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Hessisch Oldendorf, 30 June 2017

HO17 – the formula for air-cooled dreams

Volkswagen Classic at 7th International Volkswagen Veteran Meeting in Hessisch Oldendorf

The sound of throbbing engines echoes through the narrow alleyways, the air vibrates and buzzes, the sun sparkles on chrome, brightly-polished engine hoods reflect images of half-timbered houses, classic rounded shapes cast their shadowy silhouettes, old-timers parade past, tens of thousands of people stroll through the cobblestoned streets, happy faces, a jumble of different languages. Hessisch Oldendorf is bursting at the seams for sheer joy: once every four years the peaceful town in Lower Saxony becomes a mecca for the world's fans of air-cooled Volkswagens. The happening is called HO17, or to give it its proper title – the 7th International Volkswagen Veteran Meeting in Hessisch Oldendorf.

This is the world gathering of all enthusiasts who have lost their heart to the early Käfer, Bulli and Karmann Ghia. The seventh meeting broke its own records: well over 1,000 cars and around 45,000 visitors made the pilgrimage to Hessisch Oldendorf. Christian and Traugott Grundmann, the organizers, have set their sights on special and rare cars, and the motto of HO17 – official vehicles – underscores this mission. Once again this year, Hessisch Oldendorf is transformed into an automobile open-air museum, a one-of-a-kind experience. Volkswagen Classic pitched in with the endearing 1960 "Herbie" Käfer 1200, the 1965 T1 "Lufthansa", a Brazilian Karmann Ghia TC 145 from 1970 and the youthful powerhouse, a twin-engine Golf II Pikes Peak.

Fans travel thousands of kilometers to enjoy such very different cars in a very special atmosphere and unique setting. This is classed an international event – and what you see is definitely what you get in Hessisch Oldendorf: the Falkland Islands or Iceland, Lofoten or Siberia, Sudan or New Zealand, fans from the four corners of the globe gather in Hessisch Oldendorf – with visitors from some 40 nations, the world is at home in the Weser mountains.

From Malaysia to Hessisch Oldendorf under their own steam: Cliften Nathaniel, Stephen Pang, Terence Moses, Monica Xavier, Udhaya Kumar (from left)

27,000 km, five friends, one passion

Five fans from Malaysia testified to just how far the devotion to air-cooled Volkswagens can go: they traveled almost 27,000 kilometers under their own steam and spent more than three months on their journey with three Bullis and one Käfer. "This is the best experience of my life!" says Stephen Pang with a smile, leaning against his T2 as he describes the adventure. "And it's heaven to be in Hessisch Oldendorf!" The enthusiasm of the five long-distance travelers is catching, and they quickly become stars at the meeting with their special story. They don't stop smiling for three whole days, everyone wants to chat with them, they're constantly photographed and make new contacts.

Terence Moses in his 1967 T1

What Cliften Nathaniel loves so much about his T2 called "Rusty" is that the veteran car brings people together: "I've made friends all over the world through the Bulli. That's priceless!" Monica Xavier and Udhaya Kumar set out on an adventure with their Käfer – and made the dream of Monica's late father come true. His wish was to travel to Germany in the car. Terence Moses became the proud owner of a T1 – a rare sight in Malaysia – four years ago. His 1967 Bulli "Puch" has not only become a home, Terence Moses has received loads of support from strangers on the road, something he finds deeply moving: "At the end of the day, it's all about the power of love and about people. That's the meaning of the ‘people's car.'"

Øystein Asphjell and his dream car: a 1956 Volkswagen Rometsch Beeskow Cabriolet

This Hollywood beauty wears aluminum

The elegant cabriolet with an aluminum skin on show under the old lime trees on the marketplace oozes enthusiasm, too. Once a prestige object in Hollywood, the car was ultimately saved in Arizona by a Norwegian searching for his dream car: a 1956 Volkswagen Rometsch Beeskow Cabriolet. When Øystein Asphjell bought the body with the original chassis 19 years ago, it took ten whole years before he had assembled all the necessary parts, and he began the rebuild seven years ago.

Volkswagen Rometsch Beeskow Cabriolet: it took many years to rebuild

Finally, after three years of active effort, hundreds of nerve-wracking hours spent working with steel, wood and aluminum to recreate the body, and innumerable self-made spare parts, Øystein Asphjell actually made the journey from Norway to Hessisch Oldendorf: "A Rometsch Beeskow Cabriolet isn't just a part of automobile history, it's also a part of me. It was my dream to get the car ready for HO17. And now we're here – and I'm so proud."

Gendarmerie Cabriolet: Alfred Umgeher in his 1950 Volkswagen Type 18

Gendarmerie with Viennese flair

Less glamourous, but just as unusual is the open Gendarmerie car that Alfred Umgeher from Lower Austria has brought to the Veteran Meeting. His 1950 Type 18 is the sole roadworthy specimen of its kind. Back then, Austro Tatra in Vienna converted half-finished Volkswagens into cabriolets for the Austrian Gendarmerie in a mini-series of nine cars.

1950 Volkswagen Type 18: converted for the Austrian Gendarmerie by Austro Tatra (Vienna)

This particular official vehicle is utterly unique with its hand-made parts such as longer doors and a trunk lid fitted for a second alternator, wider door sills and other adjustments. After two years of reconstruction, the Gendarmerie Cabriolet has been back in use for almost 20 years – with Alfred Umgeher driving the 24.5 PS veteran in style on special occasions.

1963 T1 Camper Westfalia: Sussi and Carsten Andersen and their "Bertha"

Lucky Bertha

Sussi and Carsten Andersen from Denmark appreciate comfort and coziness. The couple has already shared 86,000 kilometers of enjoyable journeys in their 1963 T1 Camper. The only ‘dull' thing about "Bertha" is the grey-colored lower part of the two-tone paintwork, everything else shines in its original colorful look. The Andersens were very lucky to come across a well-preserved T1 with a mere 63,000 kilometers on the clock back in 2004. Their discovery was indeed a stroke of good fortune for the Andersens because the camper with its "flipseat" is one of the rare "SO 36" Westfalia models, of which there are only four left in the world.

Danish gem: rare "SO 36" Westfalia version of the T1 camper

From the awning to the water container and the screws – everything dates back to 1963. Above all, though, the Bulli makes the whole Andersen family happy: "For us, Bertha is joy, love, peace – and our fourth child" is how Sussi Andersen puts it. For them, there is no other way to travel. "Once you've been bitten by the bug, there's no going back. But it's a beautiful disease", says Carsten Andersen with a grin.

Russ Cartwright with his 1956 Ovali Käfer from the UK.

Ovali British style

The 1956 Ovali-Käfer owned by Russ Cartwright is in top form, too. He traveled under his own steam from Yorkshire in the UK. So far, the Ovali has ably mastered just short of 98,000 kilometers with the original engine. In fact, with the exception of refurbished wings and bumpers and the polar silver paintwork, everything about the right-hand drive Ovali is still original.

1956 Ovali Käfer: right-hand drive with classic indicators

Russ Cartwright discovered the well-cared-for Käfer seven years ago. He is the fourth owner – and is determined to be the last, as well. The Brit really enjoys celebrating his "VDub" along with other enthusiasts – at meetings in England or abroad – like Hessisch Oldendorf, where he is on his second visit.

Family dream car: Rinie Roodbeen and son Bas with the 1956 Karmann Ghia Type 14 Coupé

Needle in a haystack

Rinie Roodbeen has only just opened up his gem of a veteran car and he is already surrounded by an inquisitive crowd. And while his son Bas wipes the raindrops from the elegant 1956 coupé, the cameras are already clicking. That's hardly surprising: the Karmann Ghia Type 14 is in excellent condition – and a rare specimen as well. It has a Golde steel sunroof and is one of only three of its kind anywhere in the world. The Dutchman spent ages searching for a "Lowlight" Karmann Ghia with a sunroof, and finally found his "needle in a haystack" in the U.S. 15 years ago. It was in poor condition, but he was very determined.

Rare beauty: Karmann Ghia Typa14 with Golde steel sunroof

Rinie Roodbeen spent five years searching for original parts for his Karmann Ghia, and seven years on restoring the car. Around 600 hours went into the metalwork alone. "Today, the car is part of the family. My son grew up with the Karmann Ghia, they grew up together. And from the bottom of my heart, I can truly say: I could never part with it."

 

The crowd of enthusiastic fans nods in agreement. They all talk shop. They talk about their experiences, make new contacts. HO17 draws to a close. The "air-cooled" fans now have to wait another four years – until HO21.

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