Photos by Larry Edsall
Kate Eberhardt was 14 years old when she and her mother, Nancy Axtell, began collecting Volkswagens. That was 16 years and at least 20 VWs ago. Among those VWs were Beetles — mainly old but a New Beetle convertible as well – a couple of squarebacks, vans and campers, and soon mother and daughter also were collecting camping trailers, though ones small enough they could be towed by — naturally — a Volkswagen.
Last weekend, Nancy and Kate displayed two of their vehicles at the annual Motoring Thru Time show in historic Heritage Square in downtown Phoenix: An immaculate and original 1969 Volkswagen 1600 Fastback and a 1969 Eriba Puck trailer.
Fastback VWs are rare enough, but you may never have heard of the Eriba Puck camping trailer, because they were — well, they still are — made in Germany and were not sold in the United States.
Anyone who looked closely noticed that the ladies’ Fastback did not have a trailer hitch, but the women said they wanted to showcase a pair of ’69-model-year vehicles at the Motoring Thru Time show, which was being held in conjunction with the 34th anniversary of Heritage Square, the first non-Native landmark in Phoenix to join the National Register of Historic Places.
Besides, they pointed out that they do tow the Puck — and their other camping units — behind everything from a ’64 VW camper to Kate’s new Beetle.
And, they added, they don’t just tow those campers to car shows; they are active year-around campers.
Mother and daughter said they try to keep their vehicles as original as possible, and they have become skilled at reupholstering worn seat covers, skilled enough not only to do their own cars but to do upholstery for other VW collectors as well.
Nancy pointed to a significant scar on her left wrist from one of their first reupholstering efforts.
Meanwhile, Kate notes that she often wears a ring made of magnetite so she can secretly check for any metal-filler materials on the body of a vehicle they’re considering to purchase.
They like older VWs, though have purchased, fixed and flipped a few 1970s models so they can buy the older ones they prefer.
And that includes not only VWs but campers as well. In addition to a couple of VW camper vans, their towable collection includes the ’69 Eriba Puck, a small, 1957 “canned-ham” style camper, a pair of 1961 Airstreams and a 1939 teardrop-style Trailerette.
Nancy and Kate are always on the lookout for another VW or camping trailer. It’s not unusual for them to be traveling together somewhere in Arizona, see something for sale, check it out and call home to say they’re bringing something new — well, something old but new to them — home with them.
Answering that call is Nancy’s dad/Kate’s husband, who at least tolerates his wife and daughter’s hobby.
But with a wife and daughter so involved in the hobby, isn’t he a car guy, too?
“Yes,” Nancy said, “but he’s more of an old muscle-car guy.”