Each year, for the past 19 of them, Airhead Parts, a California-based producer of components for air-cooled Volkswagens, has organized the Treffen Cruise, covering around 1,700 miles along the Pacific Coast from Washington to San Diego. (The German word Treffen means ‘to meet’ in English.)
This year, there may have been a detour due to a landslide that closed Highway 1 near Big Sur, but the event took place before wild fires devastated large areas of California.
Also this year, Volkswagen of America took part in at least the California segment of the drive with a 1967 21-window bus and a 1974 Type 3 Squareback.
“In a year when Volkswagen is introducing new offerings to its SUV lineup in the American market, these older cars serve as a bold reminder of VW’s multi-passenger vehicle history on this side of the Atlantic,” Volkswagen said on its website.
It also sent along one of those new vehicles — a 2018 Atlas — driven by mechanic Bob Ellis and chock full of tools and spare parts that might be needed for the air-cooled contingent.
While air-cooled, the ’67 and ’74 vehicles lacked air conditioning, noted those vehicles’ occupants.
One of the vehicles needing Ellis’ expertise was the Type 3 Squareback. He diagnosed a fuel pump failure, but since he didn’t have a spare along, the car had to towed into Santa Rosa.
After crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, the cars stopped for lunch at Pacific Grove on the Monterey Peninsula and city officials shut down the main street for VW parking.
A drive on the sands at Pismo Beach was a highlight the following day.
Slowing down enough to take in such sites is one of the joys of owning an air-cooled Volkswagen, noted Tom Summers, who did the drive in a 1962 Transporter he’s converted into a camper.
“Tom’s Bus represents the freedom of movement and joy of new experiences he cherishes in his itinerant lifestyle,” the VW report noted. “It’s clear that the 70-year-old’s Volkswagen serves as more than just a way for Tom to get from Point A to Point B, however.
“The car is as much a part of the trip as the destinations. By forcing him to take slower, less-traveled roads on occasion, Tom’s Bus allows him to see the places highways don’t usually pass, to connect with his journey in a way that’s not possible from the seat of an airplane.”
Or as one air-cooled car-owner put it, “It’s impossible to be unhappy when you’re behind the wheel of an old VW.”