WHY I WANTED TO GET BACK INTO A BEETLE
First of all, my wife and I have owned a VW Beetle of some sort for more than half of our married life.
Her experience started with a Beetle as her first car in high school. Not sure how many years she owned it or what model it was, “It was a Beetle”. But she drove it a few years then graduated to a Fiat 124 Spider, which was a fun car too, just quirky and typical Italian sportscar that required a lot of care. For example the rubber timing belt would jump a notch if you ever raced it through the gears accelerating.
Then I bought a 1973 Green Super Beetle in 1978 just before we married in ’79 and kept until 1985 when I totaled it after a drunk ran a stop sign. The MacPherson strut design saved us probably as the design allowed the front end to fold up under the driver dissipating the energy of the sudden stoppage very efficiently. Neither of us were wearing seat belts, and t-boned the drunk at 40 MPH, ending ending up with only a scratch on my arma nd 2-3 stitches above my wife’s eyebrow. Oh, when I got home I did have a nice bruised imprint on my chest that said “VOLKSWAGEN” (from the steering wheel)
Then in 2001 we purchased the 1970 Cabriolet you see pictured up top the day we purchased it. We still own it today and after 17 years, it needs a facelift or sorts.
This is where I am today
EVERYONE HAS A STORY
Everyone who has owned or wants to own a VW Beetle has a story. That’s because you usually don’t just end up with a VW Beetle out of necessity or the luck of the draw, no it has to be a conscious choice for some reason.
Beetles just have a quirky appearance that “only a mother could love”. They’re small, odd shaped, generally not air conditioned (though that is a rare option some add), use air cooled engines, no computers (i.e. OBC), simple carbs, in short…they’re simple cars in a day of the not-so-simple automotive environment.
Almost anyone with the desire can do fairly extensive repairs on their VW relatively cheaply and keep them running. Then with the colossal VW networks out there like TheSamba.com, YouTube videos, and more, all you need are some basic tools, metric and standard, a willingness to learn and try and fail and try again and you can do it. Even traveling in your bug there are networks to reach out to if you break down in your travels.
We had lived overseas for about a decade and re-entering the US culture I wanted a car my kids could drive cheaply and I could maintain. I worked overseas a missionary pilot with Mission Aviation Fellowship, holding both a Commercial Pilots license and Airframe and Powerplant license.
We we were home on a visit the summer before our planned return to the US and I found what I thought was a good deal, a 1970 VW Convertible with a 1973 Dual Port engine installed. It drove well and compression was like a new car. So I bought it and when I went to pick it up the owner wa surprised I showed up without a trailer. He asked why not? I said that I planned on driving it home to Auburn, AL. And I did.
I bought it in Cleveland, Ohio. Then drove direct to Athens, Ohio for a family reunion. From there we drove to Myrtle Beach, SC for a family vacation, then from there to Johnson City, Tennessee and then on to Auburn, Alabama with no issues. None.
We’ve owned it ever since.
WHAT I HAVE TO DO TO IT NOW
Well my 1970 standard Beetle had been restored by a man up who did what I thought was a great job. But looking back, and looking deeper today I see he cut some corners.
- The paint job was top notch. No issues there.
- But the rear fenders are from a 1973 Beetle, the elephant foot style taillights. So I’m looking for some good used German fenders and replacement tombstone taillights.
- The running boards are cheap and flimsy, so looking for some vintage ones.
- Passenger side mirror is missing
- Seat covers were cheap JC Whitney calibre, having now split and are ready for seat-cover-heaven.
- Interior is black vinyl which is a no-go here in the deep south. So that is going to be updated with a better color and probably two part (cloth seats with vinyl trim). Maybe two colors.
- The real biggie is the convertible top. Like the seat covers it was a cheapy (rear window was plastic vinyl and not glass) and then a limb fell from a gum tree by my driveway and went right through it. Luckily it missed the framework and just split the vinyl over the driver’s seat also poking a hole in the seat and breaking the horn rim. That will be replaced by a cloth top, probably from Chuck’s complete with their aluminum frame, new glass and headliner. I’ll stick with black too.
- It also has a couple of small holes in the pans, so I some patching to do there.
- The engine is in great shape, but lots of oil drips probably from old seals, etc, will be dealt with by pulling the engine and maybe even the tranny this winter. A complete cleaning and painting of doghouse, tins, new heat seals, etc. May also pull the IRS axle assemblies, replace the boots, clean/repack the CV joints while engine/tranny are out..
- I just rebuilt the rear brakes:
- New rubber lines (German)
- New steel lines (German)
- New brake cylinders (German)
- New shoes
- Tires are 17 years old and dry rotted so those will be replaced.
- Rims have developed some rust from sitting outside too much so after tires are removed and I’ll go about refinishing the rims and repaint in the original aluminum/silver for the year (L97U).
- I pulled off the steering wheel and restored it and painted black like original. New horn ring and logo insert (broken in the tree limb fall).
WISH LIST ITEMS
After I get her looking sharp and again, I will:
- Replace all of the window scraper, seals, rubber parts
- Work at re-wiring much of the old cracked wiring as I can. May even put in a new harness.