VW Action 1986

Back in the days before there were digital cameras, before there were VW shows every other weekend in the UK and when VW Motoring was the only Volkswagen Magazine on the newsagent’s shelves, there was VW Action, Europe’s biggest Volkswagen show.

Held at the National Agricultural Centre in Stoneleigh, Warwickshire, the huge two-day show attracted visitors from all over Europe – there was nothing else quite like it.

I Β bought my first beetle, a customised yellow 1303, just after leaving art college in 1984 and 1986 was my second visit to VW Action. This was to be the year when everything VW Beetle changed in the UK – The first year that there was a separate Cal Look class in the concourse – along with the usual custom class full of the VWs with Carlos Fandango super wide wheels, multiple headlights and wild custom metal-flake paint jobs!

Despite the presence of some well known magazine featured UK built Cal look cars at the show, it was the owner of this pink beetle from France who drove home with the prize for ‘Best Cal Look’.

These are digital scans from my photos which where shot on Kodachrome 25 slide film (RIP) with my trusty Minolta X300 35mm SLR.



    • Malc

      Nice pictures! I don’t suppose you have any old pictures from Bug-in at the three counties showground, Malvern in the late 80s? (87-88)
      I’m trying to find a picture of my cream ’65 bug which was lowered two notches – pretty radical for back then! πŸ™‚

      • Boo

        I’ve just had a search in my Flickr, and the only Bug-In one seems to be this.. Sure I should have more somewhere to scan.
        Bug-In GB @ Malvern late '80s.

    • Brian Potts

      Great pics. We have an album full of photos from that event.. No pics quite as nice as that shot of the French looker. What a car that was.

      I was 13 at the time.. Feeling very lucky to be introduced to vdubs at that age and time.

  1. Dazzle Rebel

    Great pics! I love seeing the old motors (including those in the background) brings back fond memories of growing up in 80s Britain. That Beefeater steakhouses sign, brilliant!

  2. Mikalee Byerman

    Wow — my daughter LOVES Beetles, and she loves-loves-LOVES the color pink. She would just about die to own a pink Beetle!

    Why don’t they make cars that color any more? πŸ˜‰

    • japenet

      you can have any colour you like -IF you have a Bug

      if you dont-get one!

      In Ireland most people drive bland silver,grey or black Euroboxes-yaaaaaaaawnnnnnnnnnnn

  3. Brian

    Great photos – I have a 1970 import (Germany to the US) – it’s laid up for a while awaiting brake work, but I love that old car πŸ™‚

  4. Deon

    Great blog, not the biggest fan of the pink bug..Interesting style in the 80s very cal look. Vintage like ours i like, even a bit of the old rat..

  5. Bam

    I remember my dad buying his first VW Beetle in 1969. My brothers and I were quite small still but even still we would push my youngest brother into the little space up against the back window. Getting in it wasn’t the problem tho, it was getting him out once he fell asleep in it. My dad eventually sold it to my cousin’s wife, who took mechanic classes just so she could serve the car herself, which I think she kept for over 10 years. My husband’s family has always had VW buses and we are looking to get us a blue, hopefully in good condition.

  6. siopaotonicsnaps

    I really love Volkswagen Beetles. I also have a 1975 Violet Beetle that hopefully I can restore and customize someday. πŸ™‚

  7. indigofletcher

    I love all these retro vw bugs!! Haha so funky…looks like all of them are in great condition too! That first red one I would totally drive if I had a license and a few extra thousand bucks laying around!

  8. pezcita

    Gorgious little gem! It looks like a piece of Easter candy. Just as a side note though, the VW that won Disney’s Beautify your Bug contest in ’69 was lemmon yellow like yours.

  9. Missey Twisted

    Awesome! Thanks for sharing! My husband and I have attended a few car shows here in America, such as Waterfest and H20, plus a few smaller shows when we lived on the West coast. The husband has made it over to a couple of shows in England or Austria and says the U.S. cars don’t compete πŸ™‚
    I wanted pink Bug I saw for sale a few years ago, but the hubby said no, finances were an issue and he didn’t like the model.

  10. theprototypeblog

    Bugs are great. My very first car was an Undrivable ’65 Beetle. I now own a very early, Sep. 1970 manufacturing date, ’71 Super Beetle and a 1974 Standard Beetle. My Neighbors kid thought he wanted to buy my ’74, untill i told his Mother he could have it for $15,000 cash. She about had a crap in her pant’s right in my driveway. I then told her, They don’t build the Beetle anymore so it’s now passed into the realm of being a collectors car. Her kid has settled on “something” Japanese. Here in Arizona, USA, we have alot of Baja Bugs running around the streets. Ferdinand Porsche was Brilliant.

  11. John J. Rigo, Texas' Poet

    Seeing the pink color took me off the subject. It reminded me of Mary Kay and her husband Mel Ash, who was one of my regular customers when I was in the car selling business for about 14 years of my selling career. Both Mel and Mary were two great human beings. I think about both of them often, and the love and respect they rendered me as a young man struggling in commission sales in the car business, attempting to raise three step children in a former marriage, that no one else wanted.

  12. mythineats

    This is awesome, growing up my dad had one and I loved it. Of course, he sold it eventually because we all couldn’t fit in there anymore. What a classic car.

  13. Pingback: VW Action 1986 | Bandwagen « Kenari Biru
  14. Val

    My first car was a lovely yellow import Beetle. Had to get rid of it when we had children… I was afraid they might fall through the holes in the floor!

  15. Pranab

    Reblogged this on Scepticemia and commented:
    Got the Beetle fever? Well, I do. Hence, this post on today’s list of Freshly Pressed caught my attention. Beautiful images of an iconic car that has been ruined in its new avatar. Go check out the pics. I fell in love all over again, and so will you!

  16. blackshepherd

    I’ll take a minute to tell you my VW story…one atleast…cause it’s a good one. I bought a bug one year when I was undergrad…it looked perfect and the price was $900…seemed more than fair and it has a Blaupunct sp? stereo…SOLD!!! I was so happy I was zipping along Storrow Drive at 70-80 laying into the curves in my “poor man’s porsche” and when I got home I was turing into my parking spot when the steering column literally separated!!! That’s right…the steering wheel was no longer connected to the wheels i any way…unless I took refuge into delusional thinking…but I was not that skilled….yet. I reflected on how incredibly lucky I was that this had not happened 15 minutes earlier while I was doing 80!!! Somehow I located a guy who does welding and when he put the car up on the lift I could see that the entire floor pan (integral to the structure) was…had been…hanging from the sterring column!!! The floor pan was that rusted out and the Felonious people that sold it to me had very carefully used pastes and other camoflage to make the car appear almost perfect…cause I did look underneath but did not do the knuckles on the bottom test being the wishful thinker that I am…I decided to think that I was getting one of the best deals ever…and I could not wait to cruise around with my stereo on full blast. So, then I found an old guy in Somerville MA who said he could weld in an entire hand crafted stainless steel floor pan for $600…I said: “do it” He said: “give me 3 weeks”…3months and 64 phone calls later the car was ready and had done a magnificnet job. A brand new stainless steel bottom!!! I spent the next couple of years scooting all over creation in my pine green bug. Then, one day, I was comig out of school having just done the last little beaurocratic thing I needed to do to assure that my financial aid would be continued the next semester (fall) and as I approached my bug I smelled gas and checked and saw that it was leaking a bit from a rubber rather than woven fuel line (I did possess and devoured the grand tome “The Manuel Of Step By Step Procedures FOr The COmplete Idiot” and was able to adjust my own valves and everything in like 10 minutes…once you get the knack of it) Anyway, I decided that this leak posed little imminent risk, got in, cranked up the Beatles White ALbum (I think Birthday was on it?) and was cruising norht on the southeast expressway just entering the tunnel entrance (1986ish) with “Birthday” blasting at 120 decibels atleast when I noticed the man in the car to my right gesturing to me. First I thought he was swearing at me so I was preparing to retaliate when I finally got what he was screaming at me: “YOUR ENGINE IS ON FIRE!!!” Just when I thought he must be kidding and wondering if I should sideswipe him (I was a cabdriver all through school) my engine died and I knew that he may have been on to something. So I stopped, got out in the middle of the tunnel at 3pm on Friday and this was well before the Big Dig while everyone going through Boston took their turns trying to maim me without killing me. SO when I got to the back of the car it was quite evident that if my engine had been a turkey it would have been a little crispy so all I could do was step back 100 feet and watch the show as every single scrap of that car and everything in it went up in flames. Finally the plate fell off so casually sauntered over like any other spectator and picked it up…being the good samaritan that I can be and walked slowly away while the entire tunnel…both sides was filled with black acrid dense smoke cause every molecule of the tires had resumed their relationships with the gaseous elements…..causing both sides of the tunnel to come to a complete and very impatient halt. There was no way for fire equipment to get in so it wasn’t over till it was over but I was out of there before it was. Then I got a mysterious ticket in the mail for $350 …apparently they were better at tracking cars without license plates than I gave them credit for….the money was to replace the tiles on the wall of the tunnel which has fallen off and for sand. I paid it cause I was glad to not being on my way to prison and then began the grieving process which ended abruptly when my Angel guide at the time told me to check out CraigsList which I did and there! THERE!!! she was: lime green Super Beetle 1975…with the rounded windshield….1600cc engine!!! This was the real deal as far as Bugs go….the “real” poor man’s Porsche…only $800 and low mileage and it was in perfect shape….SOLD!!! needless to say…I just barely had enough to buy but knew I must and that I would survive the summer better broke with this car than without it and $800 burning a hole in my pocket…an investment…like a house. THEN! as if things couldn’t get any dreamier…I was browsing in one of the junkyards in Cambridge when I spied on top of two other cars….a car I’d never seen in person before a “BAHA BUG” it was a mess and ready to be crushed but I climbed up and looked inside and couldn’t believe what saw…no, not fairies or hoboes…. black courdoroy bucket seats in perfect conditon…not a single cigarette burn hole…with headrests! AND black door panels and black carpeting…all perfect…I was able to contain and disguise my mania by banging my head on the ground when I fell off the pile which allowed me to ask the owner , in a manner which revealed only vague bewilderment, how much the interior alone might cost…he said: $35!!! I hate to be crude but I almost shit my pants! SOLD!!! I got my wrenches and had the whole thing disassembled in under one hour and reinstalled into my Super Beetle lickedy split….there was some time involved but that was spent in a Zen Love Trance like only a car and series of events like this could inspire. It was then that I really “got” the whole “Poor Man’s Porsche” thing cause I also had brand new Michelin radials on it and an even better than the last Bug’s stereo that I put in myself with removable Bensi BOx…killer panasonic stereo…4 speakers…my ears are still ringing…I think. Anyway…by the way…this car had the crankable sunroof!!! I was in heaven sitting in my parking spot listening to music wishing I had money for gas…but that came eventually…and one of the great car/driver love relationships ever was born…until I got my first M3…I feel so guilty about that now….there;s a cute story for another time about who got the car after me and how…
    Anyway….yours pictured here is a real beauty and I can see that you feel the same about yours as I did mine….

  17. Pingback: Blog reference « Mr Jones & Me
  18. Christine Smith-Johnson

    I love it! My first car was a red one. You couldn’t make that car undriveable! It endured anything and I could drive forever on five dollars.

    My friends all wanted me to pick them up from school because I drove the fun car. They loved sliding across the back seat when I turned a corner.

    ….And my horn went off every time I turned left. They got a lot of laughs out of that. Of course, it never got stuck unless I was alone! Crazy car.

    Great post! Thank you for sharing.

  19. shawnandsuzanne

    Being a previous VW owner and lover of them, this blog really resonated with me. A few years ago we were camping in our 71 VW bus and it just so happened that there was a VW camper bus club camping at the same place. Wow, there were some really pimped out buses! It was fun but the people in the club were a bit strange πŸ™‚

  20. Stefan

    Hi, just came across your website and your photos of VW ACTION 1986 just blew me away. I attended this show together with a friend and I met Rudy Mercier and his 2 friends with the “Pink Panther” (name of the car) already in Calais on our way to the UK. We then met again in Stoneleigh and had an awesome time during the show. Still have many photographies from the Action 86 show. Unfortunately we never met again and it would be a blast to hear what they are doing nowadays…
    Best wishes from Germany

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s