An employee from one of the UK’s leading classic car and bike insurance brokers is celebrating his collection of VW cars spanning more than 40 years.
Lee Fowkes, a Private Clients Account Handler at Footman James, is the proud owner of a 1968 VW Beetle, a 1971 VW Camper and, a 1983 MK 1 VW Golf.
His love affair with VWs began as a child watching the Disney classic ‘Herbie’.
Lee explained: “I got my first Beetle, a 1968 model affectionately called Bertie – which I still have today – on 21 August 1994. My parents and Nan clubbed together and paid £300 for it as a present for passing my GCSE’s and getting into college. The story however, starts a few years before that.”
During a weekend away in the Worcestershire countryside in 1991 Lee and his family drove past a Beetle, parked innocently on a driveway, with a registration number of LEE 511F.
“Stop!” shouted Lee. “It’s got my name on it!”
Reluctantly, Mr Fowkes senior pulled over and the family inspected the Beetle, much to Lee’s excitement. And then they drove off on their merry way.
And the story continues! Fast forward another year to 1993 and the family once again were driving down the same road in the picturesque village of Leigh Sinton. Much to Lee’s joy, the Beetle was still there but this time in a sad state of neglect with grass having grown up to its windows. Again, the family pulled over for further inspection but this time the owner appeared from the house and after a brief chat, Lee’s father asked if the owner would be willing to sell it; numbers were exchanged and Lee spent the next few months talking incessantly about ‘his’ Beetle. Eventually, Lee’s parents agreed that if he achieved the required grades to study at college they would buy him the Beetle as a restoration project.
Lee enthused: “The day came for me to collect my results and I was absolutely delighted to have achieved the grades I required. I dashed home to tell my parents and my father immediately rang the owner to arrange collection. Later on that day my father asked if I would like to see the garage they had rented to house Bertie. Of course I did! We all piled in the car and drove to the garage. My father opened the door and lo and behold, there was Bertie covered in balloons! It had been sat there for 6 months! I was absolutely over the moon!”
The only downside for Lee was that the previous owner, Mr Lee, had transferred Bertie’s registration number onto his own car. Bertie now sported the registration plate UWP 130F; over the years, Lee tried to purchase the original registration back from Mr Lee but to no avail.
Over the next 4 years, Bertie had virtually every panel replaced.
“He had a respray, which was terrible, then another one, which was much better!” explained the then-novice restorer Lee.
On the recommendation of a neighbour, Bertie was insured with Footman James – and has been ever since.
Bertie’s journey has not been without its trials and tribulations. In 1997, his front end was badly damaged in a crash. He was written off but Lee retained the salvage and used the payout from the agreed value on his policy to rebuild him to the highest of standards.
Fortunately, retaining salvage and agreed value are both part of FJ+ cover!
Ever the enthusiast, in 1998 Lee decided to take Bertie to his first show in his new guise – The British Volkswagen Festival. He was crowned with the ‘Best Paint’ accolade and both were overjoyed!
Lee said: “To date my most memorable trip in Bertie was in 2007 when myself and a group of friends travelled in convoy to the Bad Camberg VW show in Germany. We drove more than 2000 miles around Europe, ending up at The 1st European Bug In Show in Belgium. The only mechanical issue any of us experienced was a wiper failure and there were many VWs in our group! All of us had 70s CB radios which allowed a constant flow of often hilarious commentary!”
35 days European cover are standard to an Footman James policy which can be extended; UK and European breakdown is also an option on policies.
He concluded: “Other cars have come and gone, and I’m sure there will be more, but my current collection isn’t going anywhere! They are all members of the family!”
David Bond, Director of Footman James, said: “Lee’s story is indicative of the passion and enthusiasm that classic car owners live and breathe. As a valued member of Footman James, Lee has a true understanding of our customers’ needs and we would all like to congratulate him for this. Happy anniversary!”