Some people get stopped on the street because of the exotic dogs they walk, or the outrageous fashions they sport, but Greenpoint resident Austin Huq frequently gets stopped for his ice-cream-cone-like tan and brown ’82 Volkswagen Vanagon. With the license plate “Managon,” no less. (Get it?)
“I’ll be filling up with gas and [someone will] be like, “Where’d you get that van?” Huq says. Often, people stop him and share memories of their own days as Vanagon owners. Huq isn’t bothered by it. “I love it. I love talking to people about this van. Every time people honk or wave or stop me and ask me questions, it makes me feel happy,” he says, adding, “It’s a talking-point vehicle. You don’t get that with a lot of vehicles.”
For instance, a few months ago, as he was driving back from the Rockaways, where he rented a beach house this past summer to surf, a woman stopped him and asked what year his Vanagon is. “She was like, ‘I remember I drove one of the older buses from here to San Francisco to go to some concert at the Fillmore West!’” he says, smiling as he recalls the conversation. “There’s this nostalgia around this vehicle because it’s attached to a time period in American history.”
Huq, who, at 27, freelances in the film industry and bartends two nights a week at Trophy Bar, got his Vanagon two years ago primarily for getting out of the city. He used it a bunch this summer to transport his surfboard back and forth from his apartment in Greenpoint to his Rockaways rental, and he recently took it to Kaaterskill Falls, by Woodstock, for a group camping trip. “Seven people fit in here . . . and there’s still a lot of room. That’s one thing about this van, it’s like a living room — it’s huge!” he says enthusiastically.
On camping excursions, Huq sleeps in the van on a makeshift bed he creates by folding down the last row of seats and lining it up with a foam mat he found on the street in front of a Pilates studio. Sometimes on long road trips he and his friends will pull over to the side of the road and nap back there. But even when not mobile, Huq gets use out of his Vanagon. “During the summertime, or even a couple of weeks ago when it was nicer out, I would just come out here and lie in back, open the windows, and hang out and read, just so I didn’t have to be in my apartment,” he says.
In the two years since Huq has had his van, he’s become something he never imagined he’d be: a person who names inanimate objects. Huq named her (his choice of gender) Erie as in Erie, Pennsylvania, where he bought her from a “total VW nut.” He says, “I never thought I’d be one of those people that was like, ‘Oh, can you go move Erie?’ or ‘I’m gonna go move Eerie,’ talking about [my] van like it’s a living, breathing entity. But it sort of is, so . . .”