Andy Holmes is from Maids Moreton England has been a champion for T34s since the 1980s & is one of the founders of the KG Owner's Club - Great Britain. Read his interview to learn more about this T34 Pioneer.
When did you first learn about T34s?
I first discovered the T34 in 1978 when I was at a large VW air-cooled show, VW Action, at Stanford Agricultural show ground. Theresa and I had gone there in our Beetle with a group of VW friends from a local VW club. Amongst all the cars on show was one single T34, I think a 1968 Gobi Beige one.
Which Vintage VWs Have You Owned Prior to your First T34?
My first car was a Turquoise Green 1961 Beetle Sedan bought in 1974 for £65 from a work colleague. It was in unbelievable condition and lasted me a good number of years. This was followed by an Ontario Blue Metallic 1303S Big Beetle, this time bought from a work colleague of Theresa’s. When the 1961 Sedan started to show signs of needing replacement I started to think of what to replace it with and initially looked at a number of low mileage Oval Window Beetles.
What Made You Want to Own a T34?
Both my Dad and Granddad always had interesting cars. My Grandad, who was a farmer/coal merchant, had a 1932 Dodge in the 1930s which was very unusual then in the UK. Alongside this he had steam ploughing engines, steam lorries and, oh yes, a stagecoach that we all played on as kids and was used in the local town parade. This was followed by various other interesting cars including an Allard and a Ford Pilot V8.
My Dad followed suite and his car I remember and liked the the best was a 1961 Ford Consul Classic. This car was probably the most US style influenced Ford produced in Europe up to that time, but also the least successful in sales terms. It had a sportier sister as well, The Ford Consul Capri which was the focus of a comparison article with the T34 at the time they were both launched.
So, when time came to think of a replacement for our 1961 Beetle I was heading towards the search for a Consul Classic or Capri and then I saw the T34. Wow, the US influenced car styling with the reliable VW mechanics and VW scene, result! Now all I had to do was find one!
What Does Your Wife Think About the T34?
Theresa & I have now been married for 44 years, lots of cars have come and gone during that time. Cars, especially VWs, have always been part of the family; Theresa even learned to drive in an air-cooled Beetle so it’s in her blood as well as mine. We have both loved being part of the VW scene. Theresa started a couple of local VW clubs with me as well as the KGOC(GB). She has also driven our 1965 T34 across to Germany for the 50th celebrations whilst I drove the 1962 T34. The best part is of course all the great people you meet along the way.
Tell Us About the First T34 You Bought
When I decided to search for a T34 back in 1979 the only option was the weekly national car trading magazine, Exchange and Mart. One week I saw an advert for a T34 in Norfolk. Owner said he had two RHD T34s, one in good running order and the other for spares. We lived in a very small property with a small drive way, this is where having an understanding and car loving wife was a real bonus. Agreement was reached so we took a Landrover and trailer to inspect it.
Unsurprisingly, the T34 was not as described. It was a 1965 painted dark blue with a white passenger door with original Bermuda dash. The engine wouldn’t start, the floor had holes and the spare chassis wasn’t much better. No original headlights and some dubious body repairs abounded. So with youthful enthusiasm, I drove the price down and bought the pair. The 5-hour journey home was horrific, as the T34 swung about on the trailer more than a hippie in the sixties. Progress was so slow it took over five hours to get home. No room for two, we left the shell of the other car behind. Life has never been the same since. Whilst I got the engine running, sorted the brakes and some other mechanicals, the body was beyond my skills and the condition was far worse than I expected. As a result I was still driving the good old Beetle 14 months later.
So What Was the First T34 You Actually Drove?
By a stroke of luck, the same person I went to Norfolk with told me about a friend who had restored a RHD 1964 T34. It had been restored for his wife & she had driven the car once and declared she would rather have a Beetle. During the restoration it received a brand new front panel, lights and wings plus a full respray in Black with a White roof. The interior was fantastic in Red with White piping plus red/white interior panels. The only unoriginal element were the bumpers which had been repaired and painted, not rechromed. Best thing was ... it drove fantastic. We struck a deal and I traded our 1961 Beetle plus £250 for the T34 and drove home with a huge smile on my face. There was no escape now.
How Was the T34 Different Than Driving Your 1961 Beetle?
What I remember about that first drive in a T34 was the difference In feel of the car. It was light and airy inside, it was eager to move and the 1500cc had far more power than the 1200cc Beetle. It got lots of attention and comments as well, but not always complimentary! You could actually carry more than one suitcase in the front and it swallowed the weekly shopping with ease when Theresa used it.
The T34 gave good service, other than the electrics which were temperamental, predominately the steering column which had regular grounding issues, sending the horns into spasms, plus poor starting issues. The later was due to a combination of steering column switch issues and a rubbish starter motor. These were attended to as and when they happened. I had a great VW specialist in the town we lived in, Terry Wilson, who had worked at early VW dealerships in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire and also on the island of Jersey before setting up his own business. He taught me how to service VWs and always helped when problems beyond my ability cropped up.
You Own One of the Best Preserved RHD T34s.
Tell Us About that Story.
On Christmas Eve 1981 the 1964 T34 left us stranded on the motorway due to electrical issues. Needing a reliable car for work, its fate was sealed so it was sold. Now to find a replacement I went down to the newsagent to buy the latest copy of Exchange and Mart. After a few months and viewing quite a few rusty or too expensive T34s one turned up in Addiscombe, to the south of London. It was advertised as predominately one-family owned and with a total of 35,000 miles from new. A quick trip to inspect it found the T34 parked on the road and looked a little sad and neglected. However, under the slightly dirty exterior was one very original car. It had some small rust issues in the rocker & bottom of the front valance but nothing serious. It had a great interior, all original parts and came in a fantastic Roulette Green body with Pearl White roof. It drove like no other T34 I had ever driven before and came with a full service history from new and even the dealer warranty card. I drove it home with the biggest smile on my face.
It was my daily driver for many years, being left at the railway station when I commuted into London for work. On summer weekends we took it to shows and also numerous trips to Germany, including Osnabruck, pulling our 4-berth camping trailer. On return from a 1989 trip I noticed quite a leak from one of the pushrod tubes. The engine was pulled and with buddy Pete’s help we stripped it and replaced anything that was worn, plus a few more parts for good luck. Original parts abounded back then and were really cheap. While the engine was out I made the decision to address the rust issues. I stripped the car down and it went to a local VW specialist, Francis Tuthill. No panels required replacing, just small localised repairs and a respray of the Roulette Green paint. When the car returned I rebuilt all the brakes, suspension and steering etc and then started the refit. All original VW rubbers were used plus other NOS parts where needed.
Back on the road the car drove fantastically and attracted a lot of attention where ever it went. It won tons of show awards over the years and appeared in various books on Karmann Ghias and in VW magazines. It was given a well earned retirement from the scene in about 2009 when our November 1961 T34 hit the road for the first time after a lengthy restoration. The car is still driven regularly, loved, and taken to local and national shows and will be staying with us for as long as possible.
In the 1980's You Were Instrumental in a T34 Database in the United Kingdom. Tell Us More About How This Happened.
The KGOC(GB) was founded in 1982 and a high-priority was the creation of the T14 & T34 Registers. This was so we could help members with information and parts to keep their cars on the road. Alan Norwood had been collecting information about T34s for a number of years and shared the details of 20 cars to me. I ran the Register for the early part of the club’s history and later on turned it into an interactive database, capable of tracing a known car from very simple details.