How a Dream Became a Volkswagen Dealership Reality

by : Andre Foksowicz

Westminster Volkswagen was originally established back in 1953 under the banner "Blackie & Jewett Volkswagen". This was also the year that Volkswagen first came to North America. The cars that hit our shores, and dealership, back then were Volkswagen Type 1 known as the Beetle and the Type 2 or the Microbus.

These cars put Volkswagen on the map in North America as "the people's car" which is exactly what the word Vokswagen means in Germany. They were extremely reliable, cheap to buy and operate and although not necessity back then they were great on gas!

VW type 1 and type 2
The vehicles became so popular that the Type 2 chassis was expanded to include a single and dual (crew) cab pick ups as well as panel vans used for deliveries.

VW type 2 with extended chassis
In 1965 the dealership was renamed to Westminster Volkswagen since it was located at the waterfront in Westminster. During that time, Volkswagen's lineup included Type 3 which was produced as a 2 door coupe, fast back, square back (wagon) and the very popular Ghia coupe and convertible.

When Erich Schmidt & Bert Laakman took over Westminster Volkswagenin June 1975, two men's dreams became reality. Schmidt began working on Volkswagens when he was only 14 years old, training to become an automotive engineer in Germany.

In 1959, Schmidt decided to make his way to Canada and arrived in Halifax with only $2 in his pocket. He traveled to the West Coast by rail and landed a job as a VW mechanic the day after the train reached Vancouver. Schmidt was then hired by another local Volkswagen dealer in 1962 and worked his way up to becoming a manager of the service department in just two years. When the opportunity to own his own Volkswagen dealership presented itself, he jumped at the chance.

Schmidt combined resources with Laakman to purchase the Volkswagen dealership in New Westminster. Westminster Volkswagen was also an Audi and Porsche franchise at one point but became strictly Volkswagen in the late 80's.

In 1986 Westminster Volkswagen moved to its current location at 2555 Barnet Highway in Coquitlam and has been growing with the community ever since. Through the decades, Volkswagen has introduced many great models like the Rabbit, Scirrocco, Corrado, Golf etc. Those have joined the history of Volkswagen that is different from those of other makes of vehicles. From its basic roots of being the car for the people Vokswagen has grown into a lifestyle. Its following is very cult like and being a part of it is nothing short of awesome!

Volkswagen's history can be experienced today from the early years of the Type 1 to the new 200HP GTi at the Great Canadian Volkswagen Show sponsored by Westminster Volkswagen at Town Center Park in Coquitlam Sunday August 19th. This will be the 16th year for the GCVWS which has grown larger every year!