I thought it would be fun if I (Mrs. Frenchy) interviewed Frenchy. He has seen and done a lot in the many years he has been
involved with the hobby and he has some great stories to share. I'm sure you will all enjoy it:
You have been involved in the VW hobby for over 35 years. Why? What is the appeal of Volkswagens for you?
When I was 14 years old (in 1964) I rode in my aunt's 1964 Beetle. My two cousins sat in the back. This was during the winter and
we drove into the countryside to collect syrup from the maple trees. I remember thinking that I wanted a car just like this one day.
Another reason why I am into them is because I drove a VW to take my driving test in 1969 and I passed. I learned how to drive it on
the way to DMV. I didn't even kill the motor once. I like them because they are small, economical, no radiator to worry about and
they are well loved cars.
Tell us about the first Volkswagen you owned.
That would be my 1969. I bought it at Don Ross Volkswagen in South Gate. It was in their used car lot and I bought it in 1971. My
monthly payment was $62 and I paid $2500 for it. I also had my eye on a maroon 1967 Corvette Stingray that a friend of mine was
selling for the same price. After finding out the insurance for the Corvette would be $1000 a year, I said no thanks. Insurance for the
VW was $300 a year.
What was the first Bug-In you attended? What do you remember about it?
It was Bug-In 3 in October of 1969. I remember that there were not very many cars in the car show. They had slalom racing, drag
racing and a huge swap meet area. I was amazed to see all the different makes and models of Beetles and buses. Some of the most
beautiful race cars were there: chop tops and drag cars with beautiful pinstriping, lettering and artwork. I felt like a kid at Toys R Us
just walking in there. I was amazed to see how big it was. I can say that was when I was "bit by the bug". The staging lane for the race
was full of race cars waiting for their turn to go down the strip.
How did you hear about Bug-In?
I heard about it through some friends when I was hanging out on Tweety Boulevard, which was our main cruise boulevard in South
Gate. I hung out there with my high school buddies. I met some friends that were into the VW scene. They had some Bug-In dash
plaques displayed on their glove box doors. I noticed the dash plaques and asked one of the guys where he had acquired them and he
told me about Bug-In. He told me when the next one was and I couldn't wait to see what it was all about.
On your opinion, what made the early Bug-In's so special?
That's before you were able to get high performance parts over the counter. People were trying to figure out how to make their car
go faster, so they pretty much had to engineer their own parts. There were a lot of homemade parts. It amazed me on how everyone
had different ideas on how to improve the look of their cars, i.e. wide fiberglass fenders with real big fat tires and wide magnesium
wheels. I remember back then that Empi five spokes and BRM wheels were very popular. Going to the Bug-In's in the early days was
very similar to a 1950's Happy Days atmosphere. The hobby had just started a few years prior. If I could turn the clock back to those
days, it would just blow your mind. Those are moments I will never forget. When I arrived in the early morning, I would pass
hundreds of cars that were in line waiting to get in. People would arrive the night before and camp outside by the race track. There
were strawberry fields all around the raceway and this is where they would camp. The race track was just off the I-5 and you could
see the whole layout of the Bug-In from the freeway as the trees and bushes had not grown yet. I think the early Bug-In days started
the trend for all Volkswagen enthusiasts worldwide to become involved in the hobby because they read about it in Hot VWs
magazine. It seemed like every Bug-In the attendance was greater than the one before it. I didn't know the race car drivers until I
walked around the pit area and watched them fine tuning their race cars. I was amazed on how much team work was involved with
each racing team.
You worked the Bug-In car shows for many years. What did this involve? How and why did you become involved with this
aspect of the Bug-In?
When I went to the first Bug-In, the show and swap meet were small. Richard had a few guys that were working in the show area
placing the cars. Back in those days they were not placed by model, it was first come, first served. I was watching them place the
cars. At the next Bug-In I asked them if they needed help placing cars and the guy doing it said yes, and that's how I got started. I did
not know Richard at the time. I helped out at 4 more Bug-Ins. After that the guy told Richard that he had a helper and Richard told
him to pay me $25. I didn't want the money, I told him I was doing it for fun, but Richard insisted on paying me. A few Bug-Ins went
by and then the guy who had been in charge of the car show was not around. Richard came up to me and asked if I would like to be
in charge of placing the cars. I told him that would be great. Richard told me there would be clubs displaying their cars and they
would need a special area assigned for club displays, so I did that too.
You were also one of the judges at Bug-In. How did you become involved with this?
Shaky Jake approached me after seeing my cars in the show and told me that because of the way my car looked, he was wondering if I
would be interested in being part of his team that judged the cars. This meant I could still enter my car in the show, but someone else
would have to judge it. As the Bug-In was growing Richard was able to secure sponsors to pay for the trophies and the main sponsor
was Al Martinez's Body Shop in Santa Ana. After that, I was part of the Al Martinez judging team. Altogether, there were 12 of us
judging the show, which by this time was up to 250 cars.
You have a vast collection of Bug-In items. Many of these were discarded in the trash and today are valuable collectibles.
Why do you think you saw the value in these items and others did not?
I've always been a pack rat and knew that someday these items would be valuable. I was new in the hobby at this time and I wanted
to collect as much as I could. Looking back, I am glad that I collected them, as now they are an important part of the early days of
the Volkswagen hobby.
My 1969 Beetle. I won 1st Place in the Street Sedan class at Bug-In
11. You can see the trophy proudly displayed next to the car.
A program from my first Bug-In.
|A vintage sticker from the Al Martinez Body & Paint Shop.
|Preparing the track at a Bug-In for a day of drag racing.
|Dash plaques from Bug-Ins 21, 23, 28
|A give-away from an early Bug-In.
|A car show window sticker
from Bug-In 18.
|A flyer for Bug-In 14 designed
and drawn by Shaky Jake.
|A swap meet form for Bug-In 28.
|An entry form for Bug-In 28.
|Front and back views of my Bug-In 25 Official shirt.
|The latest additions to my Bug-In shirt collection. Front and back views of my Bug-In 32 Crew shirt.
|(Click on the photos for a larger view.)