Artists Recreate Iconic VW Light Bus to Commemorate Woodstock’s 50th Anniversary

Peace, love, and the Volkswagen Bus.

byRob Stumpf|
Volkswagen News photo

It might not be the Summer of Love, but 1969 marked another iconic event: Woodstock. In mid-August, the hippie-ridden crowds flocked to Upstate New York to attend one of the most influential moments of the era's American culture. And at the center of all the people sat Volkswagen's legendary Microbus. Now, 50 years later, the artist behind the painting of the famous Light Bus is recreating the vehicle in all of its psychedelic glory.

In 1968, Robert Hieronimus (now known affectionately as "Dr. Bob") was approached by his friend Bob Grimm, the lead vocalist of a '60s rock band from Baltimore called "Light.” Grimm commissioned Hieronimus to paint him "a magic bus" and presented him with a 1963 Volkswagen Kombi split-window as a blank canvas.

The final product was crowned the “Light Bus” and was covered in mystical and esoteric symbols used to represent the generation's musical heros.

In August the following year, Grimm took the bus to a dairy farm in Bethel, New York where the world famous Woodstock was being held. The van sat parked stage-right for three days and two musicians from the band Light, Charles "Ricky" Peters and Trudy Cooper, sat atop the Light Bus listening to artists like Jimi Hendrix, Santana, and Creedence Clearwater Revival.

Eventually, the scene caught the eye of an Associated Press photographer. The photo taken would later be used in Rolling Stone, solidifying the Light Bus' place in history books as an icon of the era.

After Woodstock, the bus faded away into the light. It spent the majority of its days running errands for the Savitria commune in Baltimore before being lost forever.

To prepare for the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, the original artist, Bob Hieronimus, and his team spent six long months searching for Grimm's original van but came up empty-handed. Instead, the team found a 1962 Volkswagen Kombi and got to work recreating the Light Bus through a tedious and painstaking process.

A team of five freelance artists were hired to take on the project, each required to learn the symbolism of the bus inside and out, including the four different writing systems featured on the bus (English, Hebrew, Sanskrit and Atlantean).

“The bus is really about being one people on one planet,” says Hieronimus, who is also a symbologist. “On every side of the bus is a story—many stories—and the stories all point to unification, working together and a higher consciousness, which is what Light really is all about.”

Over the next six weeks, the team carefully recreated the consciousness-expanding symbolism of the original Light Bus, ensuring every brush stroke matched that of the indigenous vehicle. The final product will be debuted at the 50th anniversary of Woodstock in Watkins Glen this summer.