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A Cavalcade of Stars Descends on the VW Trends AVWI Awards

By Rob Hallstrom
Photography: Robert Hallstrom, Henry DeKuyper

Never before has such a large gathering of influential VW-related industry people been assembled in a single room. The occasion? The 2001 VW Trends Aircooled Volkswagen Industry (AVWI) Awards.

In addition to the entire VW Trends staff, its key contributors and a room full of core enthusiasts, our honored guests included award recipients Tom Lieb of SCAT, Lenny Copp of West Coast Classic Restoration and the legendary Joe Vittone of the original EMPI, to name a few.

The purpose behind the AVWI Awards is to recognize the hard work, determination and diligent efforts of a few outstanding individuals and companies within our VW community. It seemed only logical to us at VW Trends, especially in conjunction with our 25th anniversary, that the media should come forth and publicly appreciate the time and skills that are invested into our hobby. Time and time again people in this industry are overlooked, taken for granted and undervalued for these efforts and abilities. This was an opportunity to honor them by offering our deepest appreciation for their involvement in the betterment of the Volkswagen industry as a whole.

A total of six awards were presented, three of which were selected by the VW Trends staff, while the remaining three were chosen via a reader's choice tabulation.

Officially kicking off the evening gala was the presenting of the Reader's Choice Award for Best Restoration Shop to Lenny Copp on behalf of West Coast Classic Restoration. Copp excitedly received the handsome trophy and jokingly stated, 'Wow! This is like the Grammys.' Copp's Volkswagen restoration business is recognized for producing some of the most admired vintage VWs in the world.

The next award recipient was Mrs. Dee Berg who, on behalf of Gene Berg Enterprises, accepted the honors for the Reader's Choice Award for the Best Aftermarket Performance Manufacturer. This honor was bestowed upon the company in recognition of its relentless pursuit for quality high-performance products.

Bob and Terresa Koch, whom unfortunately could not make the reception, took the honors for Best Vintage Product, awarded on behalf of the company's world-renowned steering wheels.

Best Performance Product was presented to Tom Lieb of SCAT Enterprises in recognition of the unparalleled quality and performance in the production of their stroker cranks.

VW Trends contributor Bill Collins rightly received the Editor's Choice Industry Preservation Award for his diligent efforts toward the preservation and enjoyment of the vintage VW.

Last, but certainly not least, was the presentation of the coveted Lifetime Achievement Award. Ceremony host and VW Trends Editor, Ryan Lee Price, had the distinct pleasure of presenting this award to EMPI founder Joe Vittone. Price stated, 'This award was granted to Mr. Vittone for his commitment to manufacturing quality aftermarket parts, the many years of innovative and unparalleled contribution within the Volkswagen aftermarket and the resulting immeasurable impact on the industry.' After receiving the award and a standing ovation, Mr. Vittone thanked many of his former employees in response to the company's success. 'I've had the pleasure of working with some of the best people in the business, such as Dean Lowery, Lee Leighton, Roger Kessinger and Fumio Fukya,' Vittone stated. 'I owe our achievements and much of the company's success to them.'

After the ceremony, which was held in conjunction with the recent Kelley Park/Spring Meet pre-event dinner-hosted by Rick Spohn and his Golden Gate Chapter of the Vintage Volkswagen Club of America (VVWCA)-guests were treated to a delicious buffet dinner. In addition to a silent auction, which helps fund various club activities, guests were entertained by taking part in a game of identifying obscure Volkswagen parts, courtesy of Ray Schubert of the Volksauthority in San Jose, Calif. The game, which essentially is comprised of a number of extremely unusual VW parts (wartime to late model), challenges everyone (including VW brainiacs) to accurately identify them. By the way, most did not identify them correctly.

In all, over 150 people filled the facility's spacious banquet room. It would be an understatement to say a good time was had by all, especially for those who remained for the after hour party in the adjacent lounge. Overall, the inaugural VW Trends AVWI Awards proved to be a huge success. As one honored guest stated, 'This is the beginning of something good.'

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