SU­PER BUG­GER A HEAD TURNER

Much pho­tographed, vin­tage camper­ized Bee­tle the ul­ti­mate conversati­on starter

Vancouver Sun - - DRIVING - ALYN ED­WARDS Alyn Ed­wards is a clas­sic car en­thu­si­ast and part­ner in Peak Com­mu­ni­ca­tors, a Van­cou­ver-based pub­lic re­la­tions com­pany. Con­tact him at aed­wards@peakco.com

San­dra Pae­seler and Bill Fur­long can’t take their camper any­where with­out dozens of peo­ple gawk­ing, try­ing to stop them, en­gag­ing them in conversati­on and tak­ing mul­ti­ple pho­to­graphs. Mo­torists race ahead of them on the high­way so they can stop and take pho­tos. Their Su­per Bug­ger gets more at­ten­tion than any­thing else on the road.

Early Volk­swa­gen cars were nick­named Bugs for their petite rounded styling. So log­i­cally, the Volk­swa­gen mini mo­torhome is called the Su­per Bug­ger with the nick­name of Lil Bug­ger.

Pae­seler in­her­ited the odd lit­tle camper from her late fa­ther, who was the su­per­in­ten­dent at a mine in Cal­i­for­nia’s Death Val­ley. He saw the nose of the Volk­swa­gen-based camper stick­ing out of a garage at a home in Ne­vada in the early ’80s. The owner didn’t want to sell. But Her­bert Pae­seler per­se­vered by stop­ping by nu­mer­ous times be­fore a deal was struck. Her­bert en­joyed camp­ing and fishing trips with his Su­per Bug­ger in its orig­i­nal or­ange paint with ’70s-style or­ange shag car­pet through­out the cabin.

Fol­low­ing her fa­ther’s death, San­dra im­ported the camper into Canada 20 years ago and stored it with friends un­til she got enough money to re­store it.

The restora­tion took 10 years and cost about $40,000. That in­cluded a re­built en­gine, new paint and an all-new in­te­rior.

A big prob­lem is that Pae­seler doesn’t drive. “That’s why I have Bill,” she says, re­fer­ring to her sig­nif­i­cant other.

“We love to see the smiles on peo­ple’s faces when we take the camper out,” says Fur­long, a fore­man at Shaw Ca­ble. “Ev­ery­where we go, it draws peo­ple and starts con­ver­sa­tions.

“Seventy-five per cent of the peo­ple have sto­ries about their Volk­swa­gen. Every­one seems to have had one.”

The Su­per Bug­ger camper was built in Costa Mesa, Calif., in the early ’70s based on 1969 Volk­swa­gen cars. They cost ap­prox­i­mately $6,000.

The mi­cro camper is re­mark­ably ef­fi­cient, fea­tur­ing two dou­ble beds, a din­ing ta­ble, sink, wa­ter tank, two-burner stove, ice­box and a stor­age cup­board. Up front are two swivel bucket seats, an over­head pic­ture win­dow and a cus­tom wood-grain dash­board com­plete with eight­track tape player.

Re­mark­ably, the Su­per Bug­ger weighs only 250 more pounds than a stock Volk­swa­gen Bee­tle and can keep up with high­way speeds.

The Su­per Bug­ger was fea­tured as the cover story in a 1977 is­sue of Mechanix Il­lus­trated mag­a­zine. Plans were avail­able for do-it-your­self own­ers to con­vert their Volk­swa­gen to a mini camper. Pae­seler and Fur­long have shown the Su­per Bug­ger at three car shows where it be­came the main at­trac­tion. “Peo­ple walk by cars that ob­vi­ously have had a lot of money spent on them and they all come over to us,” Fur­long says.

The cou­ple was mobbed when they went to Stan­ley Park to have their lunch out­side their camper. “Peo­ple come over to ask what it is,” Pae­seler says. “It al­ways draws a crowd.”

Pae­seler and Fur­long con­tinue to use their unique mini mo­torhome for daily trips in­clud­ing shop­ping and can al­ways ex­pect to meet new peo­ple.

“It’s the ul­ti­mate conversati­on starter. Ev­ery­where we go it gets a lot of at­ten­tion. I think my dad would be very proud,“Pae­seler says.

PHO­TOS: ALYN ED­WARDS

Bill Fur­long and San­dra Pae­seler say the Su­per Bug­ger Volk­swa­gen mini mo­torhome, built on a vin­tage Bee­tle, draws at­ten­tion wher­ever they go.

The at­trac­tive cabin fea­tures swivel bucket seats and a cus­tom wood-grain dash­board with a ’70s-era eight-track tape player. The camper weighs only 250 pounds more than a stock Volk­swa­gen Bee­tle.

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