Monday, May 21, 2018
News Roundup

VW repair shop owner in Dade City still going strong

DADE CITY — Reports of Leroy "Corky" Yager's death have been greatly exaggerated.

People heard that the owner of the famous Volkswagen repair shop Sunray Bugs was forced to get rid of hundreds of cars from a junk yard behind his shop. (True.) People figured: Since the Bugs are gone, either the business closed or Corky died. (False, and false.)

"Rumors, rumors," said Corky, who at 83 greeted a reporter this week with a firm handshake and a quick wit. "We're still shipping parts."

Corky remains bitter that the county cleared out his cars in January after a protracted zoning battle. He stripped off as many original German parts as he could, but many more were scrapped. "They were parts that you can't buy," he said. "There's nobody manufacturing them."

Corky and his small staff are slowly cleaning up and sorting through the remaining parts. In the coming months, he hopes to build a new repair shop and parts store across the street on U.S. 301.

Something else that's true: Corky will be the star at next weekend's Pasco Bug Jam. That's because of his recent ordeal and because this year's event falls on Veterans Day. He was just a teen when he fought in the closing months of World War II, and he was later drafted in the Korean War.

"He's a real asset to the Volkswagen community," said Carol Hedman, coordinator of the Bug Jam. "We just thought this would be a good time to honor him."

Corky has gnarled hands from decades of working on cars and an earlier career in the trucking business. He combs back wisps of white hair and wears dark blue work pants.

He's been involved in the Bug Jam since it started 24 years ago. It was his 1971 Beetle that broke a Guinness world record in 2009 when 17 people climbed inside. (The record fell a year later after 20 people squeezed into an old Bug at a Kentucky university.)

Hedman said this year will probably be Corky's last as a vendor. His age, combined with the loss of his beloved cars, has taken a toll.

"He's a hard man to keep down," she said. "I just hope when I'm that age, I can be going like he is."

His fight with the county began in February 2009 after a neighbor complained that his "VW graveyard" was an eyesore. County officials found a zoning violation. By August 2010, it was clear he wouldn't win. His lawyer signed an agreement that he would clear the property.

After several missed deadlines, the county hired a vendor to clear roughly 800 cars in December and January. Corky saved as many parts as he could, heaping them in huge piles inside a shop that used to be neat.

"Ever since the thing happened in December, a huge part of him has been forever changed," said his daughter, Tina Mazzara. "He's happier, I think. He's coming to terms with part of it. But it's been hard."

Two old golf carts that haven't been driven in months serve as indicators of how Sunray Bugs has been transformed. Once there were so many old Volkswagens you couldn't drive a truck through the 10-acre lot to retrieve a part. Corky used a golf cart.

"We used to have seven golf carts," he said. "I've seen times when people were on every one of them."

Now, there's no need to go out to the empty fields behind his shop.

"Since they took everything, we're just struggling to stay open," said mechanic Bruce Bratcher, 59, as he looked up from under the engine of a yellow 1968 Beetle. "When a customer walks in, we get all excited."

They still have some work. Corky is just a few parts shy of restoring a bright red Karmann Ghia. (When it came to the shop a few years ago, Corky politely called it a "rust bucket.") In his paint room is the body of a '63 Beetle with a new powder blue coat. He hopes to have it finished in a few months. He's been working off and on for a dozen years on a Thing that is sitting on a lift.

Bratcher got his first Beetle when he was 21. He couldn't afford to pay to fix up his car, so he learned how to do his own repair work.

During a break, he pointed to a dusty silver "new" Beetle. Probably a 2000 year model. "That thing right there is an imposter," he said. Too complicated. Breaks too easily.

Corky drives a 2002 Jetta. He's not sure whether what Bratcher said is true or not. "That's just one man's opinion."

Lee Logan can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 869-6236.

 
Comments
Lightning-Capitals: Grading Tampa Bay’s Game 6 shutout loss

Lightning-Capitals: Grading Tampa Bay’s Game 6 shutout loss

Let's do it one more time, shall we?Game 7 it will be.If it matches Game 6, it will be extraordinary.The Lightning could not close the door on the Washington Capitals. The Caps, who apparently really don't want to lose this series, won a pressurized ...
Updated: 10 minutes ago
Lightning-Capitals: Washington forces Game 7 with 3-0 victory

Lightning-Capitals: Washington forces Game 7 with 3-0 victory

WASHINGTON — Maybe this is how it should be. Maybe this is how it's supposed to be.Either way, it's how it WILL be. One game to decide the NHL's Eastern Conference.Game 7.Get ready, Tampa Bay, because it's coming. Wednesday night at Amalie...
Updated: 20 minutes ago
FPL parent wants to expand its Florida footprint with new purchase

FPL parent wants to expand its Florida footprint with new purchase

TALLAHASSEE — The parent company of Florida utility giant Florida Power & Light announced Monday that it will buy the largest electricity producer in Northwest Florida, Gulf Power, in a $6.4 billion deal.Juno Beach-based NextEra Energy Inc. said in a...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Rain can’t stop hundreds of Lightning fans from watching Game 6

Rain can’t stop hundreds of Lightning fans from watching Game 6

TAMPA — If the Tampa Bay Lightning can overcome a 2-game deficit to the Washington Capitals and take a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference final, then Deborah Schmeltzer can definitely drive across the Howard Frankland Bridge through a driving rainsto...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Lightning journal: Capitals had a shot at Jon Cooper

Lightning journal: Capitals had a shot at Jon Cooper

WASHINGTON — Interesting how things work out in the world of hockey.Back in 2012, the first NHL team to ever interview Jon Cooper for a head coaching job was actually the Washington Capitals. The Caps general manager at the time was George McPh...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Prepare yourselves: Golden Knights will be talk of the Stanley Cup final

Prepare yourselves: Golden Knights will be talk of the Stanley Cup final

WASHINGTON — It's incredible. Unbelievable, really. Maybe the best sports story in this country and the sport of hockey since 1980's Miracle on Ice.And, as a side note, if the Lightning reaches the Stanley Cup final, everyone in the country out...
Updated: 2 hours ago
One of Ybor City’s most historic blocks about to see construction of four-story boutique hotel

One of Ybor City’s most historic blocks about to see construction of four-story boutique hotel

TAMPA — Developers are poised to launch construction this week on one of Ybor City’s biggest new projects in years — a four-story, $50 million boutique hotel being created by a Chicago company that seeks out neighborhoods rich in color and character....
Updated: 3 hours ago
State softball: Admiral Farragut happy to be in title game this time around

State softball: Admiral Farragut happy to be in title game this time around

VERO BEACH — All season, Admiral Farragut has focused on two things:Believe in each other.Commit to the process.Well, it all paid off in a big way Monday in the Class 3A state semifinals at Historic Dodgertown in Vero Beach.Alyssa Rano hit a two-run ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Man recalls beating from Hernando deputies in federal excessive force trial

Man recalls beating from Hernando deputies in federal excessive force trial

TAMPA — The allegations at the core of Michael Bratt’s lawsuit against three Hernando County deputies have been repeated in court papers for eight years since his violent arrest.But on Monday, a federal jury in Tampa heard Bratt describe in his own w...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Hillsborough school district, teachers move closer to pay deal

Hillsborough school district, teachers move closer to pay deal

TAMPA — The Hillsborough County School District and its teachers’ union moved closer to resolving their salary dispute during Monday’s negotiating session — but stopped short of reaching an agreement.The teachers, who have spent this school year work...
Updated: 3 hours ago