The old Volks’ home

Beetle drive:  From the left,  Andrew Bamforth, Kelly and Jed Thirlwall and Becky Gill with their vehicles ' they are all members of the Sheffield Volkswagen Owners Club, celebrating 55 years.    Picture: Roger Nadal
Beetle drive: From the left, Andrew Bamforth, Kelly and Jed Thirlwall and Becky Gill with their vehicles ' they are all members of the Sheffield Volkswagen Owners Club, celebrating 55 years. Picture: Roger Nadal
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THEY are somewhat unreliable, can’t travel at more than 50 mph, and are prone to catching fire as you drive.

“A car behind me was flashing me like crazy once,” says Andrew Bamforth. “I didn’t know what he was doing – then I realised I had flames coming from the back.”

They were also the favoured car of Hitler’s Nazi Party.

But – a word of warning – when discussing old-school Campers and Beetles with the Sheffield Volkswagen Owners Club, best not to focus on the negatives.

“Our daughter Emily is three but I dread the thought of her coming home one day and saying she wants a Vauxhall Corsa,” says Nikki, wife of Andrew.

Pause.

“I’m joking.”

Shudder.

“She wouldn’t do that, anyway.”

Nervous laugh.

Welcome to the weird and wonderful world of what its 150 members reckon is the oldest club of its kind in the UK and which this summer celebrates a landmark – the 10th anniversary of its annual festival.

“It’s a northern Glastonbury for Volkswagen drivers,” says teacher Nikki.

The club was founded in the 1950s but this year’s extravaganza will be the biggest in its history with more than 500 Volks from across the country set to descend on Hooton Lodge, Rotherham, for a weekend of live music, camping and admiring each other’s motors.

“Why do we do it?” ponders 35-year-old contracts manager and member Ged Thirlwall (two Volks - a 1969 Camper and a Golf), of East Bawtry Road, Rotherham. “Because they’re such gorgeous vehicles.

“The older ones, like Beetles, have such a friendly look, they’re impossible not to love. And they take you back to a more relaxed, less stressful way of life. In my day job, I’ll spend half my time bombing about but when you get in your Camper the top speed is 50 mph. It forces you to unwind and chill out.”

“If you’re in a car park in a Camper,” adds 36-year-old IT manager Andrew, (seven Volks – three Beetles, two Campers and two Golfs), “and you see someone else in one, you’ll always have a chat. It’s just a shared thing that brings you together.

“And sometimes you’ll be in a service station and someone will come up and say ‘I use to have a beauty like that’, and they’ll ask if they can get behind the wheel. It’s strange but it happens – they have that effect on people.”

Not that the club is all about the older Campers and Beetles.

Drivers who own more modern Volkswagens are welcome to join - “but we find most of the members are into the vehicles from the 1960s and 1970s,” adds Andrew, of Marsh Lane, near Eckington.

And it is those older models you might see on summer convoys.

Like Mods on scooters, the SVWOC organise regular outings where, travelling in procession, they take their cars and vans to the seaside.

“That’s my idea of Heaven,” says teacher Nikki. “Waking up, sea breeze coming in through the door, the kettle within arms reach, your mates parked up besides you and the whole day ahead.”

For now, the club is preparing for that 10th anniversary show, dubbed My Big Fat Dub Odyssey, which will take place Saturday, July 30, and Sunday, July 31.

“The festival is relatively new,” explains Andrew. “We started it because we were travelling to shows and we thought we could make a better job of our own.”

And he promises that, yes, though their age may have made the older models a tad unreliable, a little slow and even susceptible to the odd blaze, when there’s 500 of them lined up and sparkling in a field it is an incredible sight.

There’s surely no chance young Emily could favour a Vauxhall Corsa over that.

Tickets are £5 for the weekend. Visit www.svwoc.co.uk