When searching for a project I came across what I thought would be the perfect canidate to restore… it was in my state, the asking price seemed reasonable and from the pictures it looked to be in fair shape. With what limited knowledge I possessed I took the drive to take a closer look. The car belonged to a gentleman that had restored/customized a number of VW’s over the years. He had owned this one for fourteen years and had driven the car daily for eight of those. He had stated that he had always hoped to get the time to restore this one but that the other projects in the garage had taken up his time. There were three other VW’s and two American Classics in various stages of restoration some complete others not.
The car was tucked away between two others and the interior was packed with dislocated seats, deck lid, boxes of extra suspension parts. etc.. So, I took my walk around and looked at what I could see and thought I had found a car in resonable shape to become our project. Now I was upfront with this guy as to my level of expertise, or should I say lack there of, and asked him to give me his honest opinion based on what he himself claimed to be a vast level of experience… was I biting off more than I could chew with this car? Oh no, he claimed this should be a great project and well within my reach. Well we haggled and after getting to a number I thought was fair and in my limited budget we had a deal. The guy was kind enough to even tow it to my house.
Unfortunately, once home I began to strip the car of its contents to see exactly what I had and then discovered I was in trouble. Once all the interior seating was removed along with the collection of parts, rear deck lid, etc. I began tearing out the carpet and padding along with the door sills. There it was… gaping holes in the heater channels on both sides right at the floor line running from front to back. These were definately going to need to go, not what I was hoping for but I still felt confident that I’d be up to the task. Time to take a break.
While sitting on my driveway sipping a glass of water directly in front of the car with the hood open did I realize that the apron was not a parallel with the shelf the gas tank sat on, it drooped downward on the drivers side. Now this just did not seem right… one thing I knew to look for was damage inside the spare tire well and I had looked prior to purchase and it was perfect, not a ding. Alarmed I quickly removed the fender from the front driver side wheel. There it was… a series of ripples indicating that at some point in its life this car had been struck and struck hard. In fact, upon closer inspection I could see that each of the spot welds were stressed. Concerned I had missed more I started digging deaper.
I had noted prior to purchase that the doors did not quite align correctly but how many Bug doors do in a car this old. I had anticipated that adjustments would be needed and possible but now I had my doubts. There was a pencil thin rust line just above the trim right behind the driver’s door at the latch. Although I had not given it much thought at the time I now wondered what this might be underneath. So I grabbed my paint stripper wheel and started grinding off the paint. My worst fears were beginning to be realized. A thick layer of filler was just below the paint. By the time I was done stripping that area, the driver’s door and rear quarter-panel I discovered that car indeed had been wrecked and that there were at least seven layers of primer, paint and filler on this side of the car.
Still no completely detered but definately wary I continued my inspection. Once I had the rear fenders off it became obvious that there were more issues… this time, more rust. Not rust in general is to be expected but in this case the rust was at the main suspension support in the rear fender well and that rust went all the way through to the interior of the car. You could actually see into the rear shelf behind the rear seat and once inside the car I could see how bad it truly was. Time for some outside guidance.
I am fortunate to have recently met a gentleman who has a beautiful collection of fully restored VW’s and I asked him if he had any suggestions on what to do. He gave me the name of another gentleman who had assisted him in the restoration of his vehicles and could not speak more highly of his level of expertise. I contact the man and he was kind enough to come out and take a look at the car. The news was pretty much all bad! His feeling was that this car was not worth the effort or money to try and salvage it and certainly not the right car for my first ever restoration. He encouraged me to cut my losses and start my search over and I did.
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