Adopted by Neighbors a VW Camper Spreads Happiness NYTimes com — Volkswagen Campmobile

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Volkswagen Campmobile

Adopted by Neighbors, a VW Camper Happiness


The young then 13, explained that be doing yard work in for the nonrunning vehicle. Well of her son’s infatuation with derelict VW, Ms. Fowks walked him to the house, a block away, to

The camper had been parked the same tree since her husband, Tom Brady; and Ian moved the neighborhood in 1991. At the time, Ms. didn’t know anything the camper’s owner, James who had died that year at 78.

obscured by a curtain of trees, the on East Ridgewood Avenue was a mystery.

“It looked dilapidated,” she “We thought it might be abandoned. called it the ‘tree house’ it was built around the trees on the

She would learn that who had designed the home, was a pioneer and a in the modern American landscape movement. The house, which he in 1953, exemplified his hallmark of structures with the natural A renovation in 1969 added a garden and a zendo for meditation.

an avid traveler, bought his at a northern New Jersey VW dealership in and drove it to Mexico that A turista sticker remains on a side window.

Known formally as the Campmobile, the was a factory-contracted conversion of the Type 2 popularly known in the United as the microbus or just bus. a German company, performed the More a mobile campsite a mini R.V. the outfitted van has for up to four, a sink with a for running water and a 120-volt for campgrounds.

Through the mid-1980s, drove his camper to schools the country, lecturing on landscape Several visits took him to the of Massachusetts, Amherst, to address of Dean Cardasis. Mr. Cardasis, who is now the program director at Rutgers in New Brunswick, N.J. recalled in the camper.

“Rose loved to but he was very frugal,” Mr. Cardasis, book about the architect be published next year, in a telephone interview. “He didn’t buy it as who liked to camp, but as a practical for his travels.”

Before Rose Mr. Cardasis and others helped to the James Rose Center for Architectural Research and Design to the Ridgewood home. The property was improved, and it opened for tours and to educational programs.

The camper, however, sat unused and for the next decade. By the time Ms. son developed his fixation, it looked sitting on four flat Rust spots had broken out its body, and seedlings were in the drip rails that the van’s roof.

“I had seen it growing up,” Ian Brady, who is now 24, “There was something about it parked there for so long. I my mom was wondering about it as well.”

the barter deal was struck, Ms. had asked about buying the VW, an that didn’t seem as camping had long been a of her life. Mr. Cardasis told her the camper was not for sale; she felt it too much work anyway.

“I my son, ‘It’s a wreck. The man want to sell it, and you’re 12,’ ” she said.

Refusing to “no” for an answer, the boy hounded Mr. to sell the camper whenever he saw him at the house.

“He so impressed me with his passion for van,” Mr. Cardasis, who became the director, said. “From the I had a sense that there to be a way for him to get it. So we made the deal for him to work in for it.”

The agreement called for the boy to an hour a day after school leaves and cleaning the fountains on the among other tasks. The would be his at the end of the school year.

completing his day’s tasks, Ian clean the camper.

“He spent with Windex and mildew and used steel wool for the spots,” Ms. Fowks said. “It was You could barely see the plaid on the driver’s seat.”

When Ian had his obligation, the camper, which he Earl, was towed to his house. A shop got the engine running, but it extensive work at a VW specialist, Works in Englewood, N.J. to the van roadworthy.

At the first opportunity, Ms. took Ian and his sister, Jesse, now a in college, camping.

With magnets covering the rust they hit the road. “Compared to a it was a luxury,” Ms. Fowks said.

The original engine gave out in and was replaced. In 2009, Ms. Fowks had the repaired and repainted for what she a bargain price. Her bills for the camper eventually tallied she now considers it a family treasure.

The color, called Marino appears to be the same shade for school buses. Ms. Fowks know. A 1975 graduate of School of Design in Manhattan, she drove a school bus before a 30-year career in fashion and in New York. Today, she teaches and design at Westwood Regional School, and the camper sometimes as a prop for student projects.

The camping equipment remains The pop-top roof is a highlight, stand-up room and a fold-down bed. The back seat into the somewhat narrower bed. A mosquito screen was so the rear hatch could be open.

Volkswagen Campmobile

There’s a built-in ice but this van was not equipped with the refrigerator and propane cooktop of the model. Ms. Fowks uses a stove and a hot plate when A wood-grain table installs in of the rear bench seat, and the passenger seat swivels 180 to face it.

The van has no air-conditioning, and the heater, typically in the old air-cooled VW engines, is barely because ducts are missing the engine compartment. Ms. Fowks she uses the camper only in weather.

A short ride the van’s relaxed manner. The 4-cylinder engine, with 67 horsepower, labors to push it to 40 but settles into the familiar VW once cruising. The ride is comfortable, with some over bumps.

A petite and fit Ms. Fowks wrestles with the steering, and it’s a long to shift the 4-speed manual “There’s a trick to getting it fourth,” she said, twirling the shift lever until the slot.

“Even though a lot of work to drive, it’s an stress reliever for me,” she “There are no gadgets, not even a You’re just watching the looking out the windshield.”

The owner’s lists a top speed of 75 m.p.h. but Ms. and her son agreed that for the sake of the comfortable limit was considerably

“You really can’t go 50 or 60 miles an hour,” Mr. Brady “It’s a project to drive distance.”

In August, Ms. Fowks and her Lauren Fowks, who lives in took the camper to the Great Campground in Newton, N.J.

“We put Christmas lights around it, and always the only VW camper she said. “At stop signs, flash the peace sign. the happiest car on the road.”

Location N.J.

Occupation Teacher Fowks); home

theater (Ian Brady)

Vehicle Volkswagen Campmobile


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