Sunday Best: Kelley Park VW Spring Meet

The Kelley Park VW Spring Meet is one of California’s most popular car events. Historic Kelley Park itself is a sprawl of 172 green acres located in San Jose, California. It serves the community at large for a variety of purposes – picnics in the park, its own zoo, a Japanese friendship garden, and a history museum. Annually, the estate also plays host to one of the largest Volkswagen shows in the western U.S. and is put on by the Golden Gate chapter of the Vintage Volkswagen Club of America.

kelley park vw spring meet, fuel curve

kelley park vw spring meet, fuel curveThis year’s show was held on a perfectly sunny Sunday afternoon. Upon entering the park, guests were immediately greeted by leading lines of Beetles and Buses, all presented in a variety of creative ways. It was difficult to gauge just how many cars are on display until you found yourself closer to the heart of the park, and this year’s count was enormous. If there was a direction to be looked in, there was a Volkswagen in it.

kelley park vw spring meet, fuel curve

The first car to catch our eye immediately was this frame laying Type 3 Fastback owned by Jeff (@312lifestyle on Instagram). Its blatant lack of ground clearance and right hand drive orientation already makes it an immediate double take, but when you look closer, there is a world of detail on display. There isn’t a single piece of the car that isn’t clean enough to eat off of, there’s chrome in all the right places, the interior is simple yet far from boring, and the rear camber is a conversation piece in itself. Starting off the show tour with this car was the only way to do it. In fact, you might remember our feature on Jeff’s car.

kelley park vw spring meet, fuel curve

Moving forward took us through the ’67 and earlier Karmann Ghia class. This lineup was situated along a beautiful, old time storefront in the park. While every class of VW in the show had a menagerie of colors, this group was one of the brightest. Among these vehicles, we found that John West’s ’63 Ghia was a wild crowd pleaser. Giving body to the orange creamsicle aesthetic, this bold build is full of character and once again, is spotlessly clean.

kelley park vw spring meet, fuel curveSunday Best

The variety of cars in this row was also impressive because of its nod to quality and all different stages of build life. Some cars looked painfully original, with cracked paint, patina, and even minor body damage, while others were clearly rotisserie restorations.

kelley park vw spring meet, fuel curve

kelley park vw spring meet, fuel curve

Back toward the center of the park was a small number of Special Interest vehicles from 1959 and earlier. This pack of Schwimmwagens was a hit for those who are both history and VW buffs. These amphibious, off-road, almost toy-like rigs were piloted by German forces in World War II, and are so hilariously cute that it’s hard to swallow their dark role in history.

kelley park vw spring meet, fuel curve

Next in our path was Randy Perez’s ’52 Split Window Beetle, which was staged by itself in the shade. This build is a perfect example of the variety of accessories and extras that are out there for Bugs. This charming Beetle has it all – luggage, interior storage trays, exterior lights and badges galore. It also sits extremely low, which is always a plus.

kelley park vw spring meet, fuel curve

Rounding the corner after Randy’s red Beetle, we found what we can best describe as a Mad Max cameo in the form of an off-road Bug. Raw with no flashy paint or details, this car seemed to be built strictly for purpose and fun.

kelley park vw spring meet, fuel curve

Lined around the back curve of the park’s center was a wonderful array of mostly Beetles, with a Ghia or two here and there. Again, the variety of this show cannot be overstated. From completely stock to wildly impractical to spit shine flawless, Kelley Park had it all.

kelley park vw spring meet, fuel curve

As we neared the end of this class a rowdy, ear shaking clamor emanated from the direct of the entrance. What we found is essentially a Hot Wheel come to life, and appropriately, a small group of children gathered around with their parents as this monstrous Bug cammed where it sat. If you were looking for custom paint to any degree – flake, candy, suede, pinstripe, airbrush – this was for you. This hotrod of a Bug displayed portraits of women on its hood, while its backside was exposed with a custom quad tip exhaust that jutted out into the air.

kelley park vw spring meet, fuel curve

Sunday Best

The next area of the show yielded some true characters – everything from stock to restomodified to, well, you’ll just have to see. One of the more heartwarming vehicles on display was a cute ’66 Beetle which doubled as a wedding guestbook. As the story goes, Luke’s fiancee Tiffany really wanted a Bug to drive away in together after their wedding ceremony. With the help of some friends and 2,500 miles later, they’d found their car in an apple orchard in Santa Cruz, CA. Crunch time came and three weeks before their wedding, the car had been given a rebuilt engine, a fresh interior, and it was ready to go. It’s always exciting to see couples enjoying their cars, as it adds a more well-rounded, family feel.

Sunday BestSunday Best

kelley park vw spring meet, fuel curve

Several cars down from the wedding mobile sat Kris Machado’s ’62 Square Window Bug, gleaming in an orange glow in the mid-morning sunshine. It stood out prominently against its muted background, its mouth open to display a tidy air ride setup. Like the orange Karmann Ghia we showed you earlier this little Bug had plenty of personality and an incredibly clean cut style.

The remainder of this class stretched out and around the back of the show’s limits, and very much had a more “home built” feel to it. Thrown into the mix were Subaru swapped Bugs, Buses with endless stories to be told, and a few custom builds that certainly posed some questions. We’re sure you’ll be able to figure out which is which.

kelley park vw spring meet, fuel curve

What we think might be our favorite Bus of the show was found toward the end of our walkthrough, and is owned by Nick Guevara, a San Jose local. This ’71 Bay Window Bus is loaded with details and screams “old school cool.” Everything from the raccoon tail decor to the luggage on top to the art gallery of personable stickers makes this Bus a longer stop than most others. The tribute art to the VW emblem painted on the front also harkens back to the sixties and seventies, where it was all about love, peace, and the VW Bus.

kelley park vw spring meet, fuel curve

As we pressed on to the end of our route, we passed many more Buses and a small gathering of Things, which was nestled in tree cover at the farthest piece of the park. We passed by vintage Coca Cola memorabilia plaques telling tales of ownership and original purchase receipts on display. A tribute Bus to the cult classic “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” was a major photo opportunity for those who remember the film from their younger years (disco ball included).

kelley park vw spring meet, fuel curveSunday Best

The swap meet portion of the VW Spring Meet was full of vendors and individuals alike, all offering up something that somebody, somewhere is looking for. Between boxes of headlight covers and rings, vintage picnic baskets, and rebuilt and refurbished mechanical bits, the tables were buzzing with customers.

kelley park vw spring meet, fuel curve

kelley park vw spring meet, fuel curve

kelley park vw spring meet, fuel curve

All in all, the Kelley Park VW Spring Meet is a vast expanse of all things VW—full on restorations, original barn finds, garage builds, and much more. The vibe is family friendly and very welcoming, with owners and enthusiasts who are more than willing to stop to have a conversation with you. We hope that this show stays at Kelley Park for years to come, and we’re already looking forward to next year’s turnout.

Kelley Park VW Spring MeetPhoto Extra!

Courtney is a freelance automotive photojournalist + creative based in the San Francisco Bay Area. For her, cars have always been more of an art form than simply a method of transportation. Over the last several years, she’s worked to find ways to combine her love of both photography and classic cars. Now, she spends most of her time shooting and driving classics, collecting cameras, and enjoying the communities that surround both fields. Her primary affliction centers around classic Datsuns and BMWs, but she has a well-rounded appreciation for almost all aged autos.

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