2015, Sep - Oct

Big bites of fun at the 60th VWCA Convention 

By Shell Tomlin

Members of the Northeast Illinois Volkswagen Association hosted the 60th VWCA Convention in June, and they hit the ground running. Starting off the Friday activities was a cruise to nearby Augustino’s Rock & Roll restaurant, where a replica of Jake and Elwood Blues can be found lounging in the dining room. Augustino’s is a popular site in the western Chicago suburbs for cruise nights and impromptu car shows.

Then it was on to the Cascade Drive-in theater, one of only a handful of outdoor theaters still remaining in the country. NIVA members were clever enough to arrange for all of our group to park together so we could “party-on.” Cascade offers a double-feature, with the first film suitable for general audiences and the second, well, not so much. It was OK to leave early and not feel that you’d missed a lot.

Saturday morning’s business meeting brought out several fresh ideas for improvement of the club and its benefits to members. This bylaws-mandated gathering is sometimes thought to be too dry for some, but it was quite productive this time. If you usually skip this convention feature, it’s time to get your feet wet!

After lunch, it was time for Photoscenic 2015, back by popular demand. This rallye is fashioned after Chicago club member Gaston Krishman’s classic event of the 1960s and ’70s, where participants are given a page of photographs and their approximate locations. The goal is to drive to the object in the photo and answer a question about it. With almost any piece of information available via smartphone nowadays, this type of event is as challenging to the rallyemaster as it is to the participants. In the end, everyone finished and nobody got lost, even one who ran sans navigator.

This year’s awards banquet took an interesting twist. Just a few hundred yards from the headquarters hotel sits one of many Portillo’s Restaurants. Chicago-area folks know the Portillo’s chain for its famous hot dogs, but the restaurant also has a full line of pasta dishes, salads, beef entrees and the best chocolate cake you have ever eaten. (This writer remembers frequenting the first Portillo’s, a simple hot dog trailer located in a shopping center parking lot in the 1960s!) We took over the restaurant’s banquet room and were treated like royalty by the staff. This gave us enough privacy for our awards presentations after dinner.

Another unique twist was the slide presentation by Ryan Schulz during our meal. Rallye participants were encouraged to take photos of their adventures along the route and email them to Ryan. Roars of laughter periodically went up as we watched the successes and failures of our fellow rallyists shown on a large screen TV. Now there’s a concept that was never dreamed of back in the 1960s.

On Sunday, back at the headquarters hotel, the setup began for the car show and swap meet. This is NIVA’s regularly scheduled Bug Fest (one of two major NIVA car shows each year). After an all-night drizzle, by 9 a.m. the sun was shining and usual level of attendance of a typical Bug Fest was on hand. So many unique and beautiful VWs were on display, it was difficult to pick a favorite. You can see many of them in our website photo gallery at vwclub.org.

But all conventions must come to an end, so we bid our thanks to NIVA for a job well done. Next up is Kokomo, Ind., for the 61st, with the help of the City of First VW Club. More details later. VWCA


Shell Tomlin | vwclub@aol.com

Convention Award Winners

Eberle Newsletter Trophy: “Badger Beetles AutoFun News,” Laura and Lyle Kuklinski, editors

Woodbury Dunn Safety Award: Badger Beetles AutoFun Club, Lyle Kuklinski, safety director

Wolfsburg Trophy (most active local chapter): Northeast Illinois Volkswagen Association, Kirk Schulz, president

Photoscenic 2015 Rallye

1. Ryan Schulz, driver; Rick Carlson, navigator

2. Kim Rodriguez, driver; Bev Kuntzsch, navigator

3. John Portzer, driver; Laura Portzer, navigator

4. Tom Janiszewski, driver; Joe Marrazzo, navigator

5. Don Maldonado, driver; David Maldonado, navigator

6. Kirk Schulz, driver; Pam Schulz, navigator

7. Frank Caruso, driver; no navigator


G & H Import Auto Parts      

9734 S Cicero Ave

Oak Lawn, IL 60453

Stiftung AutoMuseum Volkswagen             

Dieselstrasse 35

Wolfsburg, Germany

Stoner Inc.                                                  

1070 Robert Fulton Highway

Quarryville, PA 17566 


  • GOLF SPORTWAGEN: VW has a new Squareback and it's chuck full of surprises.
  • LOSSES IN THE FAMILY: Deaths of three VWCA members leave a big hole.
  • SUMMER SCHOOL: We hit the track and learn some key lessons for older drivers.


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


BONUS FEATURE: Vintage videos capture early days of the VWCA

Recently, some rapidly deteriorating movie footage was discovered showing scenes from the fourth VWCA Convention in 1959 and a club rallye, gymkhana and hill climb of about the same era. 

Although these were in poor condition and the sound tracks obliterated, they are still amusing to watch, whether you are a new member or an old-timer.

In one, you’ll notice the (then typical) disputes between rally driver and navigator, the skillful maneuvering of VWs through the cones on a gymkhana and a hill climb, once a frequent convention event.

Scenes from the fourth VWCA Convention recall the days when hundreds attended the business meeting in suits and ties, and smoking was common. The featured speaker at that convention, by the way, was legendary CBS newsman Walter Cronkite, seen in the video at the awards banquet.

To view these, go to yesvideo.com and click on the “sign in” button in the upper left corner. After clicking the sign-in box on the next page, enter the email address vwclub@aol.com and the password vwca2015 and the two videos will appear. Click the triangle in the center of the desired video to watch.



Autoist Archive

Jul-Aug | 2019
Emotional rescue

Who would be crazy enough to drive a 36-year-old VW 3,000 miles over two weeks . . . with no A/C or other contemporary car creature comforts? Our Cliff Leppke, of course. He had a ball.


May-Jun | 2019
From beater Bus to dragstrip demon

The Goblin Works Garage team, part of a UK-based collective that rebuilds vehicles as part of a cable TV series, takes on a 1969 VW Bus.


Mar-Apr | 2019
Anniversary Theme

February???s Chicago Auto Show paid tribute to the anniversaries of four venerable marques, including VW???s Jetta GLI.


Jan-Feb | 2019
Tribute to a mom: How Kathy Janiszewski and a '72 Volkswagen helped inspire a lifelong hobby

From this VW Bus, Kathy Janiszewski emerges with her wedding party in July 1966. She inspired her son, Tom, to follow a passion for VWs.


Nov-Dec | 2018
Commemorative Issue

In commemoration of its milestone 500th issue as publication of the VWCA, the Autoist gets a facelift for the first time in a decade.


Sep-Oct | 2018
2019 Jetta: New, Larger Economy Size

Some things come in small packages, and the seventh generation of VW's popular Jetta sedan delivers.


Jul-Aug | 2018
What's in your garage?

Amid the chaos, a home to vehicular gems and memories.


May-Jun | 2018
GTI AUTOBAHN: VW's latest version is a shopping cart full of enjoyment

Pack 220-hp and 258 ft.-lb of turbo kick under this hot hatch's hood and you've got a grocery-getter with options.


Mar-May | 2018
ARTEON: VW introduces its stylish replacement for the CC model.

Volkswagen???s attention to detail is notable in its new Arteon sedan, which made its debut at the Chicago Auto Show.


Jan-Feb | 2018

Volkswagen has upped the ante by inflating the 2018 Tiguan to almost mid-size capacity. Is it fit for a king?


Nov-Dec | 2017

Hundreds of VWs of every stripe gathered at Foster Park in Kokomo, Ind. for the annual Oktoberfest.


Sep-Oct | 2017
62nd VWCA Convention Wrap-up

Members gathered at the throw-back Cascade Drive-in Theater for "Cars 3," part of the VWCA Convention


Jul-Aug | 2017
Back To The Future Car

Cliff Leppke's 1983 Scirocco has notched its share of more than 333,000 miles in trips to Road America in Wisconsin. The latest covered about 3,000 miles during a whirlwind vacation excursion.


May-Jun | 2017
Swingin' time is in store for members, guests at 62nd annual Club gathering

Augustino's will get members rocking while the NIVA Club will roll out another lineup of VWs at its annual BugFest, part of the VWCA Convention in St. Charles, Ill.


Mar-Apr | 2017
Will VW See The Light?

VW once again evokes the memory of the beloved Microbus with its new concept called I.D. Buzz, which created quite a stir at the annual auto show in Detroit. (Photos by Tom Janiszewski)


Jan-Feb | 2017
Costly Mistake?

Joe Mayer says he's not out to punish VW over its diesel scandal - he just wanted to make some extra money on a car he thought would be junked. (Photos by Joe Mayer via jalopnik.com.)


Nov-Dec | 2016
WATTS OF FUN . . . . . . Meet the new e-Golf

Here's the car that, when you give it a charge, you'll get one back. In VW's first important pivot from its diesel scandal, the e-Golf provides an opening salvo in the carmaker's goal to electrify its fleet.


Sep-Oct | 2016
61st Annual Convention

What's an anniversary without a cake? This one didn't go far or last long as Club members enjoyed a variety of activities, including a Sunday car show and picnic, part of the 61st Annual Convention.


Jul-Aug | 2016
It's Time To Show Off

A couple of Karmann Ghias are resplendent at the Michigan Vintage VW Club's Festival in Ypsilanti, Mich.  The club held its 29th event in May, while Mid America Motorworks in Effingham, Ill., saluted the air-cooled crowd with a big show in June.


May-Jun | 2016
Windfall for TDI owners?

The scam was on as early as 2008, when this Candy White Jetta TDI Clean Diesel model, embellished with green plant matter, was rolled out.  In case anyone had a doubt, VW added the wording "Not a concept car."


Mar-Apr | 2016
Lost In Translation

VW CEO Mattias Mueller was in the hot glare of media lights at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, providing the company's latest response to the diesel emissions scandal.


Jan-Feb | 2016
VW's Game Plan

VW remains embroiled in a high-stakes game involving government agencies  and hundreds of thousands of owners of diesel models. The company's car on the road of Life has taken a big detour.


Nov-Dec | 2015
Engine with a split personality puts VW on the hot seat

The news in September was beyond belief for many VW and TDI enthusiasts: Volkswagen executives admitted that the company intentionally produced cars that violated clean-air laws.


Sep-Oct | 2015
Big bites of fun at the 60th VWCA Convention

Doug Narczewshi from Spring Valley, IL, looks over an assortment of water-cooled VWs on display at NIVA's Bug Fest event, part of the 60th VWCA Convention in suburban Chicago.


Jul-Aug | 2015
1969 Beetle gets a second chance to adorn the silver screen

Crew members working on the film "The Good Blonde" prepare for a shot on the California coast involving a 1969 Beetle owned by VWCA member and correspondent Lois Grace.


May-Jun | 2015
My Mom, the Daredevil

Around 1960, Cliff Leppke had no idea what was in store for him while being ferried about by his mother. Needless to say, his head was up and his eyes were open.


Mar-Apr | 2015
It's Show Time!

The Northeast Illinois Volkswagen Association has an activity-packed weekend planned for the 60th VWCA Convention in suburban Chicago.


Jan-Feb | 2015
Diesel Memories

Jack Pavie of suburban Philadelphia had to wait several months to get his 1975 Rabbit diesel, one of three models he enjoyed in the '70s and '80s.


Nov-Dec | 2014
Golf Lessons: Three new models charge up hatchback lineup

The scene at the Salamander Resort in Middleburg, Va., where Cliff Leppke and other media members ran the 2015 Volkswagens through their paces.


Sep-Oct | 2014
Having fun with miles per gallon

A morning commute for a 2012 Golf TDI has become a test on how high the fuel mileage will end up. It hit a high mark in July.


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

In the VWCA's 59 years of Conventions, the setting in Hudson, Mich. was unique. Just ask VWCA's Tom Janiszewski, the guy driving the orange 1974 Camper.


May-Jun | 2014
New Beetle milestone: Though this 1999 model has shown it's flaws over 15 years and 90,000 miles, it's been a blast to drive

May 25 marks the 15th anniversary of my family's New Beetle ownership experience. It was on that day in 1999 that we took delivery of a brand new red GLS model from Kempthorn Volkswagen in Canton, Ohio.


Mar-Apr | 2014
Dune buggy with a twist at the Detroit Auto Show

There's a saying that everything old is new again, and since the New Beetle's production debut in 1998, that has been the car's underlying theme.


Jan-Feb | 2014
Back At The Ranch

At northern California getaway, Vernon and his family found plenty of ways to enjoy life