My Beetle Restoration

Archive for July, 2014

Disassembling the Donor Heater Channels

by on Jul.21, 2014, under Body Work

Finally back working on the car! I decided to tackle removing the quarter panels and other pieces still remaining on the donor heater channels that I purchased. Even though the quarter panels that came with the heater channels are in fairly good shape, I decided that it would be better to just remove them and just use the heater channels by themselves. I think it will be too hard to try to cut and splice the channels, and whatever part of the quarter panels I decide to use, into the body all at the same time. I do intend to use the lower part of the inner quarter panels from the donors as the inner panels on my body are severely rusted. I intend to use reproduction repair panels for the outer quarter panels as the ones on the donors both have issues. I started with the passenger side channel.

Even drilling very carefully on the spot welds, I still managed to drill through into the heater channel a couple of times. Oh well, I guess I’ll get a little more welding practice! It’s amazing how well the spot welds hold and just a small area missed can keep the whole area from breaking free. I took my time to do as little damage as possible to the heater channels when removing all the stuff I didn’t want and at the same time, trying to have as much usable area on the removed panels just in case I need something from them later on. Sometimes, though, areas on the panel being removed just have to be sacrificed to be able to get them apart.


First, I removed the outer quarter panel. I don’t intend to use this panel, but tried to do as little damage as possible so that it is useable either by me or someone else in the future. With the door jamb welded, it is difficult to get in the tight corners and cut it away. I ended up drilling or cutting away more that I wanted, but the main focus is saving the heater channel.


Since the carpet strip on the door threshold is dented, scratched, and bent, I decided to remove it. Replacements are readily available and less than $10 for quality replicas. It was kind of a pain to remove, however, with just over 30 spot welds to drill out and ground down afterwards. I think it will be worth the effort of replacing it though as this is very visible when the door is open


Next, I removed the inner quarter panel. There are several areas that are just difficult to access to cut, grind, and free the panel and not damage or mar it. Also, it’s often hard to tell just where the welds are and just what is preventing the panel from breaking free. This panel is in excellent condition and I will use the bottom of it to replace the completely rusted out panel on the car.


I then removed the remnants of the rear cross member from the rear of the channel. There were two thick layers of metal (the cross member & the reinforcing plate) with a lot of spot welds. The cross member actually fits under the bottom plate of the heater channel and is seam welded all the way across. I cut it just past the seam weld losing very little of the bottom plate. Removing this gives me the first view inside the heater channel. Not too bad for panel that is around 50 years old! I'm considering removing the bottom plate so that I can remove the dents and treat the rust inside. It's a lot of spot welds to drill out to remove it and a lot of welding to reassemble it, but it's really the only way to stop the rust, preserve the good metal, and get it looking its best.


Next up was the remainder of the A pillar. Again, I cut just past the welds to remove the panel piece and then ground the welds down.


Since my car didn’t have carpet retaining strips over the heater vent louvers, I removed it. I want to keep it as close to what it originally had as possible.


Last, I removed the remaining section of the front firewall. This piece is heavily welded both with seam welds and spot welds. Luckily, I don’t need to keep any of it and could cut and grind it aggressively. One down and one to go!


After getting it all apart, I think that this heater channel was cut from a 1967 bug or at least one that had seat belts from a 1967. It had a clip mounted on it that was used to hold back the sheath that covered the bottom part of the 1967 seat belt mechanism. Overall, I’m very pleased with the condition of this heater channel. I think this will be the closest available replacement part and at $100, it’s hard to beat the price as well. The closest quality replacement costs around $300 plus another $120 shipping for each heater channel!

The driver's side donor heater channel came apart pretty much the same way. I'm not sure this heater channel came from the same car as the other, but they were supposed to be a pair from the same body. The paint colors were different except for similar small areas with the same green paint. This side also had the running board bolt holes welded and ground flat to the surface and the molding clip holes on the quarter panel were welded as well. The passenger side did not. I think it's from a 1964-1967 model as it had a drain line in the quarter panel for a metal sunroof. Overall, this heater channel had more rust and rust damage and isn't in as good condition as the passenger side heater channel. Just as the other channel, I think the bottom plate will need to be removed to treat the rust and do other repairs. I still think it will be fine once done and well worth the $100 I paid for it.


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Disassembling the Donor VIN Plate\Brake Fluid Reservoir Panel

by on Jul.27, 2014, under Body Work

I decided to remove the extraneous pieces from my donor VIN plate/ brake fluid reservoir compartment. When it was cut out, there were pieces of the panel it was attached to that need to be removed before it can be welded on. That will be quite a while from now, but still needs to be done.

First, I used a rotary wire brush in my drill and went over the spot welds to make then easier to see. Amazing how many spot welds there was on this small compartment that had to be drilled out to get the old panel pieces off. A quick count yielded around 44 welds. I didn't track the time, but I'm guessing it took at least 2 hours to do them all.


The resulting replacement panel is in pretty good shape. It's a little bent up and is rusted through on the back part of the panel, just behind where the brake fluid reservoir sits. I'll find out later on just how far that extends when I clean it up for patching. Hopefully, it's just a small area.


One less thing to do!


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Disassembling the Donor Napoleon Hat

by on Jul.30, 2014, under Body Work

Since the Napoleon Hat on my car isn't worth saving or repairing, I decided to find a donor part. I contacted the guy that I purchsed my donor heater channels from an he said he had a chassis that he would be willing to cut up and remove the Napoleon Hat for me. He did a good job cutting through the tunnel on the floor pan side and left about an inch of the tunnel from the flange where they are welded together. However, on the frame head side, he cut most of the flange away on half of it. I'm sure it was more difficult cutting through with tunnel on that side with the frame head bottom plate in the way. I don't think it will be much of an issue just cutting that section of the flange out and welding in a patch. My intention is to do just that.


As far as drilling out the spot welds and removing the tunnel and bottom plate of the frame head, it was very difficult. On the tunnel flange, the spot welds were hard to find in some areas. The flange and tunnel are of thick metal and the welds didn't make much of an indentation into the metal, but the welds penetrated all the way through the metal and held fast. Also, with the metal being so thick, it was difficult to pull the pieces apart or get them to move at all until all of the welds were cut or ground through. I had to cut and remove pieces of the tunnel to make it easier. Still, it was a difficult task. Several welds on the bottom of the Napoleon Hat where it was welded to the bottom plate of the frame head were so close together that the weld penetration formed one large weld. It was difficult to get the weld separated without taking a big chunk of the bottom flange out with it.


I'm not overly happy with this panel, to be honest. I think it is better than using a new reproduction panel as they don't fit well at all and have to be cut up and re-shaped, especially where it fits around the tunnel. But on the outer ends of the panel, someone drilled quite a few extra holes on both ends. I'm not quite sure why the extra holes were drilled through them or what that accomplished. They can be patched and filled, but there is also quite a bit of rust on the inside of them. I'll have to clean the whole panel up and see just how deep the rusts goes and if the structural integrity is compromised. It may be worth buying a new panel and chopping off the ends and grafting them on my donor panel. The shape and fit are still quite a bit different on the new panels, but I will try to repair the donor panel first and keep as much of the original metal as possible.


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