Weatherford Democrat

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June 8, 2009

Temple man's VW affection started 25 years ago

TEMPLE, Texas (AP) — On Memorial Day weekend, Brent Brendemuehl slid several homemade bread loaves into his 1981 Volkswagen Bus. On a warm day, it's the perfect temperature for the dough to rise before baking.

Brendemuehl found "Mr. Bus," as his 10-year-old daughter Becky calls it, in 1991, sitting on four flats in a vacant lot, used for doghouse and tire storage.

Brendemuehl traded a couple of baseball cards — including one Ted Williams — and brought the neglected orphan in for rehab.

Today, "Mr. Bus" travels to Volkswagen events across the state, outfitted with a coffeemaker, stove, oven, pantry and bunk with curtains. The air-cooled, 1,641 cubic centimeter engine and four-on-the-floor transmission propels the bread-shaped vehicle down the road at about 55 mph cruising speed.

"They don't like to even see me on the interstate in this. I can remember the last time I went through Austin, going to Fredericksburg, I got flipped off more times," he said.

Brendemuehl's VW affection — or affliction, depending on how you look at it — consumes his double garage. Tiny transmissions, engines and mufflers sprawl across the back floor. Unassembled plastic models, still in the box, and matchbox cars fill overhead shelves. His '64 Karmann Ghia restoration project and a fully restored '65 red Beetle convertible occupy places of honor, backed inside the garage. The new generation VWs — Jetta, Cabriolet and Passat — all sit outside.

Brendemuehl says he doesn't know how or when the VW bug bit him. Maybe it was the dune buggy, stolen from him more than 25 years ago, that he never got over.

"Some people tell me there's a 12-step program for me out there somewhere," Brendemuehl said. "I keep wondering why I even need it."

His wife, Kyung, may disagree.

"The year I took Christmas lights, put them in a VW logo, she put her foot down on that one," Brendemuehl said.

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