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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

'Burning Van' Event Draws Dozens of 'Volks' to Ocean Beach

Posted By on Tue, Jan 12, 2010 at 5:30 PM

Saturday afternoon, an old camper van pulled into the parking lot at Ocean Beach. Then another. And another. And about 30 more. Lined up and glistening in the sun, the multi-colored VWs began to attract attention from beach-goers.

"What's up with all the vans?" one bystander asked another.

Simple answer: Burning Van.

An annual event for people who are slightly obsessed with decades-old camper vans, Burning Van drew its largest crowd ever this year. 


Best represented of all the various vans was the Syncro, a coveted four-wheel drive VW van produced in very limited numbers between 1985 and 1991.

"This is Sexy Sally Syncro," said Jonathan Rabe, a mustachioed gentleman from Santa Cruz. After introducing his van as if it were a person, he patted "her" (most vans are female, obviously) and explained that he loads Sally up with snowboards in the winter and surfboards in the summer.

Rabe was pretty excited about Burning Van, particularly because of a van that showed up with a 1.8-liter, turbo, 240-horsepower engine. Another had a fancy $400 steering wheel that Rabe got to touch -- for free.


Also in attendance was Persephone Crittenden, a San Franciscan Syncro owner who follows discussions on, a Web site where "volks" congregate to discuss VW-related topics and plan events. She had heard that in years past, only a few vans had showed up. Definitely not the case this time around.


Dozens of people pulled their vans in around 3 p.m. and stayed long after dusk, drinking and passionately discussing their wheels. There was talk of lighting van parts on fire to conclude the festivities, but according to a discussion thread on, that never happened.


Regardless, one commenter wrote, all those vans "made my mouth water." 

"Just wanted to drop a note and let everyone here know how cool it was to meet up with all yall," he continued. "It was a nice melow event, and I had good conversation with several people."

Then he signed off, explaining that he had to go back to work so he could make more money to sink into his van.

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Ashley Harrell


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