The BugShop: Northeast Classic 2000

This page last modified- 11/3/01

While I don't intend to develop a page for every show that I attend, this one is special as it was my very first show that I entered a car in. That car of course is my '57 Beetle. The words and text below chronicle the whole event from preparations to the post event repairs.....

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Well it should go without saying that after spending eight years restoring a Beetle, that I would be just a tad bit excited about putting it in a show. My ’57 is a "driver" first, but after going to VW shows for literally 12 years and thinking about "how I would do it", I was anxious about putting it in a show. So this page will highlight that show, the "Northeast Classic" held in Norwalk CT on June 4th, 2000 as well as my own "show" technique (at least for this first show). The show is sponsored by the Vintage VW Club of America (VVWCA) and the CT VW Association (CVA).

I had quite a long list of things to do with my car that Saturday previous. I had put the wide white wall "show" wheels on it the weekend before and drove it around a bit, but it was pretty dirty and had sustained a substantial direct hit from some airborne fowl on the hood edge. And I had never waxed the car, so that was on the list. I washed it on the driveway and rolled it inside the garage. I cracked open a new can of Meguire’s wax and set to work with a clean rag. After finishing the hood and working up a sweat, I remember that I had bought a cheap waxer/polisher some time ago, and never used it. I found this thing, it was basically a 12volt motor with two 4" wide counter-rotating foam discs. I hooked it up and the wax went on smooth and quick then. Rubbing it off was still a chore though. I found that all-cotton terrycloth rags worked best.

I spent some time wiring up the fuel gauge I had installed the previous weekend. My priority was just to get it in my car for the show, but of course I wanted to hook it up and see it working in the car too. I carefully fed some wires (ign power, ground, sender and dash light illumination circuit) down through the horn commutator grommet and hooked them up. I was concerned that the ground path from the tank might not be good, but when I flipped on the key, the thing worked. I forced the float down in the full tank and temporarily wired it there with some coat hanger wire, and checked the gauge. It showed half. Neat!!

A few years back, I had asked my mom (who occasionally combed flea markets in South Carolina where she lived) to keep an eye out for an old olive green suitcase for my car; something that I could carry "show" stuff in. At the end of last year, she sent me TWO olive/lime green cases that she got for $1. So one was to be my "detail" kit for rags, windex, brushes, etc. the other was for "props", magazines, maps, binder stands, mirrors…..

And about binder stands and mirrors…..

Over the years I seen LOTS of show car "displays". Some I liked, many I didn't. Many were overkill, and waay too much trouble to lug around. Anyone who has been to a large VW show, knows what I am talking about. Covering the ground with mirrors, taking wheels off, roped off surrounds, stuffed animals, trees (yes, trees), lights, you name it. Now much of that stuff is usually seen in the modified classes, most of the vintage, early car displays were pretty tame. But over the years, I had seen two slick things that I decided I wanted to do.

The first was a binder stand. You know, a photo album. I almost think that that every restoration car should be required to have one. A photo history of the work that was done on the car. I LOVE to look at them. How was the resto done? What panels were replaced? Was the body taken off the pan? As you might expect, with my resto’s extensive chronicle at my website, I had every intention of having a binder. Actually, with the limited time I had, I didn't really have time to put together as much of one as I plan on having ultimately. But I had one. So where do you put this binder? Set it on the ground? No way. Make a stand for it. Yeah, but who wants a stand that close to their fresh paint? Even the heaviest stand can be knocked or blown over. Well, the neat binder stand that I had seen solved that problem. I spent some time at Home Depot, and some time with the MIG welder and the spray gun, and built my neat stand. 
The stand is basically a "podium" that one of the wheels of the car is rolled over. I made mine out of 1/2" steel pipe. Once I got everything screwed together, I actually MIG tacked it together on the underside to keep it from coming out of line. I especially didn't want it to be able to flop backwards against the car. The vertical piece is a made up of 3/4" copper pipe and mates to the steel pipe with adapters. I like the copper because you can use a Scotchbrite pad to make it really shiny real easily. The top I made out of plywood. I had to mix up some black urethane to paint a bumper support a couple days before the show, so I took the opportunity to paint the stand bottom and top pieces. The whole thing disassembles and fits into the larger of my two green suitcases. To use it, I place the black base behind one of the rear wheels, back the car over it so the tire sits between the "forks". It is very stable.

The other neat effect I saw once and was very impressed with was a single mirror, placed on the ground in front of the car at a 45 degree angle. So as you stood in front of the car and looked down, you could see the whole underside of the car. No, I don’t have a mural painted on my car, but it is fresh black and very clean. The slick thing about this mirror I saw once years ago was that it was a round mirror, and was placed in a VW hubcap. The hubcap was placed on a stand to hold it at the perfect angle. So I had the local glass man in my town cut me a 9.5" round mirror from 1/8" stock (cost $10). I epoxied a short piece of 4" PVC pipe to the inside of the hubcap, then siliconed the mirror to the other end of the pipe. The pipe is cut at just the right height to make the mirror flush with the hubcap edge. I make a stand out of a piece of particle board and some dowels.

Among my "props" (collected of the years while parusing antique stores in Vermont and other places) were several magazines, all from 1957. Life, Popular Science, Time, Household, etc. A tin pipe tobacco, several old maps, a Kodak "Tourist" camera, a couple tiny match books with a beetle and "Think Small" on them, and of course, my ’57 owners manual.

Lastly, some quick notes about my "detail" kit. I packed Windex, chrome polish and Armorall in a plastic back, all my best cotton rags (freshly washed) and two paint brushes, clean, never been used. One is cut off at an angle, very short. The other is just regular length, a very soft poly bristle. These are perfect for cleaning of wax residue and other debris between body moldings and running boards. Also, I tossed in a brand new toothbrush for the same use. And finally, a few kitchen sized garbage bags to put used rags in.

The Trip Down

My wife tells people "there are only two things that John gets up early for; skiing and VW shows". Perhaps she is right. But over the years I have come to really enjoy the drive to the shows. There is usually almost no traffic on the roads early on a Sunday morning, and the New England country side is very pretty. This time I was planning to meet up with Bob Hayes, a fellow VW enthusiast from Paxton MA. Bob had accompanied us on out Bay State VW Owners Club cruise last April 8th in his ’77 orange Beetle convertible. But had had since put the car in the shop for a complete body restoration and of course they found much more rot than was expected, so the project was well behind schedule. So Bob met me at the I-84 toll plaza of the MA turnpike in his back up vehicle, a Jeep Cherokee. 

On the way to meet him though, my day's mechanical trouble began. Right away from home, I noticed that my speedo needle was bouncing a bit. Then, about 26 miles out, on the turnpike there was a muffled "whump" and the speedo needle fell limp. Ok speedo cable broke, but why? It was brand new? Well investigation at the show showed the cause. Just days earlier, I had clamped down the metal tube that the cable runs through (in the early Beetles, the speedo cable runs through a steel sleeve in the hood compartment). But this tube had been bent in the accident the car was in in the 60s, and its end no longer lined up well with the connection at the back of the speedo. Not noticing this when I clamped the cable down, the end of the cable, right at the speedo, was getting strong shear force applied to it. Worse off, later investigation found, the input spindle in the speedo seized up as well when the cable broke.

I met up with Bob and we continued down I-84 toward Hartford. We stopped at exit 67’s McDonald's for breakfast. Ever since I had been coming to the CT shows, probably 10-12 years now, this was my "breakfast stop". Today would be no exception. I guy in McDonald's spotted my car and complimented on it. Then he went on to tell me about a friend who restored Duesengbergs or some older, high dollar marque. He said his friend coined a response to the "is it for sale" question that stuck with him. Hi friend replied to the query one (about his freshly restored Duesenberg) "No. But it everything has a price".

We headed down 84, picking up 91 south in Hartford. Despite light to non-existent traffic, I was surprised to come up quickly on a good 6-7 feet of truck tire tread, sitting up on its edge, in the right lane. Luckily I saw it in time and gently steered around it. Luckily because swerving in a Beetle, with no sway equipment of any kind, and tall, skinny bias play tires would have probably produced some undesirable results. That would have sucked.

We missed the northern access to the Merrit Parkway off of 91 (actually called "Wilbur Crossing" that far north) and went all the way down to 95 in New Haven. Merrit Parkway is a nice median divided two lane road where trucks aren't allowed. I-95 is a pockmarked New York-ish high way. But we found a cut through exit in Milford that led us to the Merrit Parkway. We arrived at the show at 8:55, exactly 3 hours after I had left home.

Mechanical Failures

Other than the broken speedo cable, I found a slightly leaking fuel pump down back when I got to the show. Just enough to "wet" the tin underneath. I tried to tighten the compression fittings, but that didn't help. The next day, I ordered a rebuild kit from Wolfsburg West. Although not used much, that pump was rebuilt at least 10 years ago. My clutch still slipped a bit, but it will only do it at around 40mph in 4th gear. Lugging up hills at 50 or just below, foot on the floor, it was fine. Anyway, I ordered a new pressure plate and disk too.

The other thing was kind of weird, I had heard a clicking/rubbing in what seemed like the right front hub earlier in the week. I didn't hear it on this trip until I stopped at a toll booth on the way home. Once I got going again, it was real loud, loud enough to be heard clearly with all the road/drivetrain noise at 60mph. It was no related to shoes dragging, because it didn't change at all if I stepped on the brakes. I thought it might have been the speedo cable (remember new cable connected to a seized up speedo at that point), but I had heard it before the cable broke too. Then when I got home and was backing up on the driveway, I t was real loud. Sounded like a brake spring being "plucked" with each rotation. 

First I raised the car and spun all 4 wheels. As you might expect; nothing. So I pulled the right front hub, expecting to see shiny metal or damage. And I saw nothing. What I did find is LOOSE spindle nuts!!!! Yikes? The bend-over-the-tabs plate was broken and the bearings were sloppy loose. I ordered some new lock plates, but also tightened down the nuts and drove the car. For fleeting moment I thought I heard the sound, then nothing. Hmmmm. Time will tell. I think I was lucky with the bearings as they are the older ball type (not roller). These kind will take quite a bit of abuse from being very loose without damage.

Setting up the car for the show

If there were an award for "Biggest Pile of Junk Behind a Show Car", I probably would have snagged that trophy too. In addition to my two sick green suitcases, I had my back pack, a cooler, a lawn chair (which I sat in all of 3 minutes the whole day), a ’66 door I brought down with me at the request of a guy from Long Island who wanted to buy it. Minutes after he paid me and took the door, Steve Meirz delivered the ’54 gas tank I had bought from him last year and never picked up.

My initial plan was to park and lock up as soon as I got there, scour the swaps for about an hour, then come back around 10 and have 2 hours to detail the car (before judging). Well, as soon as I got there people started checking out my car, so I felt obliged to at least wipe the bugs off the nose. I did that, set up the binder stand and mirror, got out the paint brush and a rag and cleaned up the residue that I missed the night before with the quick wax job. Then I Armoralled the running boards and the floor mats. Got out my "props" and set them up. In all, it probably only took me about 45 mins, of course people kept stopping by to chat and I would get sidetracked. A lot of folks who knew me from the ‘net and my site and whom I had never seen in person came by.
Oh, Mel Pernice met me at my car almost as soon as I got there and gave me a card and bottle of champagne shortly after I got there, to commemorate the completion of my car and its first show. WHATTA GUY!! Who says guys don't do stuff like that!! Thanks Mel! (BTW, Mel's '77 won second place out of 6 cars in the '68 and up modified class! See it at:

A quick summary of the event

By far, the best show I have ever been to. Yes, of course the fact that I now had a car to show had something to do with it. But aside from that, everything was spectacular. The weather was perfect, about 70-75 and crystal blue sky, very comfortable humidity. It did get a little hot if you stood in the sun for a while, but you could run for the shelter of the trees around the field's edge. The CVA and VVWCA so a superb job with this show. It is FREE to spectators, show car registration plus driver is $7. It is well organized, they dealt with a near continuous 3 hour stream of show cars entering perfectly, there were no tie ups. The caterer offered great food at very reasonable prices. I had a burger, a hot dog and a cold 20 oz water for $5.50. I’d say the only thing that was moderately disappointing was that the swaps were a little thin compared to last year. Actually, I almost did something I have never done at a show: come back with MORE money than I left with. I sold the door for $50, and after buying an early headlight ring, a set of early radio knobs, 2 packs of fuses and a T-shirt (Front says "Still plays with bugs", back VW emblem) I was still ahead of the game. After lunch and buy a speedo cable I was a few dollars in the hole.

I honestly think that this show should serve as a model for other shows. The field layout, and everything was perfect. No admittedly not every club has access to this type of location, and there weren't expensive-to-run events like racing and no prize money, but they guys really have this deal down. If you ever get a chance to make this show, go for it. Go to and search on Norwalk CT if you want to see where it is. Look about 7 miles inland, just northeast of the Merrit Parkway (15) / highway 7 junction; you will see Cranbury Park.
Awards? Well, I got 3rd place in the '54 to '57 amid some very tough competition. 3 days ago, I learned that Humberto Lapa had finished his '55 sunroof and would have it there. Anyone who has ever seen any of Humberto's restos knows he IS the standard. INCREDIBLE restoration. Super detail, everything PERFECT. Second place went to Erik Smestead's Coral Red '57. Maybe you saw it in Hot VWs late last year. Very nice car (for sale for $14k too.) I got 3rd, there were six ovals in the class...

 But the best part came at the end of the awards ceremony, when I was awarded the "CVA President's Award for Best Restoration". I was stunned. I was judged against the entire field for this award, not just the Oval. Sa-WEET. I'd be happy to never enter another show at this point (but, yeah, I guess I will). 

Driving Home

Bob Hayes followed me home in his Jeep Cherokee, until the Sturbridge exit on 84 North. About halfway home the weather suddenly got very cloudy and stormy looking. I headed down the Mass Pike east into near black skies. "Is it going to rain on me!!??" I opted to head up 290 back to Marlboro instead of going all the way to 495 North; just for a change of pace. I turned my lights on. Then, at the I-190 split, it happened. Rain. Fairly decent shower, but sporadic. It continued for about 7 miles or so on and off. I wasn’t enough to even get the roads fully wet, but enough for me to see nice water beads on my waxed hood, and to have to turn on the wipers and watch those pathetic little thing flop back and forth. No big deal, but I had finally driven my prize in the rain.

My car in the reflection of an oval's hubcap next to me. You can see the binder stand.
My car in "Oval row". You can see the mirror on the grass in front.
Me after the awards were announced. Thanks to either Fred Stedtler or Steve Burns for taking this pic (can't remember who did)
Bill Collins doing the "Pass and review" of some of the fifteen split window Beetles that were at the show. This is Garth Collin's '46. You can see the other splits lined up behind and to the left.
This is the monster motor in Don Jiskra's '70 Beetle. 2160 REAL cc's!!!

 See more of Don's work here.

Don J's '70. Don showed up with the bent front bumper blade. By 10:00 am he had bought a new one in the swaps and had it bolted up!!
Fred Stedtler's '67 (and Fred too!). His wife's name is Sue. Fred's dad showed up too, in a purple '64.

 Nice shirt Fred!! 

Here is the car that trounced everyone in the '54-'57 class. Humberto Lapa's '55 sunroof. Be assured that you will see this car in the pages of a VW mag soon. This car was truly flawless.
Mel Pernice's '77. Mel one 2nd place in the '68 and up mild custom class.

 See more of Mel's car by clicking here.