"Heroes of Antique Volkswagening"
 (this page last updated 4/8/2015)

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Quick Navigational Links for this page:
Year 2014 Program Overall Press Release  (last update 5/18/2014)
Year 2014 Program - Photo of the "Heroes" award plaque  (last update 5/18/2014)
Year 2014 Program - Copy of the actual letters of nomination for this year's "Heroes" award honorees  (last update 5/18/2014)
Original "Heroes Of Antique Volkswagening" Program Concept Statement & Current Program Status  (last update 4/8/2015)
"Hall of Fame" - List of previous "Heroes of Antique Volkswagening" honorees  (last update 5/18/2014)
A message to the forces of cynicism and negativity (last update 6/9/2013)

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May 2014

The Common Gear Antique Volkswagen Society is happy to announce this year’s “Heroes of Antique Volkswagening” honorees. We are very pleased to recognize this year two people who, in different ways, are carrying on the spirit of the old, original Volkswagen, each really making a positive difference within the old-VW hobby world.

The “Heroes” award program was originated in 1999 to help recognize those United States-based people within the antique Volkswagen hobby world who have especially given of themselves to help other hobbyists, often with little to no personal gain or attention (we realize that people around the world do great things in our hobby, but this program recognizes people specifically in our United States old-VW hobby). The inaugural recipient in ’99 was talented Michigan-based antique VW restorer Dave Crompton. There were two recipients for Y2K: Pennsylvania’s tireless antique VW hobby advocate Jim Siegfried, and New Hampshire’s intrepid antique VW road warrior Bill Collins. The three 2001 honorees were California’s “world class” enthusiast/author/entrepreneur Rich Kimball, Connecticut’s unsung long-time workhorse event organizer Chuck Pisconski, and Missouri's super-enthusiastic event participant/organizer/”do-er” Bill Bowman. Our two honorees for 2002 were Michigan’s “positive guiding light” Bob Case, and California’s amazing Golden Gate Chapter (VVWCA) head man Rick Spohn. In 2003 we gave a much-deserved spotlight to that long-unsung, low-key, behind-the-scenes “doer,” Nebraska’s Matt Joy. 2004 saw recognition of Wisconsin-based master-restorer of drivable classic VWs Connie Holcomb, and California’s long-time vintage VW hobby enthusiast/organizer/promoter Jan Peters. In 2005 the “Heroes” spotlight shone on MA resident and dedicated vintage VW hobby leader Peter Cook, and Iowa’s “ironman” vintage VW behind-the-scenes-doer-of-all-things Howard Query. In 2006, the “First Family of Air-Cooled VW Performance,” the groundbreaking and truly legendary Berg Family, from California, were most deservedly honored. In 2007, our honorees were Arizona’s “godfather” of VW toy, memorabilia, and goodwill Jerry Jess, and VW restoration parts pioneer Tony Moore of CA’s Wolfsburg West. For 2008, the extraordinary (and extraordinarily loved) couple from California, Erich and Wendy Kircher were recognized for their contributions to the hobby and to humanity. In 2009, the AZ-based internet impresario Everett Barnes of “TheSamba” fame was honored for his significant contributions to advancing the state of the (old VW hobby) art. In 2010, “The Godfather of the Antique VW Hobby,” Terry Shuler from PA was honored with well-deserved “Hero” recognition. In 2011, the CVA’s Jeremy Clayton was recognized for his tireless decade of contributions to the Northeastern old-VW hobby. In 2012, CA-based businessman/enthusiast Scott Dempster, and the “mega-enthusiast duo” Mark Merrill and Ray Schubert, also from CA, were recognized for all their generous and significant contributions to the hobby. And in 2013, two tireless behind-the-scenes workers within the hobby who “make good things happen” in truly selfless ways were honored, Brian O’Kelly from CA and Tom Janiszewski from Illinois.

This year’s “Heroes” honorees are Bob LaPorte and Chris Vallone, both of New York. Bob LaPorte is one of those fellows who is always there as the “backbone” of his local enthusiast scene in Western New York. He has seen people come and go, and the hobby evolve over many years, and all the while maintains his positive and helpful spirit, doing whatever he can to help people out and share his considerable skills. Bob’s many friends and fellow enthusiasts really appreciate him, and his always-helpful, “can-do” spirit, and felt his recognition has been long overdue. Through his amazing focus, dedication, creativity, and plain old hard work, Chris Vallone has carved out a truly top-notch reputation in the old-VW restoration world, with the excellence of his work being recognized in prestigious classic car arenas, and in the garages of satisfied customers. Chris’s superb business sense and communication skills are also finely honed, further helping ensure the success of his old-VW restoration enterprise, “Classic VW Bugs” of Congers, NY.

The official public announcement of this year’s honorees, as it has always been, will coincide with Michigan Vintage Volkswagen Club’s “27th Annual Vintage Volkswagen Festival,” May 18th, 2014, at Ypsilanti, MI. The MVVC Festival has traditionally been the venue for the announcement of the annual “Heroes” honorees, ever since noted MI-based restorer Dave Crompton received the inaugural honor in a ceremonial presentation at the 1999 event. The Common Gear Antique Volkswagen Society wishes to thank all those who participated in this year’s “Heroes” award process, including this year’s esteemed nominators: Vince Harrington, Bill Ellis, Vince Vespe, and “Anonymous.” We also thank Lynn Anderson for her ongoing spirit and support for this program.

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Year 2014 Program - Photo of the "Heroes" award plaques

Photo of "Heroes" plaques for 2014

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Year 2014 Program - copies of the actual letters of nomination for this year's "Heroes" award honorees


Vince Harrington wrote:

 I was a VW tech, shop foreman and service manager for 40 tears. I've been a member of the Volkswagen Owners Association of Western NY for 25 of those years… I would like to submit my good friend Bob LaPorte of Barker, New York for your consideration.

 Bob and his wife Agness have been the driving force for our small organization. He has been active in VW restorations and hobby for 45 years and has recently retired from his 9 to 5 job. His contributions to the VW  Air Cooled enthusiasts and collectors are too numerous to go into here.

 His attention to detail and "getting it right" are legendary in Western NY…

 I would like folks to know about this guy and his body of work. Lord knows he won't tell anyone. He lets his work speak for itself.

 Vince Harrington


 Bill Ellis wrote:

I see that Vince has nominated Bob LaPorte for your Hero Award. I would like to second that idea. 

Bob was one of the founding members of the Volkswagen Association of Western New York in 1987. The club has been active since that date and it has maintained a membership of about 100. People come and go which leads to times when we are short critical skills, Bob never fails to provide the time and labor. Over the years he has observed the group and he knows what will bring the people out to the club events.  He is the force behind the organization’s success.   

When it comes to helping individuals with car problems, he will always be there. His many years of experience and private collection of parts make him the guy to go to. 

Bill Ellis
President, Volkswagen Association of Western New York



Vince Vespe wrote:

 Chris Vallone is a perfect choice for this prestigious award. Chris has an intense interest and profound dedication for the restoration of VW Beetles. There is no doubt that his efforts are fundamental in saving many antique VW from the "scrap heap". For more than fifteen years Chris has dedicated his time of six days a week, ten hours per day, seeking and restoring 1950s and early '60s Beetles, using authentic parts and assuring that numbers match, when possible. His restorations have been sent to many states and countries. His shop, in Congers, NY (Classic VW Beetles) is packed with many Beetles to be repaired and sent to waiting customers. Beyond his self-learned expertise of VW's, he has many videos on "you-tube", attends shows in California, Florida, New Jersey and has expertly filmed many VW Shows for public viewing.

 Chris is a true enthusiast who also leads VW owners on Spring and Fall cruises and has Open House at his Shop several times a year. His restorations have won prizes in very prestigious shows in CT, CA, FL, and many other states. A specific credit to his efforts is that his restorations have won awards (two different times with two different Beetles), at the very prestigious Fairfield County, CT, "Concours d'Elegance."

 As an Historian, I am very appreciative of Chris' works. He is a "cog in the wheel of history", and should be recognized for his exquisite contribution to the VW Community.
Vincent Vespe 


“Anonymous” wrote:

Chris has raised the awareness of the Beetle as a collector car through his business, and has legitimized recreating a person's early car from the distant past. People who are lucky enough to be able to have an "expendable" yet emotional car from their early days be created again are in the right circle with Chris.  He's developed a network of sources for solid Beetles around the country, and searched out local talent for bodywork, welding and mechanical refurbishing. He and his father both put their own efforts into the cars, by disassembling, cleaning, reassembling and fitting up the cars in their shop. Chris has also developed a shrewd business sense to look beyond exaggerated text in for sale ads, and has discerned when to turn down a deal which really was too good to be true. This skepticism ultimately works for the customer's benefit, being steered away from a vehicle which would otherwise require inordinate amounts of work and time. 


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Original "Heroes Of Antique Volkswagening" Program Concept Statement & Current Program Status

We like to think we have a unique program wherein we like to receive nominations of United States-based people from within the Antique Volkswagen hobby world who may have especially given of themselves to help other hobbyists, to possibly consider for one of our "Heroes" awards. We know they're out there--the person who goes out of their way to help with someone else's project, who selflessly devotes their time and energy at events, who performs some other valuable service within the Antique Volkswagen hobby, with little to no personal gain or attention.

Now's the time to think, and perhaps also write about that person, and then, during the nomination solicitation period (see below in CURRENT PROGRAM STATUS section), send the information to The Common Gear Team (e-mail: It doesn't have to be a long write-up, but should, in addition to briefly describing their accomplishment(s), include a few specifics about where the person's from, club affiliation (if applicable), and (important) how to contact them should the need arise (and also to be able to ask their permission to publish their name when it's time to announce the honoree(s)/present them their award, if applicable). Later in the year we announce one or more "Heroes of Antique Volkswagening" award honorees, and announce the awards "far & wide," via press releases to the major print & electronic VW hobby publications (including, of course, HERE).

CURRENT PROGRAM STATUS (important update 4/8/2015)

2015 NOMINATIONS ARE NOW CLOSED!... March 31, 2015 was the last day for your getting in your 2015 Heroes nominations--and thank you so much to everyone who participated for this round!... Now's also the time for you to put on your thinking cap and come up with a good letter of nomination for whoever you think might be a good nominee for the 2016 award. Please see the "Press Release" section from this past year's program, to see what kind of candiate we are looking for with this award--the phrase "selfless contribution to the hobby" is especially important to our way of thinking (there are plenty of media-savvy "stars" out there already--that's not who we're looking for). Please check the "Letters of Nomination" section of this page, to see how others have been "written up" to put them into consideration for this past year's award. Please submit your letter of nomination to NO EARLIER THAN JANUARY 1, 2016, AND NO LATER THAN MARCH 31, 2016. Thank you!

Please try to include information about how to get in touch with your nominee, should we wish to get in touch with him or her--thank you.

Please keep in mind that we wish to keep nominees to those based within the United States. We reserve the right to accept, or not accept any nomination, for any reason, and the decision of the Common Gear Antique Volkswagen Society is final.

To Repeat: The deadline for our receipt of 2016 "Heroes" nominations = March 31, 2016

As always, our target event for the annual Official Announcement of the "Heroes of Antique Volkswagening Award" is the Annual Michigan Vintage Volkswagen Club Vintage Festival. Please do check out everything else that our good friends at the Michigan Vintage VW Club are up to at their online home:

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"Hall of Fame" - List of previous "Heroes of Antique Volkswagening" honorees

1999 - Dave Crompton
2000 - Jim Siegfried & Bill Collins
2001 - Rich Kimball, Chuck Pisconski, & Bill Bowman
2002 - Bob Case & Rick Spohn
2003 - Matt Joy
2004 - Connie Holcomb & Jan Peters
2005 - Peter Cook & Howard Query
2006 - The Berg Family
2007 - Jerry Jess & Tony Moore
2008 - Erich & Wendy Kircher
2009 - Everett Barnes
2010 - Terry Shuler
2011 - Jeremy Clayton
2012 - Scott Dempster, Mark Merrill, & Ray Schubert
2013 - Brian O'Kelly & Tom Janiszewski

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A message to the forces of cynicism and negativity

"Just letting you know. Time to say something..."

I know there are people who view this program as something with some sort of "other" political purpose beyond what is visible on the surface. I am here to tell you that it is nothing more than what you see--an attempt to give some recognition to the people who work in a positive direction to make our old VW hobby more enjoyable.

I am 53 years old now, and it's way past the point where I worry about stuff like "anonymous messages" and what-not. I do the best I can, and just try to keep pushing forward, every day.

I have some advice for you, whoever you are: Why not try to focus on the positive in the world? Negative energy will just eat you up in the long run--I guarantee it.

I have struggles in my life, just as I'm sure that you have struggles in your life. My struggles are very real to me, just as I'm sure yours are to you. But try not to let them cast a shadow on stuff that's supposed to be all about fun and fellowship, like the old VW hobby.

My two cents to you, brother, for whatever it's worth.


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