Recently it was announced that Berrien Buggy was changing ownership and moving it's base of operations from Berrien Springs, MI to New Cumberland, PA. I contacted Dan Mickle, Director of Marketing for Acme Car Company to see if he would provide us all with more details:
GH: Hi Dan, I appreciate the fact that you are willing to answer a few questions based on this exciting news; we here on the east coast of the USA welcome this new development. What caused your company to pursue, and ultimately decide to purchase Berrien Buggy from the Merkle family in the first place?
DM: Sue Merkle originally approached us with the news that with Dave’s ill health, they were going to be unable to continue operations. So they asked if we would be interested in purchasing a part of Berrien or the entire company.
GH: What is your company's past experience with dune buggies? Also, please also tell us more about your company and it's other products.
DM: Acme Car Company was originally started for the purpose of building sand rails, dune buggies, and one-off specialty vehicles. As we got deeper in to these projects we found it difficult to acquire needed parts. That prompted us to become a direct dealer with the various suppliers like EMPI, Bug Pack, SCAT, and ultimately Berrien. Once we had established those relationships, it seemed a logical step to open as a retail parts store, since we had to carry inventory anyway. It also appeared that there were no retailers in the Central Pennsylvania area that were handling these types of parts. The parent company, Acme Trailer Works, has been in business for over 25 years. Acme Trailer Works started out as a repair shop for freight trailers and has expanded in recent years to trailer fabrication. We are a licensed manufacturer that designs and builds custom trailers up to 30,000 pounds GVWR. This gives Acme the ability to not only build a turnkey buggy, be we can also create the means to haul your buggy as well. You can find more information about Acme Trailer Works at www.AcmeTrailerWorks.com.
GH: Can you give us a summary of your current product line, and what you expect to carry in the future?
DM: Currently we offer a full range of air-cooled Volkswagen parts; stock through any type of air-cooled VW based vehicle. We also offer engine and transaxle building and rebuilding services. We also provide restoration services on air-cooled Volkswagen vehicles. Our fabrication shop will take on any custom job or restoration that we feel we are able to perform. We are currently in negations to offer another line in our sand rail and dune buggy offerings. We also are looking at providing parts to the automobile hobbyist market such as street rod, muscle car, and race car.
GH: Do you plan to add to the line of fiberglass body and accessory options that was previously offered by Berrien Buggy?
DM: We are reintroducing metal flake as a color option on the Nostalgia and the three piece sand rail bodies. We are evaluating and repairing a large amount of other molds that have not been available for quite some time. We will reintroduce those molds, like the Lancer and Citation body styles, when the repairs have been completed. We are currently working on introducing two new fiberglass bodies that will accept four bucket seats as well.
GH: Will you be carrying both the shortened (for current Manx bodies and close clones) and full length chassis?
DM: Yes. We currently manufacture a shortened chassis; the same tubular chassis originally offered by Berrien Buggy. There are actually two versions of the chassis; one is for the Nostalgia and one for the Roadster T. Currently under development, we expect our first new product to be a stock wheel based tubular chassis. We also offer completely restored stock and shortened original Volkswagen chassis.
GH: Do you plan any redesigns or modifications to the (previous) Berrien Nostalgia Tubular Chassis? Also, what are your thoughts and options on obtaining street legal titles for these aftermarket chassis?
DM: Currently we are in the process of evaluating several redesigns to the Berrien Nostalgia Chassis. We are also developing a new Trike chassis as well. There is also an upgrade to the rear suspension system under development. As far as obtaining street legal titles are concerned, we understand that this is one of the biggest issues in this market today. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer. Each state has their own set of laws and requirements on how to title a vehicle, so this presents a significant challenge in the titling issue. We have begun the process of working with various industry advocates and movement agencies to see what can be done, but as of right now there is no change in this area. We hope the efforts of groups such SEMA will help clear a path to easier and universal titling.
GH: Please explain the need for a "core charge" which is applied to the pricing of your aftermarket chassis.
DM: Every current Berrien chassis is based on Volkswagen torsions. The present policy that we are following is what the Merkles originally put in place at Berrien Buggy (usable rear air cooled VW torsions could be turned in as credit; if not a core charge for an air cooled VW torsion was required). It was established because a constant supply of rear torsions is required to produce the chassis. This has led the availability of torsions to lessen. We are currently re-evaluating that policy and at the same time, and working on developing an alternative suspension that does not rely on the use of recycled Volkswagen suspensions. The major issue is that eventually the stock of available torsions will be depleted if an alternative solution is not put in place. We are also looking a revamping the authorized dealer network to help offset the shipping charges with cores. Our hope is that the end customer can drop the core off at the dealer and avoid the cost shipping it back to Pennsylvania. Just to clarify on this, our future vision is the ability to replace a stock torsion with our aftermarket suspension. It will be dimensionally the same as a stock Volkswagen.
GH: Will you also offer complete builds (turnkey), and partial builds for fiberglass dune buggies?
DM: Yes. This is a service that we currently offer and it is also a service we are looking to have our dealer network provide as well. Turn-key builds for sand rails, dune buggies, and Kit Kars are all available options.
GH: When will move be complete and current products be available to the public?
DM: Currently all equipment and operations of Berrien Buggy, Inc. are in Pennsylvania. Part sales are currently up and running. Fiberglass production has also resumed in Pennsylvania. We estimate that will have full production all the entire Berrien Buggy line by July 23, 2012.
GH: Will the name of your company remain the same, or will it change?
DM: We expect to continue with Acme Car Company and Berrien Buggy by Acme. We understand the value and loyalty to the Berrien Buggy name and have no plans on changing it. Both Acme Car Company and Berrien Buggy by Acme are owned by the parent company Acme Trailer Works, Inc.
GH: Is the current website domain for Berrien Buggy going to stay active?
DM: Yes, the berrienbuggy.com website will remain active. There will be a major upgrade to the site to make it a little more user friendly and current. We hope to launch the new site in the early fall.
GH: Do you have a retail display area, and if so, what is the address and what are the operating hours?
DM: We do have a retail display at our corporate offices in New Cumberland, Pennsylvania. Acme Car Company 201 Ross Ave New Cumberland, Pa 17070 (717) 774-9450 Monday - Friday: 8:00am to 5:30pm Saturday: By Appointment Only Website: www.acmecarco.com Email: email@example.com GH: Can new bodies and chassis be picked up at your location?
GH: What shipping service options do you use for your small, medium, and large items?
DM: Small items we defer to the U.S. Postal Service. Medium size and express shipping go UPS. For larger items we use brokers and research the best rates possible.
GH: Do you have a chance to set up vendor displays at the various VW car shows? If so, what is your upcoming show schedule?
DM: Yes, we have done limited shows over the past few years but we are currently in the process of expanding the events we will be attending both as a vendor and as a fan of the industry. We are hosting our own show and open house on July 14 in New Cumberland, Pennsylvania. We hope to have a presence at the show in Manassas, Virginia on Labor Day weekend (2012 Bugout). While we would like to do more shows this fall, we decided to make sure that the move , production, and all aspects of this new venture were in place before we begin to travel. It will be our intention to announce our show schedule early in the year, so we are able to take orders from customers and deliver them at the various shows.
GH: Have you been contacted yet by current dune buggy owners?
DM: Yes, our phone has been ringing off the hook! It has actually taken us a little bit by surprise in the amount of interest this venture has stirred up. We have had current Berrien Buggy owners sending in photographs of their build, sharing stories, or just dropping us an e-mail to wish us well. It has been very humbling and we look forward to serving the community of Berrien Buggy owners and buggy enthusiasts in general.
GH: Dan, thank you so much for your time; I feel confident that the dune buggy public at large wishes you and your company the best of success.
East Coast Dune Buggies/eastcoastdunebuggies.com is in no way representing or affiliated with Volkswagen of America, or Volkswagen of Germany. Volkswagen, VW, and the VW logo are Trademarks of and owned by Volkswagen of America and Volkswagen AG.