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I financed my diverse car collection by converting VW Beetles

I financed my diverse car collection by converting VW Beetles
I financed my diverse car collection by converting VW Beetles

This article first appeared in the May/June 2024 issue of Hagerty Drivers Club Magazine. Join the club to receive our award-winning magazine and get insider access to automotive events, discounts, roadside assistance and more.

My road trip started when I was a young boy growing up in Morganton, North Carolina. My dad had a 1965 Ford Mustang and a 1969 Oldsmobile Cutlass, and my grandfather had a 1972 VW Beetle. My best friend was my neighbor, and his dad had a 1967 Chevy Impala Super Sport convertible with a factory 427. When I grew up, got a job, and started making my own money, I decided to invest in old cars.

My first old car was a 1971 Jeep Commando. I wasn’t looking for a Commando. It showed up on Craigslist and I thought, “Yeah, that’s pretty cool,” so I bought it. I spent a lot of time and money getting it as close to original as possible because it had been heavily modified. I really should have gone out and found one that was already original.

Then one day I was driving down the road and saw a VW Beetle for sale. It was a ’73, and I remembered my grandfather’s old Beetle. I bought the ’73, but didn’t really have room to put it and the Commando, so I decided the Jeep had to go. I kept the Beetle and had fun with it. When I finally wanted to get rid of it, I sold it for three times the price I paid for it. I started wondering if I could buy a few more and resell them. Over the next five or six years, I bought and sold about 16 VW Beetles. I never made less than $3000 on any of them. That’s how I funded my collector car hobby.

If the cars needed a little mechanical or engine work, it was no problem for me because I could do it myself. I already knew quite a bit; when I was in high school, I worked for a guy who was an airplane mechanic. He knew about everything mechanical, cars, airplanes, trains, steam engines – he could fix anything.

Dalton Walters VW Beetle Engine
Although his collection is constantly evolving, Walters has held on to his 1965 Beetle.Paul Mehaffey

The hardest thing I’ve ever done myself was probably a clutch, and it was on a Volkswagen. I know people who do it and say, “Oh, it’s easy,” but I’d never done it. I don’t have a lift in my shop, so I just jacked it up, put it on stands, and crawled under it using an escalator. In the end, I only did it once and decided I’d never mess with clutches again.

Portrait of Dalton Walters
The 1970 Buick Skylark is an affordable alternative to the Chevelle.Paul Mehaffey

Eventually I bought all the Beetles that were for sale. Then I added a 1964 Ford Galaxie and a 1962 Ford F-100 to my collection. Then I found another 1970 Jeep Commando that was still in original condition. My collection is pretty eclectic. I bought a 1953 Chevy 3100 from a guy here in town who was a customer of mine – I’m an insurance agent with Hagerty – and when he came into my office to insure it, I told him, “If you ever decide to get rid of it, let me know.” And sure enough, four or five years later he called and said, “I want to sell this Chevy if you’re interested.” I own a 1970 Buick Skylark, a 1964 MGB Mk II roadster, and a 1959 Ford M151, the successor to the Jeep. It is also known as MUTT, which stands for “Military Utility Tactical Truck”.

Dalton Walters Patina Shifter
As a tribute, grandfather’s dog tags hang in the Ford M151 military vehicle.Paul Mehaffey

My grandfather was a staff sergeant in the Air Force during the Korean War. Even though the MUTT is an Army vehicle, when I brought it home I made it a tribute to my grandfather. The serial number on the hood is my grandfather’s birth date. I have his military dog ​​tag hanging in it. I don’t drive it much – it’s obviously better off-road than on-road. I keep all my cars in an airplane hangar, so I use it to drive around out there. It’s almost like a souped-up golf cart for the road.

I like to go to the cruise-ins when I can. I don’t make it to many of them, but we have a pretty good one in a neighboring little town called Valdese, North Carolina, here in the same county. There’s a diner in downtown Valdese called Myra’s. It’s one of those old-fashioned places where you get old-fashioned cheeseburgers and milkshakes. There’s always a big turnout with great cars.

Rear side profile of the Grand Wagoneer
Paul Mehaffey

I still have my original 1965 Beetle, which is the car I’ve owned the longest. I’ve had it for about 10 years. My Skylark is probably the nicest car in my collection. It came from Georgia and has 60,000 original miles on it. It has that powerful 350 and I have all the service records on it. I’ve had friends ask, “Why the hell did you want a Buick Skylark?” And I’d tell them, “Well, my dad had one when I was a kid and I always remember driving it out to watch the fireworks in downtown Morganton.” Also, I was always a big fan of 1970 Chevelles, but the ’70 Skylark is essentially the same car with a few differences but for a quarter of the price.

As I mentioned, I am both an insurance agent and a customer of Hagerty. All of my cars are with them. My agency, Mimosa Insurance, has been here in my hometown of Morganton since 1938. We are one of the oldest insurance agencies in Western North Carolina, operating under the same name and family owned and operated since forever. It’s cool to see the customers who come in and tell similar or completely different stories. I really enjoy getting to know the people, you know?

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