Some automotive brands have an enduring quality about them. They cultivate a passionate following building a common bond between consumers; a shared appreciation and culture for all that the brand represents. Volkswagen is undeniably one of those car brands.

VW, Fahrvergnügen, Beetle, bug, slug-bug, mini-bus, Jetta, Golf, Rabbit… the list of iconic Volkswagen automobile models goes on. And when any of them are uttered, read, or even come to mind they generate an image that’s both highly distinct and practically unforgettable.

Ontario Volkswagen, the premiere VW dealership in Southern California’s Inland Empire, not only attracts Volkswagen diehards ( and converts newbies) but the location also employs some of the most extraordinary and passionate brand ambassadors in the automotive world.

In this iDriveSoCal Podcast, Jimmy Willhide – a long-time service advisor at Ontario VW, who’s had VW pumping through his veins for decades – shares his passion for the brand. He also talks with me about the eight VW’s he currently owns and maintains and explains how to keep yours running for hundreds of thousands of miles.

Shiny red VW Golf pictured in garage with iDSC111 banner iDriveSoCal Authorized Dealer Logo and Ontario Volkswagen logo


Recording date – August 15, 2018 at in Ontario, CA

Volkswagen Focus Day & Night

Jimmy Willhide: Something about a Volkswagen is always funner to drive than whatever else I’ve driven.

Each generation that comes out something else new, something else that has that same feel, but has a different look, but once you get in that car, you can tell this is a Volkswagen. Just by shutting the door on the car, you can feel the difference.

Tom Smith: Welcome to iDriveSoCal, the podcast all about mobility from the automotive capital of the United States, Southern California.

Man working on a Volkswagen with care

Tom Smith here out at Ontario Volkswagen in the Los Angeles suburb of Ontario, California and Ontario Volkswagen is a great friend of iDriveSoCal of the program and with me today is Jimmy Willhide.

Now, Jimmy is an employee of Ontario Volkswagen, a long time employee, about a decade, but he’s also like he drinks the Kool-Aid, ladies, and gentlemen. He is a Volkswagen guy through and through. I don’t see any tats, but I would assume that if he did have tats, the VW logo would probably be pretty prevalent.

Jim Willhide: It’s coming.

Tom Smith: So, Jimmy. Thank you for joining me.

Jim Willhide: You’re welcome. Thanks for having me.

“I have generations of vehicles from ’91 all the way up to 2014, 2015… once you drive one, you’re gonna want many.”

Tom Smith: And so Jimmy is a Service Advisor here at Ontario Volkswagen. The Volkswagen brand, some of you know exactly what we’re talking about ’cause you’re in that passionate VW, fahvergnügen groovin’ thing.

And I got buddies that are, and I totally appreciate it. I’m a universal car guy personally. So, Jimmy’s worked here for ten years. He’s a Service Advisor, but he has how many Volkswagens do you own?

Jim Willhide: I have eight Volkswagens,

Tom Smith: Eight Volkswagens.

Jim Willhide: Eight Volkswagens.

Tom Smith: That’s more than one for every day of the week.

Love at First Ride

Jim Willhide: It is, and it’s a big genre thing. I don’t have one of one vehicle. I have generations of vehicles from ’91 all the way up to 2014, 2015. And each car has its own attitude and unique style, so to me, once you drive one, you’re gonna want many.

And it’s not just me. I’ve got plenty of folks and friends that have a plethora of Volkswagens. And they’re all doing the same thing. Well, what can I do to this one? What can I do to this one. I want that, you know?

“And once that got on the market, it sold like hotcakes… That’s a hard car to find now in good condition.”

Tom Smith: And so, the way you got into it. You were a car guy it sounds like as a young man.

Jim Willhide: Right. I was into big mini truckin’ stuff. I liked trucks at the time.

Tom Smith: Okay.

Jim Willhide: First time I got a ride into a nice GTI, 1991, shows my age. I took a ride in that car, and I was just sold. That car handled so well. The way it just drove was just awesome. And ever since then I’ve been hooked.

Tom Smith: And was that car relatively new. Had your buddy done anything to it? Was it tuned up at all?

Red Custom VW Jetta parked with hood propped open

Jim Willhide: It had a slight little modification here and there. Some sport suspension. Wheels and tires, you know. Just looked nice and handled well.

Tom Smith: Okay.

Jim Willhide: So, I guess you would call it a modified stock car.

Tom Smith: Okay. And so, Volkswagen as a niche for enthusiasts. How does one … for you, you just drove one. How do some of your other Volkswagen people find their way to the Promised Land that you live in with your eight Volkswagens?

It’s the Volkswagen DNA

Jim Willhide: I would say they… basically, it’s like a friend in hand kind of relationship. Say a friend of a friend comes in and says, “Hey, I’m interested in that car. What can you tell me about it?” “Well, I can tell you a lot of things about it. I have that car, and let me tell you what’s going on with it.”

And from then on if you know the product and you know what you’re talking about and you sell what you’re telling them, it’s a done deal. I mean, once you get in that car.

“Just by shutting the door on the car, you can feel the difference.” 

You get the feel from whatever else you’re driving, something about a Volkswagen is always funner to drive than whatever else I’ve driven.

And I think that’s what sells most of it is the feel on how to drive that car. And it just, the surrounding, it just feels surreal. It’s just awesome.

Tom Smith: And you have a spread of solid 15 years pushing 20 years of vehicles, right?

Jim Willhide: Correct.

Tom Smith: So, that means that the Volkswagen DNA is what it is. And it’s in each of the models, each of the years consistently over and over.

Custom Gray VW Jetta with personalized European license plate stating Gray Matter

Jim Willhide: Right. Right. There’s a big like from 1985 Mark 2 Jetta GTIs to 1991, body change kind of stayed the same, but it added features here and there. And then from ’93 to ’98, they came out with a Mark 3 Jetta, which everybody was just like, “What is that?”, you know?

And once that got on the market, it sold like hotcakes. They had a small thing with Corrados for a couple years. That was a hot car. That’s a hard car to find now in good condition.

Quality Difference You Can Feel

Jim Willhide: Each generation that comes out something else new, something else that has that same feel, but has a different look, but once you get in that car, you can tell this is a Volkswagen.

Just by shutting the door on the car, you can feel the difference. It doesn’t feel like something just started to echo when you shut the door. It’s a solid shut, you know? It’s just one of those things.

Once you’re used to that product and you know what you want, and you want an upgrade. You know it’s the same car. It might have a little bit of a different look, but it’s the same feel.

Green Volkswagen Convertible Cabriolet park on side of desert road with top down

Tom Smith: And so, you’ve been here at Ontario Volkswagen for ten years, and before we turned the mics on you mentioned that before you were a Service Advisor, you were actually a technician yourself.

Jim Willhide: Got my hands dirty, yes.

Tom Smith: And I jokingly said, “Oh, you don’t have to miss that too much, because you’re doing it on your own eight cars at home.” Right?

Jim Willhide: Correct.

Tom Smith: Or probably bringing them in here to work on them at work.

Jim Willhide: It makes it easier bringing it here so I’m not on the ground. Yes.

Tom Smith: Yeah. So, let’s go through your stable that you have currently, and then anything that you might want to comment on that you’ve … ’cause I know when we first met, you were telling me about one that got away that you got back.

The V-Dub that Got Away – Came Back

Jim Willhide: Yes. So, my ranch of cars, I had a 2003 Volkswagen Cabriolet that I came across. Needed some work. Got it for a nice little deal. Put some work into it and one of my technicians needed a car for his daughter’s 16th birthday. Ended up selling it to him.

I didn’t want to, but I didn’t really have the time to work on it, so I let him have it. And then a year later, I guess daughter couldn’t drive the manual transmission, so I got it back.

So, I picked that car back up and it’s back in my lot.

Tom Smith: Thankfully.

Jim Willhide: Yes.

Tom Smith: Whew. Glad you got that sorted out. So, what are all of them? Let’s rattle off everything you have.

Reddish color distressed ball cap with

Jim Willhide: Okay. So, first I have a 1990 Jetta that I’m working on now. I have a 1991 Jetta that’s complete with a conversion kit on it. It has a VR6 engine. Everything’s been modified.

Tom Smith: Okay, what is a conversion kit and a VR6 engine? Just high level.

Jim Willhide: Basically those cars never came with a VR6.

Tom Smith: Okay.

Jim Willhide: They only came 4-cylinder, 8-valve, or if you’re lucky get a GOI 16 valve. Never came with a VR.

Tom Smith: And a VR is?

“…I didn’t really have the time to work on it, so I let him have it. And then a year later… daughter couldn’t drive the manual transmission, so I got it back!”

Jim Willhide: VR 6 is a straight single six cylinder head.

Tom Smith: Do you know what the V and R stand for?

Jim Willhide: I could tell you, but I don’t remember.

Tom Smith: But VR6 is a straight 6 engine.

Jim Willhide: Correct. So, I did that conversion and basically, all the items from that conversion actually came from a Mark 3, which would be like a ’94, ’93, ’95 Jetta GLX.

Mark = Generation in VW Speak

Tom Smith: And in the spirit of explaining everything, ’cause even I had to ask the other day, Mark, what? That just simply means the generation?

Jim Willhide: The generation of the…

Tom Smith: So, a car first comes out, like for instance the Altas just came out this year, so this –

Jim Willhide: That would be Gen 1.

Tom Smith: Gen 1 or Mark 1.

“I would say it would be a fit and finish item, because if you have something moving around it’s gonna cause a noise.”

Jim Willhide: Correct.

Tom Smith: Okay. Carry on.

Jim Willhide: Okay. So, that modification has been complete from a Mark 3 to a Mark 2. It’s kind of like a Frankenstein car. You just put it all back together the way you can. Modify it as much as you can, and then get it running.

Tom Smith: Okay.

Jim Willhide: And then I have a 97 GLX VR6, which is one of my favorites as well. That one is modified. It’s got nice wheels and tires on it. Custom suspension. European bumpers. They’re European spec, not the U.S. spec, so a little bit shorter. Then I have a 2002 Volkswagen Jetta Mark 4 Wagon, Mark 4 GOI, two of those. We have a 2014 –

Metallic sign w/ VW logo and

Tom Smith: Just in case.

Jim Willhide: Yeah. I’ve got a bunch, man.

Tom Smith: So, was that all of them?

Jim Willhide: Pretty much the ones that, well I have a 14 Jetta. I have a 13 Golf. I have a 2002 Golf, and that’s gonna do it.

Tom Smith: Okay. But all in you have eight?

Jim Willhide: Yes.

Tom Smith: And it sounds like all Jettas except for a couple of Golfs.

Jim Willhide: Correct. Two Golfs, Mark 4 generation, 2002 and a Mark 6 generation Golf.

Tom Smith: Okay. So, right now, in 2018, not long ago, we did the 2019 Jetta launch party.

Volkswagen Fit & Finish

Jim Willhide: Correct.

Tom Smith: What generation is that? Remind me.

Jim Willhide: That would be technically, I think it’s the seventh generation.

Tom Smith: Seventh. Okay. Have you driven that one yet? Do you have opinions on it?

Jim Willhide: I have driven the car. Haven’t got a lot of behind the wheel time on it yet, but it does have a little bit of a kick to it for what it has as far as engine. It’s a 1.4 Turbo engine. Has a nice acceleration on it, and I think the main goal is to get the feel, but also save the money on the gas.

Tom Smith: Now, speaking of money. Volkswagens overall, the value has just always consistently been there. The quality Volkswagen DNA has always been there. And I love you analogy about you close the door and it a solid door close, right?

“I have a lot of friends now, which are my clients that come in looking for me asking questions.”

Jim Willhide: Correct. Right.

Tom Smith: I have a vehicle right now. It’s not a Volkswagen. Mid-size SUV. Not an inexpensive vehicle. I shut the door, and I hear that sound that none of us like, and it’s just … the car’s great. Great safety rating. It’s a high-end brand. But it’s just like, really? Really? You’re gonna give me that?

Jim Willhide: Uh-huh. (affirmative)

Tom Smith: You know, and I love everything else about it, but it’s you know, do you consider that a fit and finish thing or is that not technically not fit and finish.

Jim Willhide: I would say it would be a fit and finish item, because if you have something moving around it’s gonna cause a noise.

Tom Smith: So, that brings me to Volkswagen. It’s just a tight quality car for a great, great value.

Jim Willhide: Correct.

When Jimmy Talks – VW-Owners Listen!

Tom Smith: And that covers the gamut of their models. Now, you being the service guy and having this stable of Volkswagens on the ranch.

What recommendations do you have for Volkswagen drivers when it comes to maintenance? So, bring it home to your day to day here at Ontario Volkswagen ’cause I’m sure you have… if I’m a hardcore Volkswagen driver, and I stumble across you, I’m like, I’m on you like you’re my Service Advisor for life, man. That’s it!

Jim Willhide: Sure. Sure. Yeah. And I have a lot of friends now, which are my clients that come in looking for me asking questions. They’re not sure on something, which we’re always helpful, answer any questions.

“…usually on these newer cars too, you know, we do have all these new car care packages when you buy your car.”

But I would say, for all the newer cars and stuff like that I mean, I know things have gotten a little bit different. Things are a little expensive. You know, everything’s expensive nowadays. If you come into us and we recommend a service on the car, you know.

We’re doing that because we want to make sure that car stays in tip-top shape. Yes, a lot of times we can’t do everything we want to do, but we’re there to help.

Tom Smith: Right.

Jim Willhide: So, if there are any questions or we have any information or if you come in just say hi, you want to check out your car, we’ll be happy to help you. But usually on these newer cars too, you know, we do have all these new car care packages when you buy your car.

You can get up to 40, 50-thousand maintenance service maintenance guides, you can pre-pay that when you buy your car. You don’t have to worry about paying for an oil service or anything for 50 thousand miles.

The Straight-Dope on Volkswagen Maintenance 

Jim Willhide: Beside the oil changes, there are other things that are involved with that too, you know? You have your cabin filters that need to be replaced every 20-thousand miles. Your tires need to be rotated every 10 thousand miles. Just keep everything up to date and make sure everything’s doing what it’s supposed to do.

Tom Smith: And the reason why I bring that up is because I did a talk with Jim Straley, your Service Director, and we talked about the value, the quality, really the quality of Volkswagens and that you don’t have to do a lot and you’re gonna get hundreds of thousands of miles out of the vehicles.

Jim Willhide: Right. Right. It’s like one of my older Volkswagens, my 2004, its got 260 thousand miles on it.

Tom Smith: 260?

Red VW Golf pictured in the Ontario Volkswagen Service Bay area after hours

Jim Willhide: Tell me that’s not a good number, you know? And it still runs strong. Yeah, things fail here and there, but she’ll keep running if you take care of her.

Tom Smith: Yeah. And that’s the key thing, right?

Jim Willhide: Yeah.

Tom Smith: Just do the maintenance that is bare bones needed and as you pointed earlier, you can’t always do everything you want to do. What you were referring to there is simply an economic thing, right?

Jim Willhide: Sure. Sure.

Tom Smith: I mean, none of us have unlimited dollars, bottomless pocketbooks, so we can only do what we can do. But that’s the really cool thing. Personally, I lease my vehicles. And so I like having one that’s just… but I’m you know, I like the newest tech and innovation or whatever. But I love the older stuff too, but with that in mind, when I was buying and driving forever I maintained it… you know.

Your VW Tells You

Jim Willhide: Stayed on top of it.

Tom Smith: Ridiculously. Yeah. My Service Advisor loved me.

Jim Willhide: Right. And the cool thing with you now, see in most of these newer cars now, they will tell you when it’s due for service. You can’t forget.

Tom Smith: Right.

Jim Willhide: It will tell you every time you start that car. Ding, ding, ding… Time for service, it’ll say “service now”. That’s your cue.

Tom Smith: Yep.

“…a lot of guests that don’t do ten-thousand miles, they’ll come in their normal six thousand miles. Make sure this is tip-top shape…”

Jim Willhide: You know, like on the older cars, “Oh, man. I forgot to do my oil change. Oh, my God. How many miles have I done since I did my last oil change?” Not anymore. Everything is right there in front of you. If you don’t know, it’ll tell you.

Tom Smith: And oil changes, you can go forever without an oil change these days. If I went three thousand 50 miles, I was panicking. But now it’s like, I mean, what is it?

Jim Willhide: It’s every ten thousand miles or one year, whatever comes first.

Tom Smith: Crazy.

Jim Willhide: Yeah. It’s crazy. And I can honestly tell you I have a lot of guests that don’t do ten-thousand miles, they’ll come in their normal six thousand miles. Make sure this is tip-top shape, you know?

Tom Smith: Right.

Jim Willhide: I don’t believe in ten thousand miles. I’m gonna do it at six. Well, you know that’s great.

Tom Smith: Comparatively speaking, back in the day, I had buddies that wouldn’t do it at three thousand, they’d do it at 15 hundred.

Jim Willhide: Oh, yeah.

Tom Smith: Can you imagine how insanely unnecessarily redundant that would be these days.

VW for Life at Ontario Volkswagen

Jim Willhide: Well, you figure back in those days compared to now, the technology and the oil, you know, it’s built around the engine to let you know it is being lubricated property.

Then it’s always too if you ever have an issue we have these new cars now have what is it? Seven years, 70-thousand miles or five years, 70-thousand mile bumper to bumper. That’s awesome.

Tom Smith: Oh, yeah. The new Volkswagen, people warranty is crazy.  All right. Okay. Well, Jimmy. Jimmy Willhide here at Ontario Volkswagen.

Thank you for spending a few minutes with me. I could sit here and chat cars with you for a long time, but I know you gotta get back to work and help all the Ontario Volkswagen customers. So, unless there’s anything else that you wanted to add.

Jimmy Willhide hugging his son in front of one of his VW's

Jim Willhide: All I can say is guys just stay in your Volkswagens. Love ’em.

Tom Smith: Stay in your Volkswagens and love ’em. Spoken from a true die hard. Jimmy, thanks again. Again, we’re out at Ontario Volkswagen.

All of your Volkswagen needs are right out here in the Los Angeles suburb of Ontario.,, and thank you guys again for being a great partner for iDriveSoCal.

Jim Willhide: Well, thanks Tom.

Tom Smith: For iDriveSoCal, I’m Tom Smith. Thank you for listening.