About this project

B.R. Howard was contracted by the Historic Vehicle Association to conserve a 1966 Volkswagen Deluxe Station Wagon that had been used by civil rights leaders Esau & Janie B. Jenkins. The Jenkins used this vehicle to transport children to school and workers to their jobs. This couple taught adult passengers how to read in order to pass the literacy exams needed to become registered voters. They also founded the Community Owned Federal Credit Union to further help economic advancement of their community through low-interest loans for homes and business purchases. Another highly notable accomplishment of Esau & Janie B. Jenkins was their founding of The Progressive Club. This co-op housed a grocery store, gas station, day care, and classroom space for community workshops which Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. attended.


What we did

Before Jenkins VW Bus arrived at our studio for conservation, the Historical Vehicle Association (HVA) travelled to John’s Island, SC to excavate it from outside the Jenkins family home. More can be read about that here.

The VW was thoroughly photo documented and paint thickness readings and gloss levels were recorded before any work began. All active corrosion was mechanically reduced using a combination of methods that may include adjustable thermal shock cleaning systems, ultrasonic scalers and pneumatic micro jacks. These tools and procedures are systematically integrated and often overlap in areas to ensure that all surfaces are properly prepared before chemical stabilization coating applications are applied. Testing and mock up sample areas were conducted to determine the most effective and appropriate treatment method.

Our conservators removed the biological growth and surface dirt/airborne pollutants found on the exterior painted body of the vehicle to visually improve the appearance. This was mostly performed mechanically using a custom formulated aqueous solution that was gently introduced to the surface paint using a programable articulating misting system. The paint was so heavily oxidized that any cleaning procedures would have burnished the surface or caused additional paint to flake.


Before & after:

Chelating gels were formulated to remove the rust staining from the painted surfaces.

Consolidants were used to stabilize the paint using reversible material to prevent further flaking, tenting, and additional loss. These clear, non-yellowing coatings were adjusted to match the existing gloss units so that it would not alter the appearance. Chelating gels were also mixed up in our lab and applied to painted surfaces where rust staining had bleed through and discolored the paint. These gels were very effective at removing the rust staining. The NB Center for American Automotive Heritage designed and fabricated an internal mount system that provided adequate supports to fasten the doors to the body without having to alter or weld components to the VW. The interior bus textiles were also cleaned and stabilized before it was displayed at the National Mall in D.C.. The Jenkins bus has been inducted into the National Historic Vehicle Register.