Zoey. Gretchen. Henry. Izzy.In any other family, it might be a list of children’s names. But Chris and Erin Scheureman of Oregon aren’t like any other family. They’re Volkswagen enthusiasts who would be hard-pressed to find a family as passionate as they are for their air-cooled models.
The oldest VW in their collection of 8 dates from 1959 (Henry, a red-and-white 1959 SO 23 Westfalia). Erin still has the 1966 Beetle (Gretchen) she got in high school, and it’s still running at 368,000 miles and counting — or maybe it’s 468,000 miles. No one is quite sure how many times the odometer has turned over.
“I remember going out with my sister, and I wanted to be so much like her,” says Erin. “And then I remember my son, who is 18 now, in the back seat. I learned how to drive in that car, and so did my son.” (Between them, the couple has four children between the ages of 11 and 18.)
Nor is the couple content with vintage VW vehicles. They’ve given their 2018 Atlas its own moniker — Heimlich. In fact, each vehicle has a name, and each is a rolling repository of happy memories. “It’s very much like a family photo album,” Erin says of their collection.
Three of the vehicles at a time live in the family’s garage, and another four sit in a carport. The eighth VW stays at the dentistry practice they own in Vernonia, Oregon; they bike together to work most days, then drive home for lunch.
Erin’s love of Volkswagen started in childhood, when her father fixed up and resold VW vehicles for extra money and brought her along to car shows. “There were times he would pick me up from school, and I would have to look really closely, because he might’ve picked up something new that day,” she says. “He’d hang on to the cars for a year or two and then flip them and find another project.”
For his part, Chris fell in love with his 1988 Jetta, the second car he ever owned. The couple has never looked back from their air-cooled enthusiasm, picking up a VW here and there — sometimes after painstaking searches and sometimes on a whim.Just as Erin’s father sometimes surprised her by picking her up in a new “project,” Chris once bought a bright yellow 1973 Volkswagen Thing (Zoey) on the way to church without telling her. The Thing was one of Erin’s dream cars, and when she arrived at church, she asked Chris whether he’d seen the car in the parking lot. Chris nodded, not letting on that the car was theirs.
Then there’s the time the couple bought a 1959 SO-23 Westfalia (Henry) that hadn’t run in two decades. When Chris finally got the engine running, he was so excited that he jumped behind the wheel and drove down their steep driveway.
Mostly, though, their VW collection has brought the family closer in countless little ways. When the kids were younger, Chris and Erin used to tinker on the cars in the evening while the children played in the back seats. Recently, they’ve driven each year in part of the Highway 1 Treffen, a group ride down the West Coast for lovers of air-cooled VW vehicles.
“There’s a simplicity and a purity to the older Volkswagens,” Erin says. Sometimes they purposely let the kids’ electronic devices run out of power on a trip so they’ll look out the window or read a book.
“I love the fact that I’m a dentist and I drive a ’66 Bug with dented fenders and rust on the front,” Chris says. “Because it works, it makes me happy. And that’s all that matters.”
The Scheuremans’ VW Collection
- Henry: 1959 SO 23 Westfalia
- Pokey: 1959 single cab (truck)
- Izzy: 1964 Type 34 Ghia
- Filmore: 1965 deluxe Micro-Bus
- Gretchen: 1966 Bug
- Leroy: 1971 Westfalia
- Zoey: 1973 Thing
- Heimlich: 2018 Atlas
(The couple recently sold a 1965 Ghia and a 1964 Notchback.)