After 45 years, Dick Funk closes up shop at D&K Beetles

Sunday, December 30, 2018
Although he plans to close D&K Beetles as a business, Dick Funk can still be found working around his Jacob Street shop, such as taking some carpet out of his Australian right-hand drive Beetle.
Banner Graphic/BRAND SELVIA

In a small city such as Greencastle, a locally owned business going strong for more than a few decades is relatively rare. White’s Cleaners, which closed its doors in September after serving residents for 80 years, is an example where one became an institution to some.

As the new year gets under way, local Volkswagen enthusiasts will see the functional end of another such business as the consummate mechanic Dick Funk closes up his shop on Jacob Street.

After 45 years of tending to the oftentimes unpredictable issues that come with maintaining a classic Volkswagen, Funk has acquired and maintained an irreplaceable wealth of expertise and a passion for the marque.

The man has also had quite the career going back before he became involved with working on Volkswagens. The Bowling Green native is a Cold War veteran who had his own charismatic stint as an air traffic controller in the U.S. Air Force for 20 years.

Funk was stationed stateside at bases including Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and later at Ellsworth Air Force Base near Rapid City, S.D. It was there where he remembers being put on high alert after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in November of 1963.

Funk also served abroad at a base in Goose Bay, Labrador, as well as the former Sondrestrom Air Base in Greenland. But it was not long after he landed at Kadena Air Force Base on Okinawa in 1958 that Funk’s passion for the funny-looking but functional German car began.

After he had settled, Funk inquired at a local dealership about a then-new 1958 Volkswagen Beetle that could get him to and from the base. The only issue was that it was the dealership’s demo car and was not for sale. Funk badgered the dealer until he finally relented and sold him the Beetle.

Dick Funk rests for a moment while taking care of his original, low-mileage 1966 Beetle named “Dorothy.”
Banner Graphic/BRAND SELVIA

“We put 30,000 miles on that car driving on Okinawa,” Funk said, noting that the largest of the Ryukyu Islands south of the Japanese mainland is only 70 miles long and about seven miles wide.

When they were recalled to the States approximately three years after he landed on Okinawa, Funk and his wife Pauline drove the car all the way from California back to the Midwest. It was then used by Funk to hunt in the Black Hills outside Rapid City, with the back seat substituted by a cardboard mat.

Funk was stationed later on at the now-decommissioned Wurtsmith Air Force Base near Oscoda, Mich. While there, he fondly recalled that he attracted some hassle from the brass when he ran his own unofficial shop inside base housing.

“I didn’t get into too much trouble because I worked on a Porsche for the deputy wing commander,” he laughed.

Funk would later develop his business acumen working at a Volkswagen dealership in Shreveport, La. He would then act on that experience when he opened D&K Beetles in November of 1973, the same year he retired from the Air Force.

A question one might ask would be why Funk opened such a shop in a place like Greencastle. It made sense at the time, because he could supply the demand he thought he saw for a trusted Volkswagen mechanic.

“We wanted to be in Greencastle because it was close to relatives,” Funk said, “but it was also because VW owners are particular about their cars, and people wanted someone who could take care of them.” The word of mouth spread quickly before Funk got to work.

“When we started, we were two weeks behind schedule on appointments,” Funk said. “That just showed us that there was a need for a VW mechanic, and we knew we had something.”

Funk built the business inside a former alignment shop owned by the late Don Kiger as a partnership with his brother-in-law Kenny Minor. Just as he did in 1973, Minor continues to build Volkswagen engines in his off-time.

Since D&K Beetles opened, Funk has serviced Volkswagens of nearly every kind from the Beetle to the VW “Thing.” Funk also built up his own collection of vehicles, including a rare “Zwitter” transition model produced between 1952 and 1953. Funk has also kept a 1968 Fastback that served for years as the family car.

Though he is closing up shop at D&K Beetles on Jacob Street after 45 years, Dick Funk says he will try to stay active, such as helping organize the Volkswagen Brigade in the annual Putnam County Fair Parade. He can be seen here promoting the 2007 Brigade with his 1952 1/2 “Zwitter” and 1974 Thing.
Banner Graphic file photo

The Air Force veteran has also become a familiar face through the car show scene, and has the hardware and the memories to show for it. Dash plaques from shows dating back more than a decade line the inside of the shop’s front entrance.

Some of them come from shows this reporter and others have rolled into as the House of Funk, the unofficial club of local classic Volkswagen owners who have relied on Funk’s expertise and work ethic. In the process, many of them have in turn come to value his friendship and passion for the brand.

Funk, along with Lee Creed, Mike Wilson and other enthusiasts have also supported the Volkswagen Brigade in the annual Putnam County 4-H Fair Parade. The group’s pulling up the rear has been a parade tradition since 2001, despite on-and-off attendance and inclement weather affecting turnout in recent years.

It is unclear how the Brigade will be organized without the shop, but Funk was confident that it would continue in one way or another. Indeed, the 86-year-old said that the shop was only closing as a business, and so that he could take care of himself.

“I’m not as active as I used to be, and I have been in better health,” he said matter of factly. “I’ll be in and out; the phone will still work; and I’ll do odd jobs here and there and help anyone who needs it.”

At least to this Volkswagen enthusiast, the shop has not just been a place where Funk has been committed to his mechanic work. Oftentimes, it has been a place where one can get drawn into the stories about his Air Force days, and about what the Volkswagen has meant to him.

From this point forward, Funk plans to keep the shop open for himself as a hobby as he downsizes and begins to sell what remaining parts he has. But he will hardly stop tinkering or trying to figure out that janked master cylinder.

“I’ll still be around. We’ll make it work,” he smiled.

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  • Great guy, great business.

    -- Posted by djbryan on Mon, Dec 31, 2018, at 12:03 PM
  • Back in the 70's Dick did work on my 1968 and 69 Beetle. The magic Dick did made them work for me good as new every time. And he knew Mechanic Technics unknown to me and after trying my self to perform the work I was VERY glad Dick was there to get me out of what I started lol. Thank you Dick for sharing all your gifts that lead us to thourly enjoy our Beetles

    -- Posted by Kickupoo on Tue, Jan 1, 2019, at 10:55 PM
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