One unusual ride at this year's Cars in the Park car show at Boardman Park was a rare 1971 VW Weekender owned by Mike and Kim Klem of Canfield. The vintage bus has become a fun vehicle in the Klem collection.
Mike said he has been collecting vintage cars for the past 15 years. The way he got started came after a devastating moment in his life.
"I had open heart surgery and almost died," he said. "After that close call, I made a bucket list of cars I wanted to own."
Photos by J.T. Whitehouse, Town Crier
Mike and Kim Klem have been collecting cars for more than 15 years, but now they are taking the bus to car shows. Actually, it is their classic 1971 VW Weekender bus that the couple have restored to its original glory.
Since making that list, Mike and Kim began to compile their collection. Mike also attended a school where he got certified as a national Mercedes Benz judge. With his expertise, specifically in foreign vehicles, he found himself as a judge of foreign vehicles for the Mahoning Valley Olde Car Club's Cars in the Park on Sunday.
He said after 15 years, he began a search for a fun vehicle to add to the collection - vintage VW bus. The search led the couple to Virginia where they found the 1971 Weekender bus. It was what Mike called a "barn car."
The vehicle was repainted with original colors around 12 years ago. It was garaged in the barn shortly after and had sat for several years.
Mike and Kim purchased the bus in March of this year. The first thing they did was to go over it with a fine-tooth comb. The paint was in great condition and just required some elbow grease to bring the shine back. Some of the chrome, like the headlight covers, had to be removed and sent out for re-chroming.
The air-cooled engine needed the most work. Mike removed it and found a good running, stock engine to replace the original, which is being rebuilt.
With little to do in the major work category, the couple turned to the interior. The bus already had the hidden sink and ice box in place and the bed and table of the virtual camper were fully functioning, including handsome woodwork. One thing that was missing were the factory curtains.
"My mother (Jean Klem) made the period correct curtains by hand," Mike said.
This summer, the vintage Weekender hit the road and Mike quickly found it to be an attraction wherever he went.
"When I go to get gas, I figure on a half an hour minimum," he said. "Everyone wants to look at it and ask questions."
There is little doubt the vintage VW is a conversation piece, but Kim is helping take that to the next level by finding era-correct items to put into it.
"We put my old eight-track player in it," she said. "I knew there was a reason I kept it all those years."
She also has found other 1970's items that lend authenticity to the Weekender 's look. She found a vintage red cooler, items with peace signs on them and even the right type of luggage. Kim said her parents had old luggage they were going to toss, but she saved them and uses the pieces in the rear compartment just for show.
As for being an award winner, the VW bus earned the 2013 Chief of Police award at the Thunder in the Park car show in McDonald at the end of July.
While the VW has become a perfect show vehicle for the Klems, there is one other use that the couple hope to accomplish in the near future.
"We want to go camping in it," Kim said. "We haven't got to that point yet, but someday soon."
As for gas mileage, the 1971 bus gets roughly 23 miles per gallon which Mike said is extremely good for that year of vehicle.