Volkswagen lovers flock to specialty shop in Harpswell

HARPSWELL, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Typically, no one is ever excited to bring their car to a garage. But people all over North America are traveling to a small garage in Harpswell for a chance to have the mechanics there look at their vehicle.

That's because a lot of Volkswagen history has traveled down the driveway of the Foreign Auto Service, an ordinary name for a business that has a reputation far beyond the borders of Maine.

The company fixes and restores Volkswagen vans, from old microbuses to the newer vanagons. People come from all over North America to put their van in the talented hands of the crew at FAS.

VW vans are the vehicles of road trip legends. They were hugely popular in the 1970's, but they stopped coming into the U.S. in the early 1990's. That means the ones that are left are old and in need of some TLC.

The shop's challenge is making sure a treasured vehicle still looks classic, but runs like new. Most get custom engines and a lot of upgraded amenities, like solar panels and refrigerators. Some project cost tens of thousands of dollars.

The FAS is restoring up to 7 vans at one time, and the wait time for customers to have their vehicle worked on is two years. Even VW owners who don't need any work done are finding their way to the shop. They know it's part of the cult-like following these vans have.

Foreign Auto Service has outgrown its current home in Harpswell. Plans are being made to move to a 12-thousand square foot facility at the former Brunswick Naval Air Station, and add more staff to handle the growing number of customers.


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