2014, Jul - Aug

2014 VWCA Convention: Wagons, wagens and more - where the buffalo roam 

By Shell Tomlin

Volkswagens of all types and sizes descended on Hudson, Mich., early in June, bringing this quiet little town to life.

The 59th annual VWCA Convention, combined with the second annual Midwest VW Jamboree, attracted VWs from a broad area, some from as far as Georgia.

The Jamboree is the brainchild of Rick Cramer and Tom Siligato, veterans of the popular Michigan Vintage Festival series, and features camping, an all-VW car show, swap meet, cruises and the old-fashioned camaraderie that only an event of this scope can provide.

As campers gathered Friday in Thompson Memorial Park, the organized activities kicked off with a cruise to the Sidekick, a 1950s-themed restaurant about a dozen miles down the road. We were so busy taking in all the automotive memorabilia there that many were too distracted to order our meals. And the likenesses of Marilyn Monroe and Jimmy Dean in the restrooms were - well, shocking to some! On Saturday, our hero of the day was Dennis Smoke, owner of Rumors Restaurant. Dennis probably thinks VW people are nuts (can't blame him for that) but he does know food! Although the restaurant was closed to the public during the morning hours, Rumors hosted our convention business meeting with Dennis providing coffee and rolls for the attendees. Then, just before noon, the rest of the Jamboree folks arrived for lunch.

With full stomachs, we got back in our cars for another cruise, this time to the Buffalo Ranch. It was interesting to watch the locals along the way, gazing at the long procession of vintage and current VWs snaking through the countryside. Some just dropped what they were doing and stared.

After we crammed the parking lot at the Buffalo Ranch, we made our way to the wagons that took us out to the area where the herd was kept. As we approached, they all seemed to know that we tourists would feed them, so they followed the wagon until we stopped - some even came running after us.

We were given ears of corn, which the buffalo consumed whole, cob, husk and all, even though buffalo have no upper teeth. Our tour guide took us to the site of the Spirit Walker memorial, which honors the spirit of a rare white buffalo born on the property in 1998 but who died only a few weeks later.

Then it was back to our cars for the return to Hudson with an optional stop at the Sidekick for ice cream for some.

Saturday evening the VWCA group enjoyed a banquet of Lasagna Pinwheels, Chicken Picatta and Stuffed Pork Loin entree, all provided by Dennis Smoke's Rumors Restaurant and served in the Carriage House of the William G. Thompson House Museum and Gardens. We let our food settle as we awarded our door prizes and announced the winners of the car show competition and local club contests.

The Northeast Illinois Volkswagen Association swept the three major VWCA awards, winning the Wolfsburg Trophy for most active club, the John & Jean Eberle Best Newsletter Award and the Woodbury Dunn Safety Award.

Then Dennis returned with two spectacular desserts: rhubarb crisp and strawberry shortcake!

When we could eat no more, Thompson Museum curator Ray Leonard led our group on an exclusive tour of the mansion. Room after room of the collections of three generations of Thompsons were on display, leading many of us to wonder what we could do with that much space - and that much money!

Meanwhile back at the park, the Jamboree campers were winding down with a campfire and a bit of live entertainment. There was no shortage of things to do this weekend. On Sunday morning, the car show and swap meet began in earnest. While the morning was drizzly, it soon cleared up and the show cars came pouring in. This being new territory for VWCA, there were lots of unique cars on display that we had never seen before. The atmosphere was casual, the people were friendly and there was plenty of time to meet with other VW owners, most of whom had an interesting story or two about their cars.

But sooner or later the party had to end and by late afternoon, the VWs began returning to their homes, leaving Hudson the quiet little southeastern Michigan town it was before we arrived.

Thanks to Rick Cramer, Tom Siligato and many others behind the scenes for a smoothly run event, and to Dennis Smoke of Rumors Restaurant for a weekend of wonderful food. If you missed the Midwest VW Jamboree, put it on your calendar for next year. You'll be glad you did! VWCA

Shell Tomlin | vwclub@aol.com


This year's winners, Local Club & VW models are listed below.
1. Dave Knowling, NIVA, 1964 Beetle.
2. Tom Janiszewski, Stateline, 1974 Camper.
3. (tie) Jack Connelly, NIVA, 1978 Camper.
4. Allison Schulz, NIVA, 2002 New Beetle.
5. (tie) Sara and Louis Lively, NIVA, 1970 Beetle.
6. Tom Kravcar, NIVA, 1965 Camper.
7. (tie) Martin Ramirez, NIVA, 2001 New Beetle.
8. Walt Dearie, NIVA, 1978 Super Beetle Convertible.
9. David Howard, NIVA, 1960 Beetle.
10. (tie) Dave Ahrens, NIVA, 1963 Dune Buggy.
11.George Lambesis, NIVA, 1967 Bus.
12.Robert Washburn, NIVA, 1973 Ghia
13.Gary Hanson, NIVA, 1986 Crew Cab.
14.Maurice Goldstein, VWOG, 2013 Jetta Sports Wagon.
15. Sara Mortensen, NIVA, 2009 Jetta.
16. (tie) Ryan Schulz, NIVA, 1979 Bus.
17.Mark Kuntze, At Large, 1973 Ghia.
18.Gary White, At Large, 1971 Bus.



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2014 PASSAT SEL: Sedan gets the TSI engine, which translates into "less is more."

By Cliff Leppke

The 2012 North American Passat arrived with baggage: a 2.5-liter 170-hp five-cylinder engine rather than the European Passat's 200-hp turbocharged four. Adequate. Today you can select a different 170-hp mill, the 1.8-liter TSI with more torque, a turbocharger and one less cylinder. Less is more. The displacement is down, but this engine adds up to a major improvement. It resides in the front bay of some 2014 Passats. Look for the TSI badge in back.

I sampled the SEL Premium version. While some automotive writers have snored, claiming that the Passat is boring, I beg to differ. This engine might not be the most powerful, but it moves the six-speed automatic transmission Passat with the dignity of a vintage Bentley Six, and it's lively too, despite the eco-minded transmission gearing. Hint: there's a sport mode. The TSI likes to play with quick throttle response and a throaty satisfying note. As with Mazda's SkyActiv bag of tricks, VW has geared this Passat for low-rpm operation. My only gripe: the otherwise smooth-shifting six-speed automatic pauses.

Let's talk numbers: 70 mph at a lazy 2,000 rpm. Sixty is a sleepy 1,750. This isn't a high-revving Italian sports car. Instead, it's broadband loafer: 184 lb.-ft. of torque comes on strong at 1,500 rpm and stays there as the rpm head toward redline. Like California Chrome, it's a winner. Editors at Ward's Automotive put the TSI on its 10-best list. A sensitive ear will notice some engine thrumming; the tranny likes to upshift early. Nonetheless the Passat has a library-grade cabin, highway trips are swift and tranquil. I netted 28 mpg overall. That's good for a midsize sedan, at least a 3-mpg improvement vs. the 2.5 liter. And the trip computer indicated 36 on one highway trip. The EPA says: 24 mpg city, 34 highway, 28 combined.

The Passat's emphasis: comfort and room. Yet the car feels light, like it just came back from a "Dancing With the Stars" tryout. With well weighted steering and a decent anti-nibble assist to correct for road crown, the Passat calms your nerves.

VW now has CarNet telematics. I pressed an overhead button; Roy the adviser answered. He downloaded directions to my TV station workplace, which the navigation system accepted. Later, the onboard voice said the location wasn't on the digitized map. Nevertheless, this direction aid did the unexpected. It sent me to the station's parking lot approach one street west of the building's limited-access front. Kudos!

Otherwise, VW's infotainment system is frustrating. It's molasses-like; the dedicated keys lack audible haptics--they click but don't produce a confirming beep. When you press radio band button nothing happens. Seconds later, it switches. By then, you've already pressed the button again. There's also a long pause as the system boots after starting the car. You'll reverse your way out of a driveway before the backup camera is displayed.

And you better like Apple's products as VW offers iPod/iPhone connectivity but not a USB port. My Android phone paired easily with the infotainment system via Bluetooth. It even politely asked to download my contact list. Do that, and you can press the steering wheel's speak button and say, "call Fred" and it does the dialing for you.

The Passat SEL has the Fender-branded sound system. It includes a CD player so you can listen this format's wider dynamics.

Previous Passats excelled in interior fit and finish. This car was neatly assembled, but the expanse of hard gray plastic was not up to the MSRP: $31,715. The instrument binnacle rattled, and the left-front seat doesn't fully recline. The Fender subwoofer reduces stowage height.

In sum, the Passat's alert handling, supportive front seats, smooth power delivery, ample space and improved fuel economy makes it a midsize-sedan contender. If you judge a car by how well it drives, rides and supports your backside, the Passat should top your list. If you want the latest in motoring fashion with driver support systems such as forward collision alert, the Passat seems outmoded.

VW says a dramatic refresh planned for 2016 includes up-to-date driver gear. Maybe that will put it on your digital or analogue map. VWCA

Cliff Leppke | cliff.leppke@fox6now.com


* EYES ON THE ROAD: A VW video on distracted driving is turning heads.
* DUNE BUGGY CONCEPT: Developments suggest the car is headed for production.


* Driver's Seat - VW news & views by Cliff Leppke
* Frontdriver - Richard G. Van Treuren
* Small Talk - VW and Audi news - quickly
* Retro Autoist - From the archives
* Parting Shot - Photo feature
* VW Toon-ups - Cartoon feature by Tom Janiszewski



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