Redding Area Volkswagen Association
By Jon Lewis
Story by Jon Lewis
Photos by Folk & Pine
WHEN EVERYBODY in the club drives a Volkswagen, the conversation topics at meetings rarely stray too far from VWs. That’s not an issue for Brad Solso, a past president of the Redding Area Volkswagen Association.
“It’s just the cruising, the get-togethers … everybody’s on the same page. They talk about what they like about their car and they help you find parts. We’re always willing to help each other,” Solso says of the camaraderie among RAVA members.
Like a lot of VW fans, a love of the iconic little cars is practically an inherited trait. “Growing up, my dad always had bugs and buses and we were always switching motors. I grew up around them and always liked them,” Solso says. “The ease of being able to work on them is really appealing.”
Karen Lawrence, a retired teacher and another past president of RAVA, is a fan of being able to work on Volkswagens. She did the bulk of the restoration work on her ’72 Karmann Ghia convertible—windshield liners, door panels, visors, a new top—and then received some fun feedback.
“I was at Gene’s (the late and lamented hamburger joint on South Market that was a gathering spot for car nuts) and I saw a sign for a Volkswagen show-and-shine, so I took it down there and I won best of show,” Lawrence recalls.
Gene’s owner Mike Nash, who served as judge, took a fancy to that lipstick-red Karmann Ghia. “Of course, that just put me over the moon,” she says. “I was hooked.”
Lawrence promptly joined RAVA, served as president for five years and has been the club treasurer for the past six years. Her little ragtop has picked up awards at other shows, including the prestigious Bugorama in Sacramento, but these days Lawrence says it’s just along for the ride. “I don’t enter my car to win anything. I just go for the camaraderie. The people are great. It’s a lot of fun.”
Wayne Wilcox, the current RAVA president, also was introduced to the club through a show-and-shine four years ago. Wilcox, who drives a ’69 Baja bug and has a ’61 bug on standby, also cites the friendships as the club’s biggest draw.
Wilcox and his wife, Tracy, also like the philanthropic side of the club members. Proceeds from club fundraisers, including money raised by staffing a Coca-Cola concession booth at Kool April Nites, goes toward holiday food baskets for needy families affiliated with Juniper School.
“We get a kick out of that. We just kind of have fun, do our little run and try and give back to the community,” Wilcox says.
While the concession booth at Kool April Nites is the club’s biggest fundraiser, its signature event is the show-and-shine on the following Saturday. This year’s event will be held at 10 am Saturday, May 4, in the Big Lots parking lot on Hilltop Drive. VWs of every size and shape are expected, including owners who make the trek from the San Francisco Bay Area and Chico.
RAVA, which was established 25 years ago and has about two dozen active members, meets on the first Thursday of the month at Upper Crust Pizza. “Anybody’s welcome—you don’t even have to have a VW to be in the club. Once a VW lover, always a VW lover. It just is what it is,” says Lawrence.
Lawrence’s love affair started in high school when she bought a beat-up 1957 Karmann Ghia for $400. She sold it to a friend, confidently telling him that she’d get another one in due time.
“Little did I know they’d stop making them,” she says with a laugh. Her favorite memory of that car was the fuel tank reserve lever that, when turned to the right, accessed an extra gallon of gas or usually enough to make it to a gas station.
“I was at The Forum in Inglewood at a concert and I ran out of gas. I turned that lever and sure enough, I had a gallon left and it got me to the gas station,” Lawrence recalls. “It’s just a marvelous car in my opinion.”
The ’57 was followed by a 1967 square back station wagon, which was followed by a much-loved 1970 microbus, and finally a late-‘60s Beetle. After that, she took a break, “and when I turned 50, I found my Karmann Ghia in Alturas and proceeded to restore it.”
Lawrence’s Karmann Ghia and the bulk of the other RAVA members’ cars will be proudly on display during the Kool April Nites Friday night cruise from 6:30 to 8 pm on April 26. •
RAVA show-and-shine: 10 am May 4
Big Lots parking lot