See the City Through the Windows of a 1970s Volkswagen

Posted by Jordan Bailey

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Take one step inside Erik Hormann’s office, and you’ll see that it’s all Volkswagen everything. From the miniature model of a cobalt blue VW bus on his desk, the VW van that features prominently on his computer’s screensaver and the many vintage Volkswagen manuals lurking in his drawers, his love and knowledge of Volkswagen cars is more than apparent.

Erik’s affinity for Volkswagens can be traced back to the day he was born, when his mom brought he and his twin brother Hans home from the hospital in a baby blue 1971 VW van. Today, Erik uses an identical model named Harvey to give small group tours of San Francisco.

Erik’s tour company — Vantigo — uses a fleet of three Volkswagen buses to give city tours to groups no larger than seven. They’ll spend a few hours cruising through neighborhoods in the vintage vans, listening to SF musicians and learning the history of the city.

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Since the groups are so small, Erik said each tour has a semi-private feel, which allows him to tailor the story he tells about the city to the interests of the people in each group.

“Whether it’s current stuff about the mission burrito, technology folks moving into San Francisco or the history of the 1906 fires … it’s really about taking the subject matter and making it very approachable,” he said. “I want everyone to have a good time and feel like they really learned a good amount of stuff.”

Vantigo also gives a nighttime city lights tour, wine country tours and, Erik’s personal favorite, a brewery tour down Highway 1.

“You’ve got the beach out your window side, a beer in your hand (for the guests, of course) and you’re exploring breweries that a lot of people don’t know are out there,” he said. “We also make a lot of stops that have some tasty surprises.”

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Erik started the tour company with Lille — a fire-engine red bus whose name is a tribute to Lillie Coit’s work with volunteer firefighters. He started giving tours on nights and weekends in 2013 while working full-time for a tech company. When an article about Erik’s unique tours appeared on the front page of the Guardian’s travel section in 2014, he decided to quit his job and do Vantigo full time.

Since then, he’s bought two more vans and named them for well-loved San Francisco characters. Harvey, the blue van, is named for Harvey Milk who used blue and white as his campaign colors in the 70s. And Jerry, a spunky bright yellow van that followed the Grateful Dead tour bus for 15 years, is aptly named after Jerry Garcia.

With his family’s affinity for Volkswagen cars, Erik said the career switch made perfect sense. The Hormann family has collectively owned more than 36 Volkswagens over the years, thanks in part to his father Heinz and his brother Hans (“We’re a very Germanic family,” Eric added) who routinely buy old models to fix up and sell.

“It was just always a part of my life,” Erik said. “It’s one of those things that just hits you in the face and you’re like, ‘What have I been doing my whole life? I just found a reason to use the thing I’ve been given.’”

And Erik said he couldn’t be happier about the career change.

“When you leave a desk job at a tech company, and all of a sudden you’re driving down the coast on a Thursday, going like ‘Oh look, there’s a whale off the coast!’ and then you go to all these different breweries and talk to the brewers about their craft — it’s huge.”

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Vantigo tours start at $35 and run every day of the week. To book a tour, ask your Scout to set one up for you, or text “Vantigo” to 415-915-2421.

Photos from Vantigo’s Instagram account.
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