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Art on Wheels: Walter, The World's Largest Faux-Volkswagen Bus

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The story of Walter the Bus, the world's largest fan-made Volkswagen, sounds like a hippie folk tale that spans almost 50 years. But everything about the project is rooted in the 60s.

Walter, now a 13-foot high, 30-foot long, 19,500-pound VW stationed in Scottsdale, doesn't look much like he did in the '60s, though. Around that time, he was a rescue vehicle at Luke Air Force Base, enlisted to wait for planes to crash and douse the flames.

Fast forward a few years, and Walter found work at the New River Fire Department before retiring into the hands of a man who kept him at the Gold King Mine in Jerome.

Enter Kirk Strawn, a local doctor, life-long Volkswagen fan, and Walter's benefactor, who says he found Walter "left, sort of, for dead."

You might have seen Strawn and Walter near Saturday's Pie Social in Phoenix. They were prepping for their big appearance in the Phoenix Annual Parade of the Arts

Read on for some more of Walter's history and photos...

"They've (Volkswagen buses) always just meant freedom," Strawn says from a '60s-style office at the Walter Dome, near 64th Street and Thomas Road.

After finding Walter (and trading the bus for his VW camper) Strawn began styling Walter into what he is today. To help him out with the project, he assembled a team, known as the "Walter Tribe," who helped out with everything from mechanics to safety to installing bamboo floors on the bus's roof.

Strawn and the Tribe took Walter to Burning Man in 2009, where he was well-received (a couple even got married on top of him).

After a few more modifications, Walter is now fully party-loaded, complete with more than 10,000 rave-ready LED lights and a speaker system Strawn dares to say is world-class competition. 

The Walter project is currently a complete non-profit, with a Walter micro-brewing co-op and other off-shoots planned. Strawn's even considering renting Walter out in the future.

"Even if you're a broken-down old firetruck," says Strawn, "You can have a second, amazing life."

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