Shifting Gears to Save a Beetle (Beetle Pt-1)

I'm splitting my time from editing to save a Super Beetle

Category: vw-beetle

label_outline tag Beetle

One of my favorite quotes is “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” Or, if you’re biblically inclined, “We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.” (Proverbs 16:9). All this to say, I will be spending my summer doing more than just editing. I will be attempting to restore a VW Beetle.

I mentioned before that I’ve owned a couple VW Beetles: a 1972 Super Beetle and a 1969 Beetle. I gave away the Beetle in 1999. Ever since then, I’ve wished I had not. There was an older Beetle in the neighborhood that was slowly rusting away. I never had the courage to ask the owner if they would part with it.

On 20 April, I saw a 1972 Super Beetle up for sale. It seemed like a good opportunity to try again. I asked my wife and she said “sure” without batting an eye. I anticipated some resistance, but there was none to be had. I found my old Muir book on Beetles and refreshed my memory on what to look for. Muir wasn’t considering a restoration purchase, so I figured I could give on a few of his points.

A couple days later, I drove by and confirmed by VIN that it was a 1972. That afternoon I called the owner to schedule the inspection. I ended up driving over only a few minutes later with my 2nd son in tow. The car had rust all over. The engine compartment was full of oil residue. The engine started and idled well, so while a rebuild might be worth doing, it is likely not necessary.

The first warning was when the seller advised the route to take. The car popped out of gear when I tried to get moving, which told me the clutch needed to be replaced. I forced it, but in the span of 50 meters the clutch gave up the ghost for good. I managed to get it back to start. I might have shocked her by making an offer. She said there were some other interested buyers, but I assumed that was a way of giving her time to think on the price. She accepted the offer about an hour later, and I paid for it the next day. I titled and registered it a few days later…that starts the clock ticking.

So what needs to be done?

  • Clutch replace
  • Engine rebuild
  • Replace header channels (Look on Bug Stuff Online)
  • Replace floor pans
  • Fix right quarter panel rust
  • Replace front apron
  • Replace rear apron
  • Replace fenders

Experience and All That

Having owned a pair of Beetles, I’ve done a lot of work on them. But, I’ve never done body work. I bought several videos from Bugme Video. I have watched the two on body work and am inspired to try. To that end, I bought an air compressor, a wire-fed MIG welder, a motor stand and a motor dolly. I’m tracking all of the expenses on a spreadsheet, so when the project is overwith I can help.

Have I ever welded? No. Have I ever rebuilt an engine? I have worked on an engine, but not performed a full teardown. Have I ever painted a car? Nope. I’m also not the most patient fellow in the world. So, this will likely be the worst restoration ever performed.

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Photo Credit: 72 Super Beetle May 2015 (Ben Wilson Rights Reserved.)