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Nuts & Bolts

Unadorned VW buses preferred

August 11, 2007|Martin Zimmerman;Joni Gray | Times Staff Writers

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Summer of Love, and nothing says Haight-Ashbury quite like a psychedelia-bedecked VW bus.

As it happens, interest in the iconic hippie-wagon has been expanding among collectors over the last decade, right along with baby boomers' midsections, says Phil Skinner, collector car market editor for Kelley Blue Book in Irvine.

Skinner likens the growing affection for VW buses to the popularity among collectors and nostalgia buffs for "woodies," the wood-sided station wagons that were favored by California surfers in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Not that the fondly recalled vee-dubs would win any awards for powertrain engineering.

"They were very underpowered," Skinner recalls. "It was like, 'We're going to go, but we're going to go sl-o-o-o-w.' "

The Volkswagen bus arrived in the American market in 1955 and was built in a variety of versions until a major redesign was introduced for the 1968 model year. Collectors, Skinner says, are looking for stock versions, not psychedelisized Grateful Dead-mobiles.

"You bring in a hippie version and it's a novelty," Skinner says. "You bring in a restored version and its a collectible."

The difference in value goes way beyond spare change. A "novelty" bus might be worth $12,000 at auction, whereas an original version can fetch $45,000 or $50,000, he says.

In other words, if you're going to San Francisco, wear some flowers in your hair -- but don't paint any on your VW bus.

Tesla Motors to

open L.A. store

The founding members of San Carlos, Calif.-based Tesla Motors plan to begin selling their cars in factory-owned stores within the next few months.

The soon-to-be-available 2008 Tesla, a $98,000 all-electric sports car, will be sold in showrooms in Menlo Park and on the Westside (on Santa Monica Boulevard just east of the 405 freeway), Chief Executive Martin Eberhard told a recent gathering of the Motor Press Guild.

"The L.A. store will be opened before the end of the year," he said. "It'll be on the property right next to the Starbucks -- you can't miss it." Eberhard said the firm had received more than 600 advance orders, along with the required $60,000 deposits, for the car.

Unlike traditional car salespeople, the sales staff at Tesla's stores won't be paid by commission; instead, they'll get salaries and stock options.

Powered by a lithium-ion battery (the same technology used in cellphones), the Lotus-like roadster can go from zero to 60 in four seconds. A second car, a four-door sedan code-named WhiteStar, is slated to come on the market as a 2009 model at a suggested price of about $50,000.

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-- Joni Gray

Chrysler's Nardelli talks the car talk

There was a lot of commentary thrown around this week about Bob Nardelli, the newly installed chief executive at Chrysler.

Much of it focused on whether an outsider like Nardelli had the chops needed to oversee the product lines at Chrysler and its Dodge and Jeep brands.

In a conference call with reporters, the former Home Depot Inc. chief tried to allay some of those concerns by talking about his first car (a 1966 Dodge Dart GT) and the Dodge Prowler, Chrysler PT Cruiser and Jeep he now owns.

"I've got a little bit of everything in my fleet," Nardelli said.

The new CEO, infamous for his big paydays while running Home Depot, didn't reveal the exact dimensions of his personal automotive armada.

But his enthusiasm for Chrysler and its affiliated brands didn't exactly reassure long-time industry commentator Edward Lapham, executive editor of Automotive News.

It would be a mistake, Lapham wrote this week, for Nardelli "to assume that just because he likes cars he's a car guy."

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-- Martin Zimmerman

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