Lee Hedges has led the T34 scene for the past 33 years in support of T34 owners around the world. His story is an interesting one. Check it out.
Which Vintage VWs Have You Owned Prior to your First T34?
As a teenager I learned to drive on our family's 1972 Westfalia Camper. After college I owned three Beetles in the mid-80's. I loved the vintage VW scene in Southern California and drove my 1963 Beetle Cabriolet daily. As a 23 year old with a young daughter and a $4/hour job I was not able to afford an expensive car.
What Made You Want to Own a T34?
I remember reading a Hot VWs article in July 1986 featuring Chip Wimer's Pacific Blue & White 1964 Coupe and being instantly attracted to the great body lines, stylish interior, and rarity. I began looking for an old VW that was more unique than my Beetle and checked the AutoTrader magazine ads every Tuesday morning. I found Notchbacks & knew they were rare but then I saw a T34 listed locally and knew I had to have it. I sold the Cabriolet for $2900 and bought my first T34 a couple days later.
Tell Us About Your First T34:
The owner was going through a divorce and was selling-off his VW collection including a Single Cab, Notchback, and the T34. I paid $1500 for it in daily-driver condition in 1987. #0 410 404 was a Sea Blue with a White roof (repainted) 1964 Coupe with 12V electrical system & stock 1500cc dual-carb engine. I learned later it had been involved in an accident and the owner was unable to find the headlights so he had Type 3 headlight rings fitted which looked strange, but I really didn't know any better at the time. I drove it for six years, learned about T34s, and really loved the new experience.
How Did You Get Involved With the T34 Club Scene?
In 1987 a small group of T34 owners that had just started their group a year before and they called it the Type III Ghia Enthusiasts Network, run by Chip Wimer. I volunteered to publish a newsletter for them as I worked in Electronic Publishing at Xerox in San Diego. A year later Chip sold his T34 and I took over leadership of the group. I created an Excel spreadsheet to track the owners and started collecting chassis numbers, as this was the best way to confirm the T34. I researched the T34, collecting articles, road tests, brochures, and books. Americans called it the Type III Ghia, the English called the it the Razor, and the Germans called it der Grosse Ghia. The Karmann factory's official name was the Type 34.
So in 1988 I renamed the group the VW Type 34 Karmann Ghia Registry. I reproduced the T34 Parts List book and began meeting other club organizers in England, Germany, and Canada. I wrote many letters, as this was before the internet. I decided the best way to grow the organization was to have a group of dedicated owners in as many different countries as possible, thus the International Rep network was developed. This led to a huge increase in new T34s being registered. Some of my best friends are those I met in those early years of 1987-90. I published a monthly (then quarterly) magazine called the Razor's Edge packed with stories, resto tips, parts sources, and a big classified ads section for T34s & parts.
In 2004 I founded the Pure T34 group for owners that were interested in stock restorations. Others took over the reins of the T34 Registry but after a few years of inactivity I decided to form a worldwide organization for all owners. In 2011 I founded the T34 World group. I began publishing a 34-page color PDF magazine called T34 World News, built a complete web site, and created a web discussion group. Later when Facebook became more useful the T34 World FB group was formed.
What T34s Have You Owned?
My second T34 was a White 1964 Coupe #0 410 467 that was coincidentally built the day after my first one. A surfer in Ocean Beach CA begged me to buy it for $700 so he could make his rent payment. It was originally owned by a member of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. I had it painted Black so the kids called it "Blackie" and it was my daily driver for seven years. It was sold to a Texas guy to raise a down-payment for our first home.
My third T34 was a Sea Blue 1962 Coupe #0 058 894 that had lost its storage space and was unfinished. In 1991 I traded it for a 1965 T14 KG Coupe I had. After 5 years of resto work it was sold to a Texas owner.
My fourth T34 was "Old Man", a Ruby Red 1962 Coupe #0 007 300 that was discovered in Reno Nevada USA. I paid $800 delivered and it was in poor condition but at the time it was the world's oldest T34, built 07 December 1961. After four years of finding the early parts we gave it away to a Baja California friend who promised to restore it (which he did).
My fifth T34 was a beautiful unrestored 88K-mile Sea Blue & White 1965 Coupe #345 167 134 purchased from Roger Bourke in 1998 for $5850. It was featured in VW Trends (1999) & Vochomania (2000) and was an incredibly well-preserved T34. Unfortunately it was destroyed in a 70mph roll-over freeway crash in August 2000 but it gave its life to save mine.
#0 001 776 "Ruby"
#0 001 200 "Ami"
You Have Two of the Oldest T34s Now, Tell Us About These
In 1999 I found an extremely early 1962 #0 001 776 in the high desert of Los Angeles California. It had been parked in 1972 but was complete. Built on 14 Nov 1961 made it the sixth oldest T34 & the 37th T34 built. I'd always dreamed of driving a T34 Cabriolet so I decided to build one based on the 1961 Frankfurt Auto Show prototype. I had the roof removed & the chassis reinforced to support the open body. It took a year to complete the restoration. Twenty years later I was fortunate to have Pedro Sainz create an authentic interior for it in 2020. Her name is Ruby and she's been my mistress & favorite T34 I've owned. She's an ambassador for the T34 marque, introducing VW enthusiasts to the beauty of the T34 design.
In 2016 I bought another extremely early 1962 Coupe #0 001 200, the world's oldest known T34. It is the 11th T34 built and was likely built on 06 Nov 1961. First discovered in Arizona in 2007 by Tim Miller, I worked with him for almost a decade to find parts until he gave up & offered it to me to restore. The 45hp 1500cc 6V engine was rebuilt by Ron Smith in 2019. After four years of collecting parts, the bodywork phase began in 2020, restored in Sea Blue & Blue-White by Francisco. Pedro Sainz created the blue cloth & Ice Blue interior.
Tell Us About One of the Rarest T34s, Your RHD Electric Sunroof
There are only 18 RHD Electric Sunroof model 346 cars known. I'd always wanted to own one and in 2002 I found a 1965 in England. It took me two years to convince the owner to sell it to me but with Andy Holmes' help I was finally successful. It cost me $6400 and took a couple months to ship from England to Southern California. This 1965 is the second oldest Electric Sunroof existing today. It was originally sold to South Africa and lived there through 1999.
It has taken a long time to get it completed due to various issues, a divorce, & relocations. The body was restored in 2005-09 by Chemo Ordaz. The engine was restored in 2018 & chassis in 2019. The body was painted Cherry Red with a Black roof. Interior will be Parchment.