Miss Mabel, the custom VW bug Airkooled Kustoms is building for the Ultimate VW Build-Off has a whole new slew of admirers in the Huntsville area. And thanks to live news feeds, even across the Atlantic. David Wood of WHNT Channel 19 in Huntsville came out to the shop in Hazel Green. Here, he got the scoop on a local business hand-picked to compete on the national stage against the best of the best in the VW restoration field.
Custom VW Bugs Aren’t Normally News
David usually covers the sort of story you’d expect to see on the local news: school board issues, drug busts, charity events, and even high-profile trials. But this was clearly a different sort of assignment. Not exactly breaking news, but instead the opportunity to use his remarkable talent for storytelling. We were delighted by how he captured what Airkooled Kustoms is all about.
The Art of Dubs Meets the Art of Storytelling
As VW restorers, we know what we see when we look around at the shop. We get an eyeful of projects in various states of completion. Also, we see our fellow krew members living out the “blood, sweat, and vintage steel” motto as they pour their own personal variety of OCD into the Dubs to do them right. But it’s always interesting to see someone else’s take on the shop. Especially when that person sees and reports on newsworthy stuff every single day. Imagine watching a journalist’s eyes light up over the stunning beauty of Mabel’s paint job. Then see the moment of clear recognition that what we are creating is kinetic art in the form of brand new old cars. That was pretty kool. What a kick it was getting to see what he did with all the footage he captured (a couple of hours worth) within such a quick turnaround time. It got even better seeing how he was able to tell the story of what the shop is doing with Miss Mabel. All in all, it was a great opportunity to see a storyteller’s art in action.
There are so many angles of the Miss Mabel story that make her cool:
Here’s a 56-year old vehicle getting a full restoration from the ground, up.
Every nut, bolt, panel, and piece gets stripped back to reveal and correct its age- and use-induced flaws. This rebuild will leave Mabel stronger, faster, and more beautiful than anyone back in 1959 would have dreamed possible. Even more than turning back the hands of time, the shop is creating something altogether different in this custom Beetle.
Anyone can slap some after-market chrome doodads onto a car and call it custom. This shop’s forté is in customizing with subtlety.
As you look at an Airkooled Kustoms build, you’ll no doubt miss a lot. Eyeballs typically skim right over incredibly intricate work and badass details because your eye isn’t stopped by them. That’s subtle. Once you truly see what you’re seeing, your jaw will drop. It might drop twice, in fact, both in recognizing what’s been done and in the fact that you didn’t initially see it.
Miss Mabel is named after the late Mabel Powers, a long-time resident of Athens, AL.
She was the wife of the late Dr. Alvin Powers who founded the Athens hospital. Known for her unique mix of class and sass, Mabel’s personality comes through beautifully in her namesake.
VW Restorers Where You'd Never Expect Them
How is it that a local shop in rural Hazel Green, Alabama makes its way into the national spotlight? Especially through a competition of this magnitude? How is it that a whole krew of VW specialists is able to make a living doing what they love? Spending their days restoring generations-old cars practically deemed disposable when they were first built? What kind of clients pour tens of thousands of dollars into these pieces of kinetic art? Especially knowing full-well that the process will take an average of 8 – 18 months?
Watching the sense of awe on David Wood’s face as he roamed the boneyard, spoke with the krew, and examined the vehicles on the shop floor, we knew he’d do a great job in telling the Airkooled Kustoms story. Since it aired, we’ve had several guests arrive at the shop asking to see more of what we’re doing – and many comments and compliments from the shop’s fans from all over the world.