The family tale of a cherished 1967 VW bus

August 4, 2010 

Many people in our town and certainly all of the Yosemite High School students and staff are familiar with the 1967 red and beige VW bus that cruises around town, but not many know the story behind YHS graduate Detri Dunn's classic vehicle.

The bus actually belongs to the entire Dunn family and was first purchased by Detri's older brother, Jason, in 1988. The faded white, rusted bus was pretty ugly, but it ran pretty well.

Jason tuned it up and decided to take a summer tour of the United States with a couple of his friends. Jason reports that several times he had to fix something with a spool of wire and duct tape but a few thousand miles later the trio returned home with some wonderful experiences seeing many beautiful places around the country, sleeping in the bus and picking up hitchhikers who all seemed to have their own VW story.

Throughout their tour the trio met many baby boomer ex-VW owners, all with fond memories of their buses' tie-dyed curtains and wishing they had never sold them. Numerous offers were made to purchase Jason's bus but letting it go was never a consideration for this son of a '60s hippie.

Soon after the journey, Jason Dunn received a scholarship to attend the University of Minnesota so off he went in his VW bus from Southern California to Minneapolis.

He didn't get very far, matter of fact only as far as Bakersfield, when his motor blew up, ending his land trip. The ugly, rusted white bus was towed and parked in a dirt overgrown field belonging to a friend while Jason continued his trip to Minnesota by air.

The bus was forgotten for the next few years as it continued to rust in a friend's field with no one to invest the time and energy to give repair it.

At a big family Thanksgiving dinner attended by Jan Dunn's 14-year-old nephew Timmy -- Detri's cousin -- the subject of cars was discussed. Timmy was looking for an old car to fix up and drive. Jan mentioned the almost forgotten rusted '67 VW bus that was still sitting in the overgrown field.

Timmy's eyes grew large with anticipation; he was told he could have the bus if he'd travel to Cucamonga and haul it back to his house in Long Beach.

Timmy jumped at the opportunity and was soon working daily at restoring the bus -- but what could a 14-year-old do? Well, Timmy mowed lawns and took side jobs for two years to fix up the bus. By the time he was 16, he had something beautiful to drive.

Timmy's parents said he seemed to live at the VW parts store on the weekends. He replaced the engine, worked on the brakes, sanded the body, removed all the rust and returned the bus to its original colors. Timmy called it his, "babe magnet."

Timmy drove the bus for four years, graduated from high school and moved to Flagstaff, Ariz. to attend college.

How did the bus get to Oakhurst, you ask. Four years ago Detri received a phone call from his cousin Timmy asking him if he wanted the bus back so that it could be kept in the family. Detri accepted the gift with great eagerness and soon the bus was hauled from Long Beach to its new home in Oakhurst.

Detri signed up for auto mechanics with Mike Monahan at Yosemite High School in order to keep the bus running even though numerous high school students have had the honor of pushing the VW when it broke down along the side of the road. Detri says that Economics/Government teacher Phil Branstetter often tried to persuade Detri to give up the VW, but was never successful.

The head lights never did work so Detri had to be home by dark, a predicament that his parents never saw as bad. Speeding, again to the delight of his parents, was pretty much impossible in the 43-year-old VW.

Now Detri has graduated from high school and accepted a scholarship at Azusa Pacific University to run track. Detri recently called his brother Jason -- the original owner -- and asked him if he wanted the bus again. Jason's heart skipped a beat at the thought of having the bus around again and teaching his young children how to repair VWs and eventually learn to drive it.

So at the end of July, the bus once again found itself atop a large transport truck being hauled away. This time cross country to Minnesota where Detri's older brother Jason will once again be able to give the old classic the loving care it eserves.

"I wonder if some day my children will drive it?" Detri mentioned.

If the Dunns have anything to say about it, who knows, maybe it will be seen back on the streets of Oakhurst in 20 years or so.

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