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Bus Boys

DALLAS -- Dave Campbell was in the middle of negotiating a price for the restoration work he had just finished on a 1971 Volkswagen Fastback for a client when he spotted something that sealed the deal: two beat up, old VW Buses rusting away in her yard.

Scott English, Lance Rutland, Ernie Wall and Dave Campbell (from left) will, along with their Volkswagen Type 2 buses, take part in the "Flower Power" parade Saturday.

Photo by Pete Strong

Scott English, Lance Rutland, Ernie Wall and Dave Campbell (from left) will, along with their Volkswagen Type 2 buses, take part in the "Flower Power" parade Saturday.

July 23, 2013

DALLAS -- Dave Campbell was in the middle of negotiating a price for the restoration work he had just finished on a 1971 Volkswagen Fastback for a client when he spotted something that sealed the deal: two beat up, old VW Buses rusting away in her yard.

Campbell, a Dallas resident, is a nearly lifelong Volkswagen devotee, so it didn't take long before he offered to happily take what other people might consider eyesores.

"Well, they had two buses ... so I ended up with two buses for doing the Fastback," he said.

It's something Campbell has done time and time again: paroling VW buses most likely headed for the junkyard.

"At one point in my past, I had like 10 at one time -- not all of them driving and running, but there is just something about them," he said. "I don't know. It's just the simplicity of them and the cool factor. You can't hardly go anywhere without someone giving you a peace sign or waving at you or something."

One of those two buses he traded for, Stinky, a rare 1957 Panel (no windows) Bus now under new ownership, will be part of the Summerfest "Flower Power" parade Saturday, along with four others: Olive Oil, Tecate, Limeaid and Hank.

Campbell -- called by his fellow Volkswagen lovers "the godfather of VWs" in the Dallas area -- will drive his newest restoration project: a 1967 Riviera named Olive Oil after its new olive green paint job.

Olive Oil has much the same rescue story as Stinky. It was rusting in storage for years before Campbell bought it.

But the rust, the holes, the leaks and the never-ending quests to find replacement parts for the 40- and 50-year-old vehicles don't seem to bother those who work to return them to their former glory -- or maybe something better.

Scott English -- Stinky's proud owner -- nearly had a domestic crisis after he bought the bus from Campbell.

While known around town as "the camouflage bus," its not-so-glamorous-name derived from a leaking gas tank that allowed fumes to permeate English's entire house.

"Stinky", a 1957 Panel variant of a Volkswagen bus owned by Scott English, as it looked when found by Dave Campbell in 2002.

Courtesy of Scott English

"Stinky", a 1957 Panel variant of a Volkswagen bus owned by Scott English, as it looked when found by Dave Campbell in 2002.

His girlfriend threatened to move out if English didn't park the bus outside instead of in the garage.

"I decided to buy a new gas tank," he said. "That way I keep them both in the house."

Lance Rutland, the owner of Limeaid and Tecate, is a relative newbie to Dallas' unofficial Volkswagen Bus club, but you wouldn't know it.

Like Campbell, he knew he found a lime green diamond in the rough when he first set his eyes on Limeaid.

"It was a mess," he said. "It leaked gas and had engine problems and brake problems. It was horrible."

"You needed a tetanus shot just to walk by it," Campbell joked. "It had so much rust. It was bad. There was a lot of holes in it."

Rutland caught the bug, though.

"I bought that one and did all the work. And now that I'm finished, I'm on to another one," he said.

His second bus is Tecate -- named after his favorite beer -- and is his current work-in-progress.

Perhaps the most recognizable bus of the five is Hank, or the "sticker bus." Owner Ernie Wall says it gets quite the reaction when he takes it out on the road.

"On the freeway, people match your speed and start reading the stickers," he said. "And occasionally, I get a few people giving me a dirty look ... somebody who can't have a little humor in their lives. But it is fun. People laugh and wave and take pictures going by."

Hank -- now covered in bumper stickers -- was just a plain blue 1971 Camper Bus when English bought it more than 10 years ago.

"Stinky" as it is today.

Photo by Pete Strong

"Stinky" as it is today.

He sold the bus in 2008, but not before restoring the inside in fluorescent green and purple and taking it on an 8,814-mile road trip to New York and back, along with several other shorter excursions.

"It has a lot of history," he said with evident nostalgia.

That's probably why he was so overjoyed to see Wall pull up in front of his house in Hank about a year ago.

"As soon as he pulled up, I said `Oh my gosh. It's Hank!'" he said.

English ran out and gave it a hug, like Hank was a long-lost friend.

And to these guys, that might not be far from the truth.

Dave Campbell proudly shows off his tattoo of the crest of the city of Wolfsburg, Grman: home of Volkswagen AG.

Photo by Pete Strong

Dave Campbell proudly shows off his tattoo of the crest of the city of Wolfsburg, Grman: home of Volkswagen AG.

"They do have feelings," Campbell said of his many buses. "That bus that I'm driving now, it knows I saved it. It just as easily could have gone to the junkyard. It runs and drives awesome now. It's so happy to be out on the road."

Come out and see the buses

Where: Summerfest parade in downtown Dallas. The route starts at Washington and Jefferson streets to the couplet on Main Street and loops back on Main Street.

When: Saturday at 11 a.m.

Facts about Volkswagen Buses:

* Volkswagen began producing its Volkswagen Type 2, more commonly known as the VW Bus, in 1950.

* Believe it or not, VW Buses were built on Volkswagen's compact Beetle chassis.

* Buses had many options, but perhaps the most noticeable is the number of windows. Early models were built with 11, 13, 15, 21 and 23 windows -- or Panel buses with only front windows.

* According to local Volkswagen guru Dave Campbell, a23-Window VW Bus (the rarest of rare) sold for $213,000 at a California auction.

* The eyelid-like covers on the head lights of some buses aren't just cute accessories. Campbell said the Volkswagens used to run on a six-volt electrical system, making the lights dim, so the covers were used to direct the beam forward.

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