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Vintage Volkswagens reborn as mobile hummus shop, bookstore

Little Sesame's Volkswagen Bus allows the restaurant's chefs to travel the country in search of new flavors.

Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

Holiday shoppers this year, once again, have shopping small on the mind. For some businesses, their idea of small is smaller than most. From a hummus shop to a coffee shop, to a mobile bookstore, many small business owners rely on vintage Volkswagen products to help their businesses run.

Little Sesame

Little Sesame Volkswagen Bus

Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

In 2015, chefs Nick Wiseman and Ronen Tenne opened their hummus shop in Washington, D.C. They didn't just want another restaurant, they wanted to create a different way of doing business than they'd experienced in some of the New York City area kitchens they'd cooked in over the years. They wanted travel.

In order to inspire new flavors , Wiseman and Tenne hop into their robin's egg blue 1978 Volkswagen Bus and explore the country. Their current Bowl of the Week brings in autumn and wintertime flavors with ingredients like maple roasted winter squash, pomegranate molasses, crispy chickpeas, za'ata, and herbs.

The restaurant, with locations in the Golden Triangle and Chinatown, is currently open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They offer catering and meal kits as well as online ordering for pickup and delivery.

Dom's Coffee

In Farmington Valley, Connecticut, a European-style coffee shop sits on a strip of real estate next to buildings similar to what you'd find in nearly anyone's hometown - a car dealership and a church. The brick-and-mortar shop was opened by Andrius Plankis and Asta Plankiene in May 2015, two years after the couple emigrated to the U.S. from Lithuania.

In addition to their shop, they run a fully-equipped mobile espresso bar out of the back of a Volkswagen Atlas R-Line. Their specialty is artistically crafted drinks including espressos, affogatos, specialty lattes, cold brews, and hot chocolates.

The Cincy Book Bus

The Cincy Book Bus

Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

After retiring from 25 years of teaching, Melanie Moore decided it was time to pursue her dream: opening a bookstore. But she didn't just want to own the shop around the corner, she wanted to have a business that would work to get books into the hands of children that need them the most. Just as she was about to sign a lease for a storefront, she got cold feet.

Inspired by a novel centered around a fictional, female horse-drawn carriage bookseller, Moore decided to launch the Cincy Book Bus – a mobile bookstore – out of the bed of her husband's teal 1962 Volkswagen Transporter. The van holds about 150 books, and Moore regularly rotates titles to cater to her audiences.

Moore dedicates her profits to stocking classroom libraries.

While these three businesses are small, three large corporations (including Nike) were founded from humble beginnings thanks in no small part to their Volkswagens. Click here to read their stories.

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The Bugatti Chiron Sport "Les Légendes du Ciel" edition pays homage to vintage aircraft.

Photo courtesy of Bugatti

In the aftermath of World War I, company founder Ettore Bugatti showcased the first three vehicles made by the company that bore his name. They were race cars and Bugatti found itself at the pinnacle of the sport very quickly.

By 1930, the company would begin its relationship with the aerospace industry, first with the Bugatti 100P, which never actually flew due to World War II, but served as the inspiration for a number of patents that are filed by the company. The plane went into storage as the Second World War kicked off and Mr. Bugatti would never again work on it during his lifetime.

Bugatti Chiron Sport "Les Légendes du Ciel" edition

Photo courtesy of Bugatti

Bugatti is honoring its racing and aviation past with a new series of Chiron Sport models dubbed "Les Légendes du Ciel". The drivers who piloted the Bugattis to success in the early 1900s were often time multitalented with resumes declaring them flying aces, daredevils, and technically skilled pilots.

"Bugatti has had close associations with aviation since the company was established more than 110 years ago. Many successful Bugatti racing drivers, such as Albert Divo, Robert Benoist and Bartolomeo 'Meo' Costantini, flew for the French Air Force, the French aviator legend Roland Garros privately drove a Bugatti Type 18 to be as fast on the road as in the air," says Stephan Winkelmann, President of Bugatti. "It is therefore almost an obligation for us today to pay tribute to the legends of that time and dedicate a special edition to them."

Each of the new models features a special, matte gray "Gris Serpent" paint job, which is inspired by the exterior color of aircrafts from the 1920s. The color extends front to rear with high-contrast, which gloss stripe running up the center. The front wings are adorned with the "Les Légendes du Ciel" logo. The "Le Bleu-Blanc-Rouge" tricolor decorates the front area of the side sills made of exposed black carbon fiber.

At the front is Bugatti's traditional horseshoe radiator grille, finished in gloss black. The grille mesh is made of laser-cut and deep-drawn aluminum, and constructed in a dynamic pattern that that is repeated on the car's leather seats. Entry lights project the edition logo on the ground at entry while "Les Légendes du Ciel" logo on the middle console inlays.

Bugatti has covered the engine with black exposed carbon fiber with contrasting white lettering. The material continues at the back where black exposed carbon fibre and a black-coated exhaust trim cover made of 3D printed, high-temperature-resistant Inconel dominate.

The car's interior is almost entirely upholstered in leather. The leather's light brown color was chosen to be reminiscent of the natural leather in early aircrafts. On the door panels there is a hand-sketched racing scene between the Nieuport 17 aircraft and a Bugatti Type 13.

The new Bugatti Chiron Sport "Les Légendes du Ciel" edition is limited to 20 vehicles. Every model is independently numbered and costs $3.5 million.

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Bruce Pascal is one of the most devoted Hot Wheels collectors on the planet.

Photo courtesy of Bruce Pascal

The first Hot Wheels arrived in stores in 1968 and it wasn't long until they became the number one toy. Bruce Pascal was seven years old at the time and remembers the toy immediately becoming popular with his circle of friends.

"It's hard to explain the craze today, but Hot Wheels was huge. All of my friends were saving up to buy all the Hot Wheels they could," Pascal said.

While he was growing up, Pascal, like kids across the country, kept his Hot Wheels in a cigar box. As he grew up, the cigar box gathered more dust, sitting on a shelf for 30 years until Pascal rediscovered the collection in 1999.

Volkswagen Beach Bomb Hot Wheels The pink Volkswagen Beach Bomb is the most sought-after Hot Wheels car in the world. Photo courtesy of Bruce Pascal

"That excited feeling I had as a boy was rekindled instantly," said Pascal. "My friend offered to pay me $200 for the cigar box. I declined and held onto them, but it was his offer that made me start researching the value of Hot Wheels and pursuing collecting as an adult."

His search became a bit obsessive. Pascal began calling other collectors, taking out newspaper ads, and even used a 1969 telephone book of Mattel employees to see if any former workers had rare toys they would be willing to part with for a price. He collected everything he could, including Hot Wheels memorabilia like blueprints, original drawings, sales brochures, and wood models.

His collection grew from that cigar box to thousands of Hot Wheels. Yet Pascal was not satisfied. He still had not found the one Hot Wheels vehicle that was alluding him, the most valuable Volkswagen ever produced - the pink Volkswagen Beach Bomb prototype.

The model was a bit of a folly. When VW and Hot Wheels initially created it, the car's narrow body and surf boards out the back window made the vehicle unable to stay upright when rolled. So, it was redesigned and the sides became more weighted and the surfboards were moved to the sides of the vehicle. This was the model that made it into production. The Beach Bomb was sold with a sticker sheet of flowers to decorate the vehicle, an offering that was very of its time.

Volkswagen Beach Bomb Hot Wheels There are only two of the pink models in existence.Photo courtesy of Bruce Pascal

The original prototypes with the surfboards out the back window are extremely rare, as only Hot Wheels employees had access to them. Of these prototypes, the pink ones are the rarest of all. There are only two known to be in existence.

"I already had heard about [the Beach Bomb] in purple, green, red, light blue and gold. I even had heard about an unpainted model," said Pascal. "But pink was extremely hard to find. Most Hot Wheels models were marketed to young boys, who the brand assumed didn't want to play with pink. They created just a few pink [Beach Bomb] models to market to their female audience."

Eventually, Pascal networked his way into purchasing both pink Beach Bombs models. He has since sold one of them to another friend and collector, but the one that is in the best condition has stayed with him.

Today, Pascal owns over 4,000 Hot Wheels models and about 3,000 pieces of memorabilia, but the pink Volkswagen Beach Bomb remains his most prized possession.

"I won't say how much I purchased it for," said Pascal, "but it is worth an estimated $150,000 today."

To help prevent sun damage, the Beach Bomb remains in a dark, Plexiglass case. Pascal displays the model in his personal museum in Maryland, where he gives private tours to other Hot Wheels enthusiasts. He has also loaned the model out to other automotive museums and events for display.

"I want other people to experience the Beach Bomb. I've found so much joy in learning about classic cars and Hot Wheels, and I hope I can spark some of that in other people. It's a treasure to find these rare models," Pascal said.

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