At 13 feet tall and 20,000 pounds, Walter is the world’s largest VW bus. He’s also a Scottsdale resident, and if you haven’t already seen him at a Valley event, chances are you will at some point.
Over the years, Walter the Bus has made appearances at the APS Electric Light Parade, Phoenix Pride, street festivals, school activities, and store and restaurant grand openings. He’s even a regular at Burning Man in Nevada. You can learn where he’ll be next by friending him on Facebook.
Walter wasn’t always a bus. Originally a crash truck manufactured by the now defunct Walter Motor Truck Company, he would rush to the rescue when needed at Luke Air Force Base in Glendale and cover the crash site with foam.
Eventually, he was sold to the Gold King Mine in Jerome. That’s where Kirk Strawn, a family physician as well as an innovator, inventor, and dreamer, found him.
Strawn realized the former foam truck’s potential immediately and traded his 1979 VW camper for it. He loaded Walter on a flatbed and headed for what used to be the Ponderosa Lumber at Thomas Road and 64th Street in southern Scottsdale. Today, it’s gaining a reputation as the “Walter Dome.”
Once in Scottsdale, Strawn assembled a team he calls his “tribe” to help him convert the 1963 foam truck into a 2-to-1 scale VW bus with a 330-horsepower engine and a 40-gallon gas tank. Not only is it road ready and drivable, it boasts 10,000 LED lights, a 4,000-watt sound setup, and a 330-gallon water tank that feeds an on-board misting system.
Walter also has a 4,000 watt generator and air-conditioning. The inside walls are wooden paneled, and the second story has safari-style windows. You can see photos documenting the transformation on Walter’s Flickr account.
Strawn has said in interviews that Walter is meant to inspire people to see what is possible when they work together as part of something bigger than themselves. He calls it the “Walter Movement,” and it has inspired him and his tribe to take on more projects.
In addition to Walter the Bus, the group has also created:
- Big Red, a massive VW bug with a comfy bed in the back
- Heathen, a fire-breathing firetruck with massive glowing horns
- Kalliope, a three-story “dance party machine” with high fidelity audio, multi-colored LEDs, lasers, and flame effects
- Peace Train, three WWII communications trailers-turned-mobile-lounges pulled by a 1940s-style Kübelsitzwagen rebuild
Unfortunately, Walter and the other vehicles are beginning to outgrow the space at the Walter Dome, and Strawn is in the process of converting the old sound stage at Seventh and Roosevelt Avenues near the Phoenix Arts District into Walter Studios with the help of his tribe. In fact, some of the vehicles are already being stored at the new space!
Even though Walter will be moving to Phoenix at some point, he’ll still be making Scottsdale appearances. If you have an event you want Walter or any of the other Walter Production vehicles to make a grand entrance at, you can book here.