My Beetle Restoration

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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