BY SCOT BRASWELL

On the highway, it’s like a mechanical turtle rumbling to its own offbeat time –easygoing and relaxed. These days, the Volkswagon bus might be sporting a bit of rust on that iconic metal shell.

Celebrating its 60th anniversary, this iconic vehicle is rooted firmly in the hearts of admirers and collectors, even as it has become more and more obscure in recent years.

Deb Everhart is an architect and co-owner of Irvine Contemporary, an art gallery in Washington DC. Her van hails from “hippie-ville,” a.k.a. Santa Cruz, California, but she says it fits in here in DC too.

“This van is 100 percent original,” Evarhart says. “Nothing about it has ever been changed, except for maintenance things like the battery. It’s the original paint. It’s the original engine, which is really uncommon for a van that has 140,000 miles on it, because they usually get burnt out.”

“It’s a reminder that there’s a great art scene here,” she says. “There’s a lot of culture. There are a lot of people being who they are, and I think the van represents that.”

Across the country, many counterculture vans have found refuge in warm California where they stand out more than ever in today’s car culture. Their casual contrast from an abundance of sleek, mid-level sedans caught the eye of Kwaku Alston, a photographer from Venice, California whose portraits of the Obama family were displayed at Irvine Contemporary earlier this year.

“When you see these Volkswagen vans driving down the street, you’re like, ‘Wow that’s like a breath of fresh air,’” Alston says. “I actually stand back and I get excited like whooo.”

Alston just finished a series of portraits of local VW buses convalescing in the area. Some of the photos are available in multimedia piece above. You can also see more at his website (kwakualston.com).

Producer/Photographer: Ellen Webber
Multimedia Editor: Ellen Webber

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