Friday, March 23, 2007

Van Wyk's VW, Santa Barbara, March 1961

I remember Van Wyk's as the local VW/Porsche dealer in Santa Barbara, California when I was a car-obsessed kid. It was located on Chapala Street a few blocks from the beach, just north of Highway 101. This photo from 1961 of new and used cars on the lot really captures the flavor of Santa Barbara in the early '60s. The beautiful lowlight Ghia convertible in the foreground appears to be a '58 model (L428 graphite silver if I'm not mistaken), top down and ready for a test drive along the Pacific. In front of the Ghia is a lineup of brand new '61 Beetles with paper dealer plates ("Another Van Wyk Volks Wagen") and a mango green Microbus. Looming over the Microbus -- both literally and figuratively -- on a car carrier is a new Chevrolet Corvan, Chevy's unsuccessful response to the VW truck line. Behind the Ghia are a well-worn mid-'50s GM product ('55 Chevy?) and a couple of oval-window Beetles that must be trade-ins.

No VW 1500s here -- they were just about to start production in mid-1961 -- but there is a connection to my '62 1500 Ghia. It has been in the US since it was new as evidenced by the Bendix Sapphire radio and Hickok seatbelts it came with -- both 1962-vintage VWoA accessories. I bought it in Santa Barbara in 1994 and according to the previous owner it had been seen around town at least since the early '70s and probably earlier. That means it's more than likely that it was serviced at Van Wyk's and -- who knows? -- may even have been sold there as a gray market "used" car when it was new.

This image comes to us from the vast slide archive of Charles Phoenix. Charles is an LA-based pop culture historian, commentator, and author known for his shows of found slides from the '50s and '60s and as a correspondent for National Public Radio and a number of television stations. Thanks Charles!


Rich said...

Instant nostalgia!

Did Mr. Van Wyk own a number of these in So. Cal.? I'm almost positive my dad's bug was from a Van Wyk's in Buena Park.

I distinctly remember the license plate number.

You know, the orange bug in RB?

Scott said...

I don't know much about the Van Wyk dealer organization, but there were lots of different Van Wyk auto dealerships in California and other states, not all of them VW dealers.

I remember your old orange '67 bug well. Whatever became of it?

Anonymous said...

My Grandfather, Arnold Van Wyk, owned the Santa Barbara VW & Porsche franchises starting in 1958. Van Wyk's Volkswagen continued to sell porsches there until 1969 This shop remained in our family until about 1990. My grandfather's brothers also acquired VW franchises in Bakersfield (Van Wyk's of Bakersfield, Inc.), San Bernardino (Jack Van Wyk Volkswagen), and Tuscon (Scott Van Wyk Motors). In addition, they sold other car brands in Santa Maria (Cadillac & Pontiac), Inglewood (Dodge), and Omaha. There were a few other relatives who later got into the car business too (like my Dad, VW in Thousand Oaks, 1965). That plate that someone posted is obviously from 1969 or earlier, given the Porsche logo in the upper right. Once in a while we'll spot an old metal Van Wyk plate frame on vintage VWs around Santa Barbara. I found one for my Mom and put it on her 2007 Passat.

Scott said...

Very interesting! Many thanks for all the info. It's nice to know that the plate frame I found is from the '60s, when I lived there.

Scott said...

Question: How does your family pronounce "Van Wyk"? I have always assumed it was Americanized to "wick".

Anonymous said...

Well hello cousin,
I too see some old plates on vintage VW's in San Bernardino. I wish I could get my hands on one. As it is I'll have to make do with a more modern one from Van Wyk's Bakerfield. Say hello to my God mother.

Anonymous said...

I see alot of my relatives have been here...HI sis (last one)....and one of the boys...Thousand Oaks one....LOL..I still have set of dealer plates, but not the frames from Berdo...those were the days

theaboo1961 said...

Hi, I have receipts from the previous owner of my '65 beetle, "Lady". She lived in Oceanside CA and I bought her in 1995 when I lived in Oceanside, Long Island, NY.

Here is a bill from Van Wyk's VW:

Here is the page at my "Lady's" site with all receipts from the 70's:


Anonymous said...

Very Interesting!
Thank You!

steffen said...

@ Anonymous, February 4, 2009 11:24:00 AM PST: I hope you get this message (its been a while since you posted the message I am now replying to…). Your grandfather was also the first owner of my Porsche 356 (VIN: 212286, engine number: P*806479) – or at least that is what the car’s Kardex says. Do you happen to have any information on the car or know someone who might have?? I am still trying to make sense out of the car’s history and to figure out to whom your grandfather sold it.
Best wishes from Germany

Jer said...

Van Wyk's was a Bakersfield institution when I was growing up in the '70s, back in the days when you couldn't swing a coil wire without hitting a Volkswagen and most car dealerships were named after actual people. I believe Van Wyk's of Bakersfield bought P&S Motors in Bakersfield in the fall of 1961 and unfortunately, left in 2006. I miss Van Wyk's (and Wally Tucker Datsun, lol). My own '66 Fastback has the original black and yellow plates and license tag frame from Russ Thor VW in Torrance. Thanks for that blast from the past.

P.S. The Samba has this photo on it's dealer listing for Van Wyk's Bakersfield, I'm positive it couldn't be Bakersfield and it looks like the same location as your photo, from a different angle.

Jer said...

Under the dealer listing for Van Wyk's of Bakersfield, The Samba shows a photo that I'm positive isn't Bakersfield (it looks like it could be at first glance, but not on close inspection) and that I think is Santa Barbara. Pretty sure Van Wyk's of Bakersfield never sold Porsches, either; we had a separate Porsche-Audi dealer. I'd have to ask my Type 2 Superfreak brother what year those buses on the lot were, they look post-'59 to me.

Van Wyk's was truly a Bakersfield institution, from the time they bought P&S Motors in, I think, the fall of 1961, to 2006 when they sold the dealership. Part of the backdrop of my childhood in the '70s, when you couldn't swing a rusty heater box without hitting a VW. Now, my '66 Fastback (with original black-and-yellow plates with Russ Thor VW of Torrance frame) is a rare sight. Thanks for the great pic.

Scott said...

Thanks Jer, I think you're right about the Van Wyk's photo posted on the Samba. That sure looks like Santa Barbara to me.