story is not unlike the Ford story: Both begin with a mildly obsessive,
slightly goofy guy who is later called a genius. At Ford, that guy was
Henry Ford. At Lavere's, that guy is Gary LaVere.
Here's how Gary tells it.
I turned 16, I went out and bought the only car I could afford, a 1956
Oval-window Bug. It was in perfect original condition with only 40,000
miles, and it cost me $250, about a month's pay at that time. This car
was responsible for the start of my love affair with VWs.
I learned how to maintain the small 36HP engine that powered the bug
seemingly anywhere I commanded it to go - freeways, dirt, and snow.
John Muir's "How To Keep Your Volkswagen Alive, for the Complete
Idiot" became my favorite bedtime reading, and a cool way to learn
all about this amazing German automobile.
My father always had the memory of coming out to the garage and seeing
me in the middle of the floor with what seemed to be hundreds of parts,
all strewn around with no apparent order to the chaos. I had decided
to rebuild the engine and had taken it completely apart. He couldn't
believe that I was able to put it back together and make it run perfectly.
That little bug served me well for many years.
I began buying used VWs, fixing them up, and selling them to suppliment
my income. In 1987, I restored a 1956 Karmann Ghia for the fun of it.
I put an ad in the San Francisco Chronicle and ended up selling it to
a guy who had tapped into an overseas market. I soon began restoring
VWs for overseas buyers.
For several years, I restored VWs and shipped them overseas, often to
Japan. One year a good customer ordered as many 1967 and earlier Deluxe
Hardtop Buses as I could find and restore in one year. I was able to
locate, buy, completely restore, and ship fifteen Deluxe buses that
I opened up LaVere's VW Restoration to the public in 1994. We now have
a complete service department for air and watercooled VWs. Todd Reinholdt,
a factory-trained mechanic, is the service manager. I still run the
restoration and parts departments. Some people have noted that Todd
and I work together very much like Merlin and Arthur. We currently have
six very busy Knights of VW working for us.
Our cars are featured in magazines, and win show awards, but we are
just as happy when they are simply driven with pride down the street
in the hometowns of our customers."