Project Goals & Death Foam (Beetle Pt-2)

A week in, I finally have project goals for restoring the Beetle, and the first issue to address.

Category: vw-beetle

label_outline tag Beetle

One thing you have to do with impulse is learn how to manage it. I have a note on my monitor at work to remind me to do a retrospective when I say or do something impulsive that has negative consequences. When the blush is off, the question is whether a Super Beetle restoration project is an impulse.

The short answer is maybe. Having owned Beetles in the past, I wanted one more. I knew walking into this that it was going to be a big project. In fact, the first words out of my mouth when I got home from the purchase is: “I need to think about this like a project.” As an IT project manager, I know that means I need to have a plan that includes assumptions, constraints and milestones. I need requirements, or goals. So this is my chance to apply project management outside of my normal context.

The problem with the impulsiveness of the purchase is I likely overpaid for the car, and will likely invest more than I’ll get out of it. But, that is a matter of perspective. If the goal is to resell or to have a cheap car, I will not make that goal and will have project failure. If the goal is to save a car from the rustbin of history, or to have a fun car to drive, then that goal is attainable.

Death Foam, Or Terminal Beetle Cancer

Let’s start with the biggest issue on this car: rust. I posted photos of the various rust places and then emailed the album to a few local body shops. One called and gave an estimate that I thought was absurdly high. Knowing I need to replace both the heater boxes and floor pans, I posted to a VW restoration forum and asked which came first. I got some good advise. Then I got a shock.

There is a thing called “death foam,” which is insulating foam on the C-pillar that shrinks and traps moisture against the exposed metal. That causes rust bubbles and destroys the pillar; the closest thing to cancer a Beetle can have. There is evidence of that in the Body Damage album. The question is whether to dump the car and take the loss or move on.

This week I started stripping out the interior: headliner, seats and battery. My wife started removing the insulation along the fire wall. I hoped to finish the interior this week and drop the engine. With the death-foam issue, I decided to focus on assessing the issue. It’s Mother’s Day weekend, and next week is busy.

As you see from the photo, I cut into the pillars. The damage is not unassailable, an opinion mirrored by enthusiasts more knowledgeable. I posted a C-Pillar Interior album, though I regret not taking photos of the foam. Later the next day I used a rotary wire sander. You can see the results of rust removal on the passenger C-Pillar.

Pareto’s Restoration

End Goal: I want to return the car to duty. I do want to drive it in appropriate weather, garage it in winter. Since there’s some argument over stock restoration verses custom, I’d like to say this is an 80 percent stock, 20 percent custom restoration.

Mostly Stock Body. Somebody removed the half-moons behind the side rear windows. They did a good job, so I won’t restore them. I’ll put in pop-out windows instead. On the body I want to abate the rust and address the years of abuse: front- & rear-apron, fenders, bumpers. The current window rubber is cal-style, but not the body. I will likely stick with cal-style window rubber.

It was Texas Yellow before, and it will be Yellow after. To compare, this is a photo of Texas Yellow. According to the 1972 Volkswagon color chart, this is the only yellow for a 1972 Super Beetle, as well as a 1972 Super Beetle Exterior/Interior color chart.

No lowering. Stock clearance is fine.

Stock Interior Interior. I will be going stock. I might stealthfully add USB charging in the glove box so I can store some electronics and keep them charged.

Custom Sound. Nothing crazy like 7.1 surround with kinetic shakers. There are already some decent after-market speakers in the rear. If they are serviceable, then I’ll be using them with a modern radio that gives me AUX or BlueTooth.

Stock Front-End. Let’s just say the dashboard area under the hood is not there in any meaningful way. The previous photo album shows area rust at the left strut that needs to be replaced for the car to be road safe. (I had forgotten about the struts reliance on the frame.)

Custom Engine. The engine runs okay, though it cries oil. I intend to rebuild the stock engine. If I can manage a non-machined upgrade for a little more power, I will. I’ve been looking at the non-machine 1800cc on AirCooled.Net, but I might go more modest. The previous owner returned the stock carb and oil-bath air filter. I will likely dual-carb and upgrade the exhaust regardless of whether I increase the displacement. My 29-year driving philosophy is to power out of danger.

Stock Transmission. The clutch surrendered itself to time during my test drive, but the transmission seemed fine right up until the clutch failed.

Stock Brakes. The parking brake is non-serviceable—the chock-block is the give away. Looks like the cable is broken. I’ll overhaul the brakes regardless.

Stock Wiring. I plan to rewire from scratch. There amount of cutting and splicing around the engine is tragic. My zeal to get the left c-pillar open managed not to hit the main bundle, but I did neatly cut the defrost wire in two places.

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Photo Credit: A photo of rust inside C-Pillar (Ben Wilson CC BY 4.0.)