The 1980 Volkswagen pickup truck is such an unusual vehicle in the eyes of John Lautenschlager that he had the patience to make the one he owns now an award-winner.
In the last three years, Lautenschlager has entered his truck in the annual World of Wheels at Bartle Hall and has twice come away with first-place trophies.
Probably only Lautenschlager could see the 1980 Volkswagen truck as a prize possession back in 2001 when he first spotted it in Jasper, Texas.
Lautenschlager, who lives in Independence, first saw the truck in a parking lot at a store when he was in Jasper, helping his daughter get settled into her career.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
“I told them if they ever found who owned it and if they want to get rid of it, I would buy it,” Lautenschlager said.
Two years later, the 1980 VW was spotted again by his son-in-law in a Texas field between a couple of cars.
In 2004, Lautenschlager got in contact with the owner. Over the next few months, Lautenschlager’s son-in-law negotiated for the truck that was in such poor condition that it would have to be hauled back to Missouri.
“I paid $600 for it,” Lautenschlager said.
Lautenschlager has a small photo album detailing the evolution of how his 1980 VW went from looking like a vehicle ready for a junkyard to the way it looks now.
For eight years, Lautenschlager painstakingly brought the car back to life.
“The engine was (not working) and every valve was bent,” he said. “I stripped it to the bare body. I cut it down to bare metal. It was painted by a body shop.
It was his first and only restoration project.
“I knew it was going to take a while. I wanted to do it right,” Lautenschlager said. “The 1980 being the oddball I wanted to make sure I made it a good truck.”
The moment he saw it, Lautenschlager knew exactly what year it was by the front bumper.
“The 1980 was the only year they had parking lights on the bumper,” he said. “I have always driven VWs. I knew it was an oddball because in 1981 they changed the body style. The rectangular headlights signify it was made in America. They were built in Westmoreland, Pennsylvania.”
Lautenschlager worked on the truck in his garage whenever he got a chance. He was thrilled when he finally completed the restoration. He took it to his first show in 2012.
“It is really a fun truck to drive,” Lautenschlager said. “I drive it to shows. It is amazing. This little bugger does 62 miles per gallon on diesel. I knew it was capable of that. I redid the transmission when I rebuilt it.
“It is quite a pleasure. I really enjoy it.”
Do you have a car, truck or motorcycle or other vehicle you would like see featured in Make It Yours? If you do, email your idea to David Boyce at Drive@kcstar.com