2018, Nov - Dec

Commemorative Issue 

By Fred Ortlip

Over six-plus decades, VWCA’s Autoist perseveres to reach its 500th issue

The average cost of a new house was nearly $11,000 — just $87 a month for renters. Gasoline was 23 cents a gallon, and seven out of 10 families now owned a car. The average wage was about $80 a week. The first McDonald’s restaurant opened and so did Disneyland. Rosa Parks, an African-American bus passenger, was arrested after refusing to give up her seat to a white passenger in Montgomery, Ala. 

In New York City and the New Jersey suburbs, a quirky German subcompact sold in America for only seven years was inspiring a group of enthusiasts to form a club aimed at connecting other enthusiasts from around the country. 

The year, 1955. The car, Volkswagen. The publication they used to spread the word: The VW Autoist.

More than six decades later, the publication that pledged to help members enjoy their VW (and later Audi) to the fullest has reached its 500th edition.   

As originally named, the VW Auto Club of U.S. produced its first Autoist issue in February 1955, a single, shiny 

9 x 12-inch sheet folded sideways, in effect a neat four-page issue. The editor was also the club’s founder, Sterling Parks Jr., a lawyer who worked for a real estate title insurance company. The Autoist described its mission as “An independent national membership society interested in the air-cooled Volkswagen, product of Western Germany.” It listed a post office box in the Bronx’s Fordham Station.

With the growing German automaker originally setting up its U.S. headquarters in New York City (later moving to Englewood Cliffs, N.J., just across the Hudson River), club organizers recognized a conduit to other VW owners.  

As the Autoist would later report: “On a chilly February evening in 1955, seven Volkswagen owners and enthusiasts gathered around a table. Out of that modest beginning came one of the biggest and fastest-growing clubs in the world—the Volkswagen Club of America. 

“The seven men came from all walks of life; they included a stone-mason, a lawyer, an engineer, a college student, a magazine writer, an automobile mechanic and an airport dispatcher. But they had one thing in common: a desire to form a club of VW owners which would make it possible for them to exchange information and tips, and share their enthusiasm for the world’s greatest automobile.”  

Autoist No. 1 reported: “We promised a certain dealer that we would form a club, and he promised to promote recruiting. Other dealers have since promised to promote recruiting. We outlined our plan for the club to the principal representative in the U.S. of Volkswagenwerk at their U.S. offices, 720 Fifth Ave., New York. We also discussed the proposed VW Auto Club of U.S. with Victor Elmaleh of World Wide Automobiles Corp., VW distributors (importers) for New York and certain other states, at their offices.” 

Bicycle shops sold early VWs

In 1954, Elmaleh, a Moroccan-born U.S. citizen and real estate developer, was among the first to import Volkswagens, a tough sell because the cars were an outlier among America’s automotive behemoths and produced in a country America was at war with just a decade earlier. The New York Times reported in Elmaleh’s obituary in 2014 that he enlisted bicycle shops and used-car lots to sell the cars, to make up for the reluctance of established dealers. 

There’s a lot more to this tale and you’ll be fascinated by the twists and turns ahead – for both the Autoist and the Club itself. Click here for the rest of the story.


  • JOHN EBERLE:  An early member’s passion for printing and production helped keep the Autoist in ink.
  • MAMA RALLY: The annual Midwest Automotive Media Association conducts its fall rally in Joliet, Ill.
  • GOING TO SCHOOL: GTI Motorsports helps drivers improve their road skills in sessions at GingerMan Raceway.


  • Frontdriver – Richard G. Van Treuren
  • Small Talk - VW and Audi news - quickly
  • Retro Autoist - From the archives
  • Parting Shot - Photo feature
  • Local Volks Scene - A snapshot of local chapter activities
  • VW Toon-ups - Cartoon feature by Tom Janiszewski




Autoist Archive

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