Retrospective

Three big name brands, three Volkswagens: How VW's mid-century models shaped modern America

Domino’ started its delivery business with this Beetle.

Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

Three brands that are modern day household names got a little help in the beginning from Volkswagen vehicles. Domino's, Ben & Jerry's, and Nike all spent their early years growing from little passion projects to formidable businesses. The brands grew up and into Volkswagens, then saw them expand far past the wheelbase limits and into major corporations.

Domino's

Volkswagen Dominio's Pizza

Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

The Dodge brothers aren't the only famous or successful all-male duo from the Detroit area. Brothers Tom and James Monaghan founded Domino's Pizza in 1960 when they bought a small pizzeria in Ypsilanti, Michigan, a southwest suburb of Motor City.

The store purchase cost just $900, about $600 less than the price of a new Volkswagen Beetle at the time. Dominick DiVarti, the original owner of the shop, gave the boys a 15-minute pizza making lesson then turned over the keys to DomiNick's to them.

James, who had a full-time job as a mail carrier in addition to helping run the shop, sold his share of the pizzeria to get the company a delivery vehicle, a 1959 Beetle.

In the 1950s, the Beetle had evolved from its early years into a body style with the features commonly seen in vintage models that are still on the road today. By the time the Mongahan brothers got theirs, the Beetle had larger taillights that combined the traditional taillamps and turn signals. Twin chrome tailpipes were added and U.S. models had taller bumper guards. The rear rectangular window of previous years' models was replaced with an oval one in the late '50s.

By 1965, the brothers had purchased two additional pizzerias and changed the name of the business. There was no going back. Today, there are over 17,000 Domino's locations worldwide.

According to Volkswagen, the whereabouts of Domino's first delivery vehicle is unknown. However, a replica of the original is showcased at Domino's headquarters in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Ben & Jerry's

Ben & Jerry's Type 3 Vermont

Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

Ben & Jerry's was founded in 1978 in Burlington, Vermont by two New York City-area transplants who had taken a $5 ice cream-making correspondence course offered by Pennsylvania State University that same year.

Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield invested $12,000 into their first scoop shop in a converted gas station in downtown Burlington that sat across from what is now The Vermont Pub & Brewery in the space currently occupied by a public parking lot.

In the land of creemees, Ben and Jerry made a big impact, proving popular thanks to their flavorful ice cream and oversized chunks of filling. They didn't just sell scoops at their shop. The company delivered 2.5-gallon tubs of ice cream to restaurants and shops in Ben's red Volkswagen Type 3 Squareback station wagon for their first two years of business.

The Type 3 had been introduced at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1961. It was designed to fill a hole in the VW lineup between the Beetle and the Bus, as a family-friendly auto. Volkswagen began importing the Type 3 Squareback to the U.S. in 1966 where it competed directly with the Chevrolet Corvair.

By 1980, demand took off and Vermont's harsh winters and road salt caught up with the Type 3. However, the Volkswagen lives on at Ben & Jerry's South Burlington headquarters today and their factory just down the road in Waterbury. There's a Type 2 painted on the wall at their in-office Scoop Shop and vehicle inside their shop in downtown Burlington.

Nike

Nike bus Type 2 Volkswagen

Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

Long before Nike was Nike, it was Blue Ribbon Sports. Founded in 1964 by University of Oregon track coach, Bill Bowerman, and U of O track star Phil Knight, the company originally set out to cater to runners, selling Onitsuka Tiger track shoes out of Knight's car at track meets.

Their first year of business they sold 1,500 pairs. The next that number grew to 8,000. Blue Ribbon Sports added a brick and mortar location in 1967 in Santa Monica, California near the intersection of Pico Boulevard and I-10.

The company's first employee, Jeff Johnson, marketed the shop and drove his personal vehicle, a Volkswagen Type 2 bus, to track meets where he sold and delivered shoes to runners. The second-generation T2 Bus stood out thanks to its gingham curtains and Onitsuka Tigers dealer sticker up front on the driver's door.

The original store closed just two years later but within a decade, the company, now retreaded as Nike, owned 50 percent of the athletic shoe market.

In 2019, Volkswagen and Nike teamed up to celebrate their shared history. The companies outfitted a Volkswagen ID. BUZZ CARGO concept van to resemble the original Blue Ribbon Sports delivery van, promoting Nike's "Reuse-A-Shoe" program and Volkswagen's electric future.

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Improved hot hatch

The 2022 VW Golf GTI gets new handling tech

Improvements to the GTI's handling and steering should make it even faster in the curves.

Volkswagen

The Volkswagen Golf GTI is one of the most recognizable and popular cars the automaker sells. After a bumpy few years that ended with the standard Golf model being nixed from VW's U.S catalog, we're starting to see concrete details on the upcoming performance variants of the car, which will thankfully end up heading our way. The eighth-generation Golf GTI and Golf R will make landfall in the United States as 2022 models, and will both feature a load of new tech and refinements. VW just announced the changes that are being made to the GTI's handling and performance systems, and they are extensive, to say the least.


2022 Volkswagen Golf GTI VW is offering the 8th-gen Golf only in high-performance GTI and R configurations.Volkswagen


Volkswagen is giving the legendary hot hatch a host of improvements, which the automaker says will give the car more precise, stable handling at its limit. The GTI's front suspension has been reconfigured with new wishbone bearings and damping hydraulics. VW says that the car's springs and buffer stops have also been revised, which will give the font axle spring rate that is five percent higher than its predecessor. A new aluminum subframe is also in place, which will reduce weight by seven pounds over the previous car.

The eighth-generation Golf brought a new VW Vehicle Dynamics Manager system which will also benefit the upcoming GTI. The system integrates the car's electronic stability control with its electronic differentials, and in GTI models equipped with the optional DCC adaptive damping system, the system adjusts individual wheel damping up to 200 times per second. The differential itself will now come standard with all GTI models. It's an electronically-controlled torque-sensing limited-slip unit, which varies the levels of its intervention based on how the car is being driven and on how the other traction control functions are being used.


2022 Volkswagen Golf GTI The GTI's steering is now more responsive.Volkswagen


The GTI's steering system has also been revised to now include an enhanced progressive steering function that uses software to help turn the vehicle with less steering effort, depending on speed. Volkswagen says that the GTI's steering takes just 2.1 turns of the steering wheel to go from lock to lock when it's equipped with 18-inch wheels.

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The LEGO Speed Champions series is adding two new Dodge models to its lineup.

Photo courtesy of Stellantis

The new LEGO Speed Champions series is expanding by two. A 1970 Dodge Challenger T/A and Mopar Dodge//SRT Top Fuel Dragster are being added to the growing collection. They are the first purple vehicle and first Top Fuel Dragster in the Speed Champion series.

"Owning, or aspiring to own, a Dodge muscle car is as much about the lifestyle of joining the Brotherhood of Muscle as it is about the vehicle purchase," said Tim Kuniskis, Dodge Brand Chief Executive Officer – Stellantis. "As a result, our brand enthusiasts are passionate about all things Dodge, including the latest cool collectibles. So, following the success of the Dodge 2018 LEGO Speed Champion building set, fans will now be able to build and show off not only the first ever 8-inch-wide (8W) muscle car, but also the first ever Plum Crazy 1970 Dodge Challenger T/A, along with an incredibly detailed 13½-long Top Fuel Dragster."

LEGO Speed Champions Dodge box The 627-piece Challenger T/A and Dragster include box art of their Rea-life counterparts. Photo courtesy of Stellantis

LEGO has had the Challenger over two inches high, five inches long, and 2.5 inches wide. The Dragster is four inches high thanks to its wing, and has a body that is 13.5 inches long and 2.5 inches wide.

The set features a male Challenger driver in Dodge-branded clothing. The Dragster has a female driver in a Dodge race suit.

"In 2021, we are extremely excited to reteam with Dodge and expand the Speed Champions 8W Vehicle Collection even further by including new vehicle types and building experiences, for the first time, that appeal to vehicle fans of all ages," said Christopher Stamp, LEGO Design Lead.

LEGO Speed Champions Dodge The set includes two models.Photo courtesy of Stellantis

The models will be released on June 1, 2021 at LEGO.com. Pricing for the models is not yet available.

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