, who inherited his antique version from his father.

“We prefer to work with the older versions, because it is really a classic. We may have Volkswagen Jettas now, but the old Volkswagen is still our favourite,” he said, when we caught up with him and his team parading their vehicles for the boys at the Rio Cobre Correctional Centre in Spanish Town, St Catherine, in December.

The Volkswagen owners have taken on the challenge of treating the boys at the home to another Christmas visit in December, except that this time the boys would have to view from behind their fenced cordon, while the VW crew tried to inspire them to change the ways and take their post-COVID-19 lives seriously.

“Last year we donated boxer shorts and shirts to the boys and food and so on. But this year we had to seek some support, and we got it from Boss Furniture. We have reached out a lot of other times to people and institutions in need without the fanfare, but this one is a special one for us,” Wallen said.

It is probably a signal that at least there is some sort of atonement for Hitler's evils, but certainly despite the brutality of his regime, he ensured one important thing — he gave the world a cheap car which the average persons could afford.

Wallen, who joined the VW classic club at the turn of the century, admires the vehicle, but he despises the Nazi roots.

“Some people drive theirs daily, but we mostly drive ours when we go on family outings to places like Negril. It is a weekend warrior, so most times it is on weekends when we take the family out to a venue. Lots of people love the newer version of the VW, but we love the classics, so we keep our vehicles in the best of shape,” he noted.

“We have at least four events per year, one for each quarter; just to keep 'the bugs' alive and well. We used to have car shows, which were VW specific, in Negril and at Twin Gates in Kingston. In those times, we were using Vernamfield as a racetrack, and we would have our annual outings. We would go places like Dunn's River. It was really like a family trip on weekends,” he recalled.

“We love to drive our VWs, but, more importantly, we want to ensure that everybody carries their family and we have a wonderful weekend,” he said.

Asked what it is about VW's why some people are so reluctant to let go of them, Wallen said that it was the design; the shape of the car which, incidentally, has its engine in the back of the vehicle like a hunchback.

“My father bought his brand new in the 1990s and I inherited it in 2001 and that was my first car. I still love the whole machines. In reality the stock is just simple. It is one of the cars you find older people like to drive around a lot,” he said.

“For us, the younger generation, it has become a hobby, but for them it was a lifestyle. They keep the bugs at home, even when they can't drive them any longer,” he said.

“I find whenever I break down, or when we go on the streets as a team, people show us love and they admire the vehicles. We have about 30 vehicles in our club and people always want to talk to you about the history of the vehicle,” he said.

“You know, it is a conversation starter. Somebody who falls in love with Volkswagen admires the design, and when they hear how they sound they want to drive them. It's like a modern car to some people,” he added.

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