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Howard Cooper Volkswagen Grand Opening November 18, 1965

Almost six months to the day after construction began on Howard Cooper’s new Volkswagen Dealership on May 20th, it opened for business on November 18, 1965, at 2575 South State St. in Ann Arbor, MI. The new and modern 15,600 square foot building was constructed on a five-acre plot located one and a half miles south of the center of the City.

Nearest to the camera in the lead image of the showroom is the Karmann “Ghia” behind it in the center are sedan and convertible versions of the “Type 1 Beetle,” and on the far-right is a “Type 3 1500 Fastback.” The full-service facility included service and part’s departments and an engine rebuilding and repair department.

Cooper also added Audi and Porsche franchises at the site sometime before 1975. In the spring of 2012, the facility was purchased by Germain Cars, and three stand-alone buildings, one for each automaker were constructed at the site. See a July of 2018 view of the VW and Porsche dealerships here.

Please share with us what you find of interest in these photos courtesy of the Ann Arbor District Library.

  • Engine rebuilding and repair department.

48 responses to “Howard Cooper Volkswagen Grand Opening November 18, 1965

  1. In Item 2 of 3, I see a ’62 Falcon Squire wagon, a ’65 Dodge sedan, likely a Polara, a bug and a 1500, a ’65 Olds F-85 Deluxe sedan, a ’63 or ’64 Chrysler wagon, possibly a ’66 Olds Delta 88 in black and a ’66 Mercury, most likely a Monterey.
    On the left side, a ’65 Tempest Custom sedan, a bug, a ’65 Grand Prix, a ’65 Buick Sportwagon, a VW Kombi, a mid-‘60s BMW 1600 or 1800, a white bug and dark 1500, a white ’63 Olds Starfire coupe, possibly a ’65 or ’66 Chevy wagon and another ’65 Tempest.

  2. Nice clean , modern dealership. The Karmann Ghia was a good looking car. In the parking lot is a decked out Falcon Country Squire.

    • I rebuilt mine in a gear locker in my barracks at NAS Cecil Field in Jacksonville, FL. I emptied a big TP carton and would put it over everything and pile a couple more full ones on top. I was the acting MAA and one day during inspection the OOD wondered why the room smelled like grease, giving me incentive to get it done.

    • Hi Curtis, same here. My best friend in HS had a ’58 Bug, he got for $65 bucks ( early ’70’s) He beat the heck out of it, and more than once, the #3 exhaust valve( 36hp) let go. We had it down to a science. He had a 2×4 cradle actuated by a bumper jack, ( I know, dumb kids, but it worked) 4 bolts, couple wires, we’d carry it in the house, pull the head and cylinder, went to the closest junkyard, Larry’s Auto in Butler, Wis, on Hampton Ave. He always had a pile of VW motors. I think he charged him $20 bucks for a used piston and cylinder head, we’d slap it back together , even reused the head gasket, glued the pushrod tubes, and we were riding around that very evening. Once, we got delayed with the junkyard, motor apart in his mom’s kitchen, she came home, and was not amused.

  3. I find it interesting ( & odd..) that the Type 3 on the showfloor has a license plate on it. Maybe a very late arrival from another dealer? Who knows…

      • The VW prefix on the plate was reserved for Washtenaw county back then and those were likely gotten at the Ypsilanti branch. They are real plates and I have one on an old VW through Michigan’s Authentic Plate vintage car registration program.

  4. In the 3rd picture [2nd expandable photograph], to the left of the “HOWARD COOPER” sign, is a 1964 BUICK Skylark Custom Sports Wagon.

  5. We bought a new beetle in 1963 from Tait – Coppas Motors in Little Rock. Had to order it and wait a couple of months, as non were in stock. Cost a little over $1700, with the only option being whitewalls. I went back to college as a married student inn 1964, and the little red beetle provided flawless dependability and economy. Had to sell it in 1968 to help pay for an expanding family, and still miss it. I have never been so happy with a car before or since then.

  6. Volkswagen must have been among the first automakers to have a standard architectural design for their dealerships. They all had that open, simple style. Even though local architects may have been involved, they may have had to adhere to VW’s standards. Does anyone know?

    • Yes, Volkswagen had pretty strict design requirements for new car display, service department capacity and parts inventory. Read about it in Nelsons “Small Wonder” and in Dan Post’s ” Nine Lives Later”. I was a VW mechanic at Wood Motors in Detroit from 1773 to 1988. Bought my first new car, that I did the dealer trade with Howard Cooper to get, a ’79 all black Super Beetle Convertible . And I still have it!

  7. The image of the engine on the stand in the repair department reminds me of how far ahead of the game Preston Tucker was back in the 1940s. If ones Tucker engine needed time consuming repairs the dealer put a loaner engine into the car in a relatively short period of time, and owner could be on their way. Don’t recall exactly how many bolts kept the engine in place, but it was only a few. Of course he VW engine was secured the same way, but I don’t recall an engine swap ever being a service feature.

    • Hi Robert. I was wondering if you knew who was the 1st VW dealer in Milwaukee? I know Ernie Von Schledorn was around in the 50’s, but sold Buicks. Concours Motors was around a long time too. I think it’s amazing the condition of the shop , spotless, in true German fashion. Nothing out of place, not one spot on the floor. Certainly admire the Germans for that, unlike, say an American shop, that may not be so tidy.

      • Concours at about 15th and Silver Spring is the only one I recall. Ernie was probably still selling cars at Lou Elhers Buick (Wilson and Capital, Shorewood) at the time I’m speaking of, mid to late 50s. BTW, who do you know that wants to buy a car?

      • Well; the engine in the foreground is a 36 HP , abour 1960. The machine in front of it is a soix valve grinder next it in the box is the valve seat cutter. To the far right is a Munger hydrolic press. The engine across the room is a 40 HP.
        The tool boards from the left is the front end section. The question mark shaped piece in the center is a protractor used to set the rear torsion bars. The toothed pieces below are pinion holders. Right lower below the micrometers are vernier calipers. The The right board is almost all transmission . This is gettin long. I can name everything and know most by ID number
        I worked in a unit room identical to the picture in Boulder Colo for years and years. Doing a 61 camper this week.
        Still own and use many of those tool today.

    • All VW dealers had exchange engines in stock. They came is a big box. The amazing thing was, we installed them added oil primed the carb and they started and idled smoothly after minor adjustments. We got paid $ 6.00 for the job and we’re fine with it.

  8. I could never cotton to a Karmanns looks.Maybe you have to be Italian to see it.
    Lets play identify specialty tools.VW fans should do good on this test.
    I see 4 mics and 2 verniers on the pegboard on the right side,I am guessing that the 2 circular things to the right of the engine are filter wrenches.The pegboard on the adjacent wall seems to be mostly various pullers.Wilton vise.A sign of good taste.Too bad maybe theyre made in China now.

  9. The building still looks stylish 55 years later.

    When we married in 1982 my wife brought her ’65 Beetle known as “Nellie Belle ” into the family. 65 was the last year of the 6 volt bugs.

    A friend had a type 3 in 1973, know as “The kiddie car”. Can you say underpowered?

    • I bought a new ‘bug’ in 1969, 36hp. Referred to it as a GW….aka Gutless Wonder. Also : a Cookie Pan on Wheels. Nevertheless, a hardy little car.
      Optional: In Canada the VW was referred to as ‘Hitler’s Revenge’…which could be taken any number of ways. vin

  10. Hey wow! It opened on the same day as I was born! And I’ve driven VWs all my life (other than 2 Subaru’s and a Renault 5…) so a bit of an extra connection. Anyone know if they are still in business?

    • Yes, but it’s now just Volkswagen of Ann Arbor and a new building was built for the Volkswagen deal at 2565 S. State St.

      According to an article about the sale in 2012, Cooper added the Porsche and Audi franchises in 1972 and Honda in 1979. He was 83 when the sale happened, and was ready to retire. He passed away last March.

  11. The 1966 Bugs were also 6-volts; my dad bought one new in Oct. 1965. Years later we tried to find an A/C to install into it, but all we found were the 12-volt A/Cs for the 1967 and later Bugs.

  12. Beatle built in Liverpool UK : Beetle built in Wolfsburg Germany.Production of the formerwas rather small but very influential the latter huge but how influential was it really..?

  13. I think that so many people have a VW story. My sister had a 56 with the slide back sunroof. I used to get it to third gear before the end of the driveway at age 14. Way too much fun back then, I was in car heaven. I also worked at my uncles’ auto body shop for awhile and he had the local VW concession for repairs, so again, I got to work on and drive many VW Beetles. I bought a 73 Super Beetle from a co-worker who bought it new but after an engine fire decided to scrap it! I think I paid what he was asking, about $350. Fixed it up, drove it for awhile but because it was an “Auto Stick” the performance was dismal, so I sold it. In fact, just sold that owners manual on ebay for $45.
    I also had a 1970 fastback too but it was not as much fun as the Beetle. I’d still love to have a clean original Beetle from maybe 1960 to 1970 and I still keep an eye open for one. I’ve still got all the VW Beetle repair books, including the John Muir “Complete Idiot” series…just waiting I guess. Love the Beetle.

  14. My Dad had a Variant Notchback which I have since discovered was not offered in America. Privately Imported. That was my Dad with an eye for the unique or unusual. It was a ’64 or ’65, don’t remember. Learned how to drive a stick in that car. Great memories.

  15. I bought a Karman Ghia convertible in March, 1973 from Thompson Volkswagen in Morristown, NJ. The dealership looked very similar to Howard Cooper’s. The car was on the showroom floor when I first saw it and I bought it on the next day. It now sits in my garage and gets driven every couple of weeks.

    • The Thompson location on Columbia Tnpk got taken for the new Route 24 many years ago and the franchise went to the Mercedes dealer in Morristown. I don’t think that lasted too long. What was the name of the VW dealer that became Thompson? It was located on South St in Morristown.

    • I had Thompson add air-conditioning to the car. It was a $400 dealer installed option. It worked fairly well but when you had to get up to speed entering any highway, especially the Garden State Parkway, the wise move was to turn the A/C off.

  16. I find it amazing that it took VW until 1965 to build a dealership in Ann Arbor, one of the biggest college towns in the USA. Perhaps there was an older one in another part of town. In that era collegians and their teachers had lots of VWs as well as other imports.

  17. I drove my brothers VW 1600 Fastback from Oregon to Nebraska on my leave home from Vietnam for a buddies wedding. Met my future wife at that wedding, it was 1968. My brothers 1600 was driven from Alaska to Oregon just before I took this trip. Boy did I get weird looks driving a VW Fastback with Alaska plates on it.

  18. I bought my 1955 Beetle in January of 1955 and purchased it new in Chicago for $1080. I bought a radio later.

    Car had a recall as a hole would burn through the exhaust/intake and would run every rough At that time,I had the only vw in Missippi

  19. Back in 1967, while waiting for service on my 67 VW, a man came into the dealership and asked if there were any jobs available in service. The boss said “have you had experience in repairing cars?” The man answered “well, I have changed my own oil and plugs and done simple repairs.” I felt sorry for him as VW had a reputation for top notch factory trained service personnel. The next time I visited the dealership he was working there as a mechanic , now known as a “tech”. Often wondered how he made out.

  20. I bought my ’65 Bug new at Air Cooled Automotive in Maplewood NJ. It was white with the salmon colored interior. I loved it but it really wouldn’t get out of it’s own way. But then again, it was fun to drive because you could go flat out without killing yourself. A year later, a ’63 split window Corvette found me and the VW got sold. I still have the Corvette but there’s still a soft spot in my heart for the Volks.

  21. When I was a teen Howard Cooper was near where I lived. I remember checking out 914s there in the early 70s. He always had several. I don’t recall 911s on display until later in the 70s. His son was a classmate.

  22. In 1961 I bought a ’59 VW sunroof beetle for $1,100 to drive to college in Los Angeles. I added one of those Frantz toilet paper oil filters while I used the car. In 1968 I went into real estate sales. The beetle was just too small for real estate work so I bought a new ’69 Volvo 4 cylinder, 4 door. Gave the beetle to my little sister to drive for the next 5-6 years then it just sat in my garage. About 1975 I took it out and drove it, just because it was fun to drive in spite of the 36 horsepower. Had the engine rebuilt at 158,000 miles and drove it 11 miles back home where it sat until about 6 years ago when I sold it for $2,500. The buyer got it running again with little effort but due to failing health he sold it for the same price about 2 years ago to an airline pilot from Portugal. The VW now lives in Portugal.

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