Craig resident’s passion for VWs evident in collection
It was 1982.
A ghost white 1969 Volkswagen Beetle idled next to a Chevy Vega Station wagon.
Scott McKinney was behind the Beetle’s wheel — the car many would have considered an underdog against the Vega’s V8 engine.
McKinney, then a 16-year-old resident of Grants Pass, Ore., said he had a feeling he could edge his opponent.
After the dust settled, he was right.
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But, his first drag race landed him on the wrong side of the law, he said.
“I asked the officer why my ticket was so expensive and he said, ‘Well, because you won. And by the way, congratulations and don’t do it again,’” said McKinney, a Craig resident since 1996. “The cop was impressed — he sat there and watched the whole thing.”
McKinney said the officer was impressed with the race for the same reason he became hooked on Beetles for the rest of his life.
“Even though I got my butt chewed, I got grounded, I was like, ‘Man, a little 4-cylinder waxing a V8 — this is cool,’” he said. “That’s when I got into the Volkswagen magazines and started reading how you can make some enormous horsepower.”
Now, about 29 years later and in a self-described “mid-life crisis,” McKinney is looking to sell several of the numerous Beetles he has collected over the years at his home on Steele Street in Craig.
“Let’s call it what it is,” he said with a laugh. “I’m 44 years old. I’m looking at things differently. I am going back to church and taking better care of myself.”
Part of that plan is putting his eight Beetles up for sale in hopes of “thinning out the herd” of the numerous Beetles he owns.
“Just too many project cars is what it’s boiled down to,” he said. “You’ve got dreams and ambitions of getting stuff done, but sometimes, your time and your money don’t always (match).”
Over the years, McKinney has completed restoration projects on more than 300 Beetles from stock to custom cars and racecars to off-road Bugs, he said.
But, only the classic, air-cooled Beetles enter McKinney’s garage, he said. The new Volkswagen model of Beetle is “just OK” with the old-fashioned enthusiast.
“It is not an air-cooled pusher, it’s a water-cooled puller,” he said. “It is just a completely different animal.”
When McKinney moved to Colorado from Oregon, he started drag racing his souped-up Beetles at Bandimere Speedway. He raced at the Front Range track from 1990 to 1995.
When he moved to Craig in 1996, McKinney found himself without a drag track, and instead, a dirt track.
After working up a new car suitable for the dirt track conditions, he was back racing Beetles at the Hayden Speedway, which he did for five years.
In addition to the Beetle racing, restorations and custom work McKinney does in off hours from his work as owner of The Copy Shop, he does standard repairs on Volkswagens, he said.
McKinney said he currently has about 22 customers.
However, he most enjoys long-term restoration projects, either for himself or a customer.
“There is nothing better than rolling a car outside and taking that first picture of it when it is done,” he said. “There is nothing better than the customer coming to pick up their car and the glow when they see it, the smile you can’t wipe off somebody’s face.”
The main reason he enjoys putting his wrench to a Beetle is the simple theme of giving new life to old machinery, he said.
“Even though it is 1960s technology, it’s new in 2010,” he said.
McKinney said he is not one to pass up a good deal on a project Beetle, something that, combined with his passion for restoration, has left him with eight Bugs for sale.
“I have got quite a few that are still under construction that I’ve worked on over the years with a little money, a little time, (and) finding the right parts that I have been looking for,” he said. “It’s something I’ve been doing since I was 15.”
Even though McKinney plans to sell the eight Beetles, that doesn’t mean his passion for the car is waning.
In fact, he is currently looking at getting back into the world of drag racing, and has plans to start construction of a new car sometime next year, he said.
“I’d be buried in one if I have my choice,” he said. “Who needs to buy a casket? I’ve got a $5,000 casket to myself. …They’ll have to dig a bigger hole, but that won’t be my problem.”
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Craig Middle School staff will continue to wear masks this week, and two other schools in the district are close to doing the same, according to numbers from the Moffat County School District’s COVID-19 dashboard.