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3 May 2010

“Looks pretty much Zombie proof.”

I can’t help eavesdropping as I photograph a rare VW-powered and Grumman built delivery truck that looks pretty much the same shape as most US Mail trucks you might see. The main difference between the a mail truck and this one are the VW engine under the alloy hood and the fact that the hood and the rest of the truck’s bodywork have been polished imperfectly to quite a shine.

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An admirer makes the Zombie comment, probably one of many that the proud owner has received since parking his rare VW-powered transport on the grass at Volksfest.

Heading out to central Pennsylvania’s Volksfest show is a bit like stepping back in time. Beyond the prodigious mix of great-looking early water-cooled VWs and masses of vintage air-cooled cars, Volksfest offers a refresher on the roots of the VW show scene.

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To some, it might be surprising that VWs are as prevalent as they are in such a relatively rural region. Go to equally populated sections of the country and Volkswagen might not be as popular, but the strong German heritage in the area drives the hobby more than you might expect. I know. I’ve grown up in the area and though this polished Zombie-scaring truck may seem rare to most I know of one painted in Tasty Kake colors that has been sitting in the driveway of a house about two miles away that’s been there for at least twenty years. You gotta love PA and you gotta love Volksfest.

It’s not So-Cal, but there remains a strong cult-like following for air-cooled VWs in the area, and that’s always been a mainstay of the Volksfest show. After all, it’s organized and put on by the local Harrisburg Area Volkswagen Owners Club (HAVOC), which started out as an air-cooled focused organization back in the day.

Of course, water-cooleds are now classics as well, and there’s no shortage of local modern cars, either. From numerous Mk6 GTIs and Mk IV R32s to great-looking Mk I cars, Volksfest attracts them equally.

Also stepping a bit back in time, the vendor area is dominated by local folks trucking out used parts, as with swap meets of old. Local tuners like APTuning appreciably support the event year after year, though most of the vendor field has stayed low-glitz, where you’re more likely to strike up a deal over a Mk 2 GTI quad light grille or quarter panel laying in the grass than you are to wait in mile-long lines five wide for a chip flashing.

Volksfest remains a regional show, though it draws groups in from a surprisingly wide area. We’re always reminded of this as we head out of the small hamlet of Campelltown, PA. Even moreso gathered this year, pushing parked VWs and Audis to the edges of the Campbelltown Fire Company grounds on which the event is held making us wonder if they’ll consider an even bigger venue next year.

If you’re making the drive in from very far away, there’s added motivation to make sure Volksfest finds a spot on your calendar. Each year, the VW event is held just miles away from the largest Porsche-only swap meet in the USA, held in nearby Hershey. Both happen on Saturday, but their proximity and size make hitting both doable, so long as rain hasn’t scared people off of the respective fields.

If you’re looking for a refresher of what grass-roots and club-sponsored shows were like before the VW hobby got so large, Volksfest should be at the top of your list. A relaxed atmosphere on the grounds of a local fire department, Volksfest takes on a laid-back and intimate atmosphere and is an excellent way to spend a sunny April afternoon.



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For more photos of the car in this story, click on the link to our gallery at the right.


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