A 1970 vintage Volkswagen bus that was purchased by Sunrise Ford and transformed into a saltwater aquarium will be featured on the National Geographic Channel’s “Fish Tank Kings” show on June 1.
Sunrise Ford general manager Mike Wetzel said the VW bus that now showcases coral and fish from the Indian River Lagoon will eventually be installed in a VW dealership. Wetzel came up with the idea after watching the nationally televised show, which showcases aquariums in unique settings. He thought the VW/aquarium would be perfect for VW franchise along the treasure coast.
“It will be something that will draw people into a showroom just to see it,” he said. A beach style motif for a showroom will be the perfect setting for VW bus.
Wetzel track to the 1970 minibus on the Internet and purchased it from a private seller in July 2012. The paint was primer black and the minibus had no ignition key. Needing extensive repairs, the VW barely made the trip to Fort Pierce. When it arrived at Sunrise Ford, bodyshop mechanic Jimmy Catrambone started an extensive restoration. The experts at living color aquariums, located in Fort Lauderdale, also went to work designing 800 plus gallon tank that would be installed behind the front seat all the way to the rear of the vehicle. After months of work, the project was unveiled in January in the showroom at Sunrise Ford.
The tank was filled with colorful coral and a myriad of fish, including juvenile pompano, cobia, lookdowns and stingrays, all indigenous to the Indian River Lagoon or the Atlantic Ocean off the treasure coast.
“We wanted something that would celebrate the wonderful fish and plant life St. Lucie County,” Wetzel said.
After all, St. Lucie County has been a mecca for both anglers and surfers for decades. The VW minibus with a staple at the North Beach jetties in the 1960s and 1970s. “That nostalgic feel would be a perfect fit for VW dealership,” he said.
Dozens of customers and Sunrise Ford employees were on hand when National Geographic filming crews, as well as Living Color Aquarium staffers, unveiled tank. “It was over-the-top,” Wetzel said. “It turned out much better than I imagined.”
The tank was then emptied so that the National Geographic show would be the official “reveal”. Fish Tank Kings will air at 9:00 pm on June 1. The aquarium will then be filled again in July and stocked with an array of fish and coral.
As the owner of Sunrise Ford, I hope that many of our customers and friends will stop in to see this spectacular aquarium. Feel free to sit in the bus and have your picture taken with the beautiful coral and colorful fish in the background. The bus will be at Sunrise Ford until it is relocated to its new home in the VW dealership.