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MARCH 2004 - V'dubber of the Month

Jim J.
1970 Karmann Ghia

- Bill C.-

As coincidence would have it, for the second month in a row, our Vdubber is from the Jackson, TN area. An owner of 19 VWs and a Porsche, Jim is truly a “savior of VWs.” A member for over 2 years, he manages to attend a good number of events, despite a one-way drive of over 80 miles and a career that frequently requires him to travel all over the world.

The yellow 1970 Karmann Ghia convertible pictured here is one of his finest gems. It had less than 50,000 miles on it when he purchased it 12 years ago from the original owners. They were both professors at Texas Women’s University and this had been the couple’s first new car. Living within walking distance of their classes, the little Ghia was allowed to stay at home, rather than rack up miles and door dings. To say the least, they had a special attachment to it and would not sell it to just anybody. So what convinced them to sell it to Jim for a thousand dollars less than the next highest bid? The deal was clinched when he told them that he was a long time VW collector and he would come down to pick up the car in an enclosed trailer. And the others? They planned to fly down and DRIVE it back! Oh, my goodness!

The couple still calls to check on their little baby. Jim sends them pictures of her with her trophies from car shows. She is factory stock except for the Superior wheels and the Abarth muffler. However, both are period correct, since they were available from VW dealers. Jim is proud to say that he polished the wheels and MADE new center caps himself!

One of his favorite stories is that which took place recently when he was cruising south with a group on Highway 45, just out of Jackson. A northbound (new) Vette passed the group and the young man driving craned his neck to see the Ghia. He even turned around and chased them down for a better look. He hollered, “What kind of NEW car is that?” The guy could not believe it when they told him it was older than him.

Text Box: 1967 VW “Bestelwagen”
Factory approved coachwork made by Kemperink of Holland. Not sold in U.S. Based on the single cab pickup.

Yes, I agree when Jim says that he would not change a thing about his Ghia. He wasn’t real sure about the color (yellow) at first. But he wouldn’t think about changing it now. Yup, me either.

Jim is the General Sales Manager for a company that manufactures very large heat exchangers such as radiators, oil coolers and charge air coolers for locomotives and is responsible for the locomotive market worldwide. So he travels the world to meet with locomotive manufacturers and railroads.

But how did he become such a VW lover? Jim grew up building street rods. His first car was a 33 B Model Ford that he and 2 of his friends bought at the age of 12. They could only drive the car in the alley behind their houses. At 14 he bought a 1939 Pontiac from a Pontiac Dealer’s wife who had bought the car new. Jim kept it many years, until 1995.

The VW part of this story started in 1967, after Jim got out of the Army. He was living in Chicago and had to attend Army Reserve meetings in Paducah, KY. He was working for IL Central RR, so he could ride the train to Carbondale, IL. But then had to take a bus the rest of the way. The trip would take all night. If he just had some sort of cheap car he could leave at RR yard in Carbondale, he could eliminate the bus part of the trip.

An insurance agent friend told him about a, then, new VW Beetle that the insurance company was getting ready to total out. It had been hit so hard in the passenger side that the rear quarter of the car was nearly driven into the tunnel tube. Most everything else was okay, however. So Jim bought it for salvage. He got a replacement section at a junkyard and welded it in; no paint; no bodywork. It ran like a top.

He parked it at the locomotive shop in Carbondale, which was very close to the passenger terminal. Each trip, he would get off the train, walk to the shop and drive his little Beetle the rest of the way and back.

It was not long until other employees that traveled from Chicago to Paducah on company business, found out about the bug. And not much longer before Jim was running a small rental car business, charging just $.10 a mile.

 It soon rolled over the 100,000-mile mark and even 200,000 miles. All this and the maintenance cost that were relatively small.

It wore out several sets of tires in the next 13 years, along with a number of batteries and mufflers.

When Jim left for other employment, he sold the Bug to another RR supervisor. That person did the same thing as Jim, through 1986. So where is it now? Hmmm. Be on the lookout for a red ’67 Beetle with a brown rear quarter panel welded in. This bug had some spirit!

So, the ’67 made Jim a believer that there is no other car like a VW. So that is why he tries to save everyone that he can. No wonder his wife thinks he is obsessed!

Jim is our kind of people. Be watching for some of his VWs on our Members VW pages.

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