My Beetle Restoration

Disassembling The Donor Frame Head

by on May.22, 2018, under Chassis

Well, to start, nothing about disassembling this frame head was easy. Especially if you are trying to preserve the parts to reuse them. It was constructed for structural strength and was not meant to be easy to take apart. Removing the spot welds isn't difficult, but just take a lot of work. The seam welds are another story. Separating the parts that are seam-welded almost always requires sacrificing one of the panels to cut them apart. I started out trying to preserve all the pieces, but finally decided to choose the pieces I wanted the most and do whatever I needed to do to make that as easy as possible. In this case, I really wanted the two lower sections on the sides of the frame head body where the bottom plate is mounted, the Napoleon hat, and as much of the tunnel as I could preserve. I really wanted to save the bottom plate as well, but it was just too difficult to separate it from everything else with all of the seam welds. And although it looked in really good condition from the outside, the bottom plate had deep pits in it where it was covered by the Napoleon hat, the tunnel, and frame head body. I think that the aftermarket bottom plate I purchased will be just as strong as this one considering all of the rust damage. Anyway, I didn't really have a choice in the end and made the sacrifice. Overall, I am really happy with the condition of the parts that were saved. The Napoleon hat is in better shape than the other donor one I purchased and I plan to use some parts of the tunnel section and the lower frame head body sections as well.

First, I carefully removed the undercoating on the bottom plate. Like I said, it appeared to be in really good condition from this side of the plate. I was really hopeful at that point that it would be the same on the other side, even though I could see some pitting through the tunnel opening. I uncovered what I think is a date printed on it of 1.21.76. I'm not sure that is the case here as the frame head was reported to be from a 1965 model.


Next, I used a wire wheel to remove the paint and expose the spot welds. I also marked the ones that I wanted to drill out with a marker. Just like on the tunnel, there are two different types of spot welds on the area where the floor pans were attached. The smooth, even welds are the ones that actually penetrated and bonded the Napoleon hat to the bottom plate and the raised, uneven welds were done at a lower voltage and only bond the floor pans to the upper side of the Napoleon hat. Again, I learned that the hard way.


I then drilled out the spot welds that attach the Napoleon hat to the bottom plate. The hardest areas to separate were where it was seam-welded together. On one side of the Napoleon hat, almost none of the spot welds penetrated because there was too much space between it and the bottom plate. They apparently seam-welded it in that area to compensate. Because of that space, I was able to get a thin cut-off wheel between them and cut through the welds. With the Napoleon hat heavily seam-welded to the tunnel, I just cut through the tunnel so that I could remove it. With the Napoleon hat off, I was both pleased with the condition of the inside of it and not so pleased with the heavy pitting in the matching area of the bottom plate. Apparently, a lot of water was able to get inside the frame head over the years.


By the way, I found that my jack stands worked great for supporting the frame head while I was working on it. The rubber pads grip it and keep it from moving around.


With the Napoleon hat removed, my next task was to remove the lower sides of the frame head body where it is attached to the bottom plate. To do this, I first cut off the areas just above them on both sides and then cut through beam mounting plate on the front to free them there.


It was at this point that I realized just how difficult it was going to be to remove the lower body sections from the bottom plate. The two were seam-welded together and there were was just no easy way to separate them without damaging them both. I really just needed the body sections, so I just cut through the bottom plate in the areas where they were attached. I was a complete bonehead and didn't realize that I was cutting through both layers at one point on the first one. In fact, I didn't notice until I turned it over. I can weld the cut, but really felt sick when seeing it. When cutting the other side, I was very careful not to repeat the same mistake. Once it was cut out, the tunnel was free and I just needed to separate it from the tunnel.


Lastly, I just had to remove the beam mounting plate from the tunnel. They were attached by seam welds, of course, and I just cut out the area of the beam plate where they were attached. Disassembled, finally. The pictures may make it look simple and quick, but I spent several hours on several evenings to get this accomplished. And I still need to clean up the parts I'm going to reuse by removing the leftover panel remnants that were cut out during the removal process and the spot welds.


Mission accomplished and I now have a new donor Napoleon hat, two lower frame head body sections, and a tunnel section to use on my chassis. Can't wait to get to the repair and assembly part of this project!


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New Donor Frame Head

by on May.14, 2018, under Chassis

I found a great deal on a 1965 donor frame head assembly in the classified ads at www.thesamba.com and just had to buy it. It included the frame head and Napoleon hat and was $75 + $50 shipping. It was shipped by placing two boxes over it, taping them together, and then wrapping it with stretch wrap. Nothing was placed inside to protect it, so it was of course a little banged up when it arrived. Nothing too serious, but I just don't understand the poor packaging job. I guess I should be accustomed to it by now as everything I have ever bought like this from California has just been thrown in a box and shipped with absolutely no protection. I've requested proper packaging, offered to pay more for it, and been told that it would be, but have yet to have something arrive that way. Overall, I am pleased with the condition of the donor part and am considering using the Napoleon hat and possibly the bottom plate. The bottom plate is quite a bit different than the original, but appears to be in good condition and is constructed of the thick, original German metal. I can't purchase one that would be a closer match that is going to be in the same condition and as heavy-duty. It will be a lot of work getting the Napoleon hat and bottom plate off, but it will hopefully be worth the effort.


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A Nice find! Original, Unissued 1960 License Plates

by on May.04, 2018, under Body Work

I will not need these for a while, but I found a pair of original, unissued 1960 license plates. They cost about the same as most of the old and rusted plates I've found before and will not need to be restored. Texas will let you use original year plates as long as they are the same year as your car, the numbers are not currently being used, and if they have no rust. They will allow repainted and restored plates, which many states will not allow. I have been looking for affordable plates for years now and never expected to find unissued plates still in the original packaging.


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Removing the Frame Head Bottom Plate

by on Apr.27, 2018, under Chassis

Since I'm replacing the Napoleon hat and there is really no room to drill or cut right next to the top of the frame head, I decided to cut off the arms of the Napoleon hat and trim back the bottom plate. This really made it easier to access. I used a wire brush in my drill to remove the undercoating and rust and reveal the spot welds. Once that was done, I did the same as on the tunnel bottom plate and punch-marked the center of the spot welds and drilled pilots for the spot weld cutter.


I then cut out the spot welds and cut out the inside part of the bottom plate, leaving just the strips where the plate was welded to the frame head. I am so glad that I went to the trouble to take the bottom plate off as there is some serious rust inside the frame head that just would not have been seen otherwise. The side of the tunnel underneath the Napoleon hat has deteriorated on both sides and will need patching with solid metal. Also, the tunnel section that extends through the frame head will need patching on both sides as well. Additionally, the frame head will need patching on the bottom portion where it is welded to the bottom plate on both sides. I have to admit, I was initially discouraged and contemplated replacing the entire frame head with a new after-market reproduction. But as I researched doing so, I determined that the effort and expense of removing the current one, patching the tunnel (which I have to do anyway), purchasing a new frame head (that will not match the current one and is constructed of thinner metal), and properly aligning the new frame head just was not the best course of action. With the tunnel bottom plate removed, the tunnel is just too flexible to be able to do any accurate alignment and I would rather take my chances with replacing the areas that absolutely need it and hopefully maintaining the current positioning as far as the angle of the frame head on the front end and where it is positioned on the tunnel. If I can maintain those two things, I will just need to make sure it is level when it is all welded and reassembled. Also, once it is taken off, I lose all of the current reference points and I really need it where it is now to get the new Napoleon hat properly positioned.


One of the things I found amazing and educational was how much the rusted areas have expanded over the years as they progressed, especially where the panels where overlapped. Where two panels, that were each originally around 2 millimeters thick, were overlapped and then rusted severely, their combined thickness grew to around 12 millimeters. In several areas where this happened, the surrounding areas of the panels were raised and bulged, distorting everything attached to it. On panels with nothing around them, they appear to just disintegrate and fall away. In areas where the panels are welded together and very close to other panels, they have expanded greatly.


Getting the remaining strips of the bottom plate off was a real pain. The spot welds are easy enough to cut out, but on the side edges of the frame head where it is welded to the plate it is seam-welded in the middle section for a couple of inches and towards the front for a couple of inches as well. I just had to cut around the seam-welded areas and grind them down. Where the plate meets the front edge of the frame head, it is seam welded all the way across. I was able to use a cutting disc to trim it back fairly close, but the rest had to be ground down. This is a lot of trouble for the side flanges that are going to be replaced, but I want to get it back to its original position to test fit the new bottom plate and to have good references for the areas that are going to be replaced. Once everything was cut and ground away, I just had to place the new bottom plate in position to see what it looks like. Even though its just sitting there, it feels like progress and is encouraging.


Next, I cut way the majority of the bottom plate that was welded to the frame head and ground it down. There are some areas that still need to be ground down, but I will save that until I am preparing and fitting the bottom plate. The next steps are to cut out the rusted areas and weld in patches.


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Removing Tunnel Bottom Plate

by on Apr.23, 2018, under Chassis

After considering the pros and cons of removing a section of the tunnel bottom plate, I decided to go ahead and do it. With all of the rust damage that can be seen from outside of the tunnel, I really can't tell if the inside is damaged to the same extent just by looking from the outside. I would expect it to be much less on the top and sides, but the bottom was definitely exposed to water pooling inside of it for many years. Until I take the plate off and look, I will not be able to have an accurate assessment of the damage. Here are some considerations:

Pros: I'll know for sure what damage is there and be able to fully access it to repair it. Areas with rust damage are weaknesses in the structure and must be removed and any rust that is there will just progress and must be stopped. I'll have a better chance of doing that by getting inside and taking a look. Also, large sections of the lip where the floor pans rest on both sides have to be replaced. On the driver's side, it is eaten completely through. Overall, I think it will result in a much better repair when I can get the areas cut out, prepped, and the replacements welded in when having access to the inside. I can also get the inside of that section of the tunnel painted and protected, replace the fuel line, and install seat belt mounting plates.

Cons: The possibility of structural weakness if not properly welded and/or the creation of alignment issues. These are the two biggest downsides to taking the bottom plate off and welding it back on. Of course, any area where the welds are weak are a concern, but so is any unrepaired area with rust damage that is concealed and inaccessible inside of the tunnel. I currently have areas where the rust is a potential weakness and I think as long as I get good weld penetration and good adherence to both parts being welded, structural strength will be achieved. Also, once the bottom plate is removed, the tunnel is very flexible and is easily twisted. This could result in the frame head being in a position where it is not level or tilting. There is going to be a lot welding both for the replacement of the side strips with the floor pan lip and putting the tunnel plate back on and ample chances that those welds will pull the tunnel one way or another. Well on this chassis, so much is going to be replaced and constant checks of alignment and position will have to be made during the rebuilding process anyway. I will just have to check, double-check, and triple-check throughout this process and hope that I can be successful. There are so many areas that are going to have to be replaced on this car with the body as well, so getting this all correct is imperative.

To start taking the bottom plate off, I used a wire wheel in my drill to remove any paint, undercoating, or rust to reveal the spot welds. There are a ton of welds to drill out! My last count was 142.

Important Update: Not knowing what I was doing, I drilled out twice as many spot welds than needed. If you look carefully at the close-up of the spot welds below, there are two types of spot welds - ones that are smooth, dished, and even, and ones where the metal is raised and uneven. The smooth and even ones are the ones that were made using a higher voltage to attach the tunnel bottom plate to the tunnel. These two pieces are thick and the higher voltage melts the metal more, creating a dish in both. The other raised and uneven welds were created when attaching the floor pan to the lip of the tunnel and were created with a lower voltage since the floor pans are thinner. Because of this lower voltage, it doesn't penetrate fully though the tunnel bottom plate and therefore these do not need to be drilled out. An important lesson learned that I will not forget! These were typically alternated, so basically half them were unnecessary.


The area I am going to remove starts with the frame head bottom plate and goes down to where the tunnel starts to flare out to the forks. That area appears to be in great shape, so no need to do anything with it. At the front end of the tunnel bottom plate, it is overlapped by the frame head bottom plate. In its current condition, the overlapped area is just a huge stack of rusted metal that is bulging outward.


The spot weld cutter that I'm using has a pilot to hold the cutter in one place to cut the holes. This works for about three holes and then it starts skating and making deep circular scratches as it skates away. The duller the tip of the pilot gets, the more uncontrollable it becomes. I discovered that if I take a center punch and mark the center of each spot weld and then use a small drill bit around the size of the pilot to drill a shallow hole in each punch mark, the tool is much easier to control and use. It actually saves time in the long run as you are not fighting to keep it on the correct spot and having to stop and restart the cut. Trust me, it's worth the extra effort. It cuts a 3/8-inch hole which is kind of large, but it does a great job of getting the whole spot weld. These are available from Harbor Freight for $5 each.


Next, I made the cross cut at the frame head plate and at the other end of the tunnel plate. Once the cut was made at the frame head end, big chunks of rusted metal just fell off.


And finally, cutting out the spot welds. This took many hours and the good part of one day to accomplish. I started on the driver side at the frame head and would cut out several of them and then gently pry up with a screwdriver to see if the plate was breaking free. I tried very hard not to drill into the lip below it to keep that section intact as much as possible. I would drill down watching the cuttings carefully and looking for rust to appear. Once I saw the rust, I would vacuum the area and look into the hole to see if I was all the way through the plate. This worked well until I got to the middle of the plate. I couldn't see any signs that I missed a spot weld and it just wasn't moving. so I started at the other end thinking that would help, but it was the very same even once it was free on both ends all the way to the middle. I used the screwdriver to attempt to pry it free. No such luck. I decided to take a break and when I was getting up from sitting on my stool, I barely bumped the Napoleon hat with my drill and the whole side popped loose. Of course, the other side was cooperative until I got to the middle and the same thing happened. I started on one end, gave up and started on the other, and got to the middle and it wouldn't break free. In this case, I had a couple of welds that I didn't cut quite deep enough and once I did that, it was completely free. It is amazing how much just part of a couple of spot welds will hold a piece in place! As expected, the top and sides of the inside of the tunnel were in excellent condition looking pretty much the same as they did the day they were initially assembled. The bottom plate itself is in good shape except at the end by the frame head. That end will require a inch or so cut out and a couple of inches added so that it extends to fit underneath the new frame head plate. It's a relief to get the plate off, but I know that I just added many more tasks and many more days of work to an already never-ending list of things to do. Next, I tackle getting the frame head bottom plate off. Should be fun!


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Removing Rear Chassis Components

by on Apr.07, 2018, under Chassis



With the front axle and components removed, I now decided to remove the rear chassis components and started with the rear brake drums. In order to be able remove the axle nuts holding the brake drums on the rear wheels, I purchased an 36mm axle nut tool from M&T Manufacturing. This allows you to hammer the nuts loose. Otherwise, you typically need a heavy duty breaker bar and an extension, which I would have to purchase. It easily loosened them, which was a big relief. I was expecting a tougher time getting them to break free. I did have to remove the wheels first to have the clearance needed to hit the wrench.


With the axle nuts off, I adjusted the brake shoes all the way in so that I could pull the drums off. The adjusters are conveniently located on the bottom, so I had to lay on the ground to be able to see and access them. The passenger side came of fairly easy, but the driver side was rusted to the spindle and I had to beat it loose from the back. I used a spanner wrench and rotated it a quarter turn after each blow. It took quite a while to get it off.


Next, I removed the bearing cover plates which also retain the brake backing plates. Because I had forgotten to drain the transmission fluid, the fluid came pouring out of the first axle tube once the backing plate and cover plate were removed. It made a nice mess on the floor. I then drained the transmission before removing the other side, so the fluid that drained out the axle tube was greatly reduced.


I removed the shocks and then removed the 3 bolts on each side to that connect the axle tubes to the spring plates. The top bolt on each side also holds the stop bracket and rubber bumper. The axle tubes are now free from the chassis.


To Remove the transmission, I removed the rear mounting bracket, disconnected the shift rod coupler from the shift rod and transmission shaft, and then unbolted the front mounting bracket. I had to leave the front mounting bracket on the transmission as one nut was rusted and worn away and I could not get a wrench on it. I will remove the bracket later.


The gearshift rod is removed from the tunnel through the hole covered by the inspection cover plate on the front of the frame head. It is normally a little difficult to remove as you can only access it to move it through the tunnel through the small hole where the shift knob connects to the rod. There is really only enough room for two fingers and you really can't get much of a grip on it. It has to be rotated clockwise about 45 degrees so that it can clear a plate towards the front of the tunnel and it can be hard to maintain that position all the way out and it will hit the plate or bind if in the wrong position. Mine kept binding and hitting the plate again and again. I had to walk away from it and come back to try again several times. I have removed these before and never had this much trouble getting them out. Just when I thought I was going to have to leave it in the tunnel until I removed the bottom plate from the tunnel, it finally broke free and I was able to get it out. It was very rusted and the rust was grabbing and binding against anything it touched. If it were smoother, it would have been much easier to remove.


The spring plates and torsion rods are my last mechanical items left to remove from the chassis. I started by removing the spring plate bushing covers and the rubber outer bushings. I then marked the current position of the spring plates on the spring plates and bushing housings so that I will have a reference to get them in the same position with the same tension when they are reinstalled. The spring plates have to be hammered out from the inner side of the plates, so I put the bushing covers back on and applied tension from the underside of the spring plate using my floor jack. This keeps the spring plates from flying away from the housing and causing injury or worse. These plates are under great pressure, so they need to be removed with great care. After a few blows, the spring plates slide out enough to clear the housing and drop all the way down and are no longer under tension. At that point, I removed the bushing covers and hammered them the rest of the way out. The driver side spring plate came out still stuck on the torsion rod and the passenger side was welded to the torsion rod and came out together as well. I'm not sure why one was welded and the other one not, or if it makes any difference at all. Something to research. Once the torsion rods were out, I removed the rubber inner bushings. That's the last of the chassis components to be removed without cutting and drilling.


After getting the chassis stripped, I turned it over to get my first good look at the extent of the rust damage. The frame head bottom plate is definitely toast and I really will not know the condition of the tunnel until I remove the bottom plate. It's going to be a lot of work, but needs to be done. There will be sections that will need to be cut out and replaced. Once I have the plate off, I will have a much better idea of just how much. Overall, it's in better shape than I expected.


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Disassembling and Removing the Front Axle

by on Apr.02, 2018, under Chassis

I placed the front axle beam on jack stands and then removed both front tires. To remove the brake drums, I removed the grease caps, the dual axle nuts and lock plates, and the outer wheel bearings. Being a total rookie at this, I couldn't tell why the drums would not just slide off at this point. After wrestling with both drums for a while, I determined that I needed to adjust the brake shoe adjustments to bring the brake shoes in more and away from the drum. As soon as I did that, the drums slid off easily. The brake shoe star adjusters are accessible through a hole in the face of the drum and you can use a screwdriver to turn the adjusters. You just rotate the drum until you can see the adjusters. There are two on each wheel. Once the drums are off, the brake backing plates can be removed by removing the three bolts attaching it to the spindle.


 

Next, I removed the tie rods. I started with the long rod on the passenger side and was unable to loosen the nut on the tie rod end that connects to the spindle. It would just spin in place. Since it will be replaced anyway, I just cut it off, leaving about 1/2 inch to use to remove the threads. On the other end where it connects to the steering box arm, I was able to loosen the nut and break the tie rod end away from the arm. The short tie rod on the driver side cooperated and was removed. Note: The short tie rod for this year is a non-adjustable one and the ends are not replaceable. These are no longer available and will have to be replaced with a later version that is adjustable. It will function the same, but will just look a bit different. Also, when I removed the shocks, the top bolt on the driver side broke off leaving the threads in the beam. I'll leave that there for now.


 

Next off were the sway bar and steering box. The clamps that hold the sway bar on were very rusted and two of the four clamps were already broken. The two that were still intact were difficult to get off and required a chisel and hammer to drive the retaining plates off of the clamps. The steering box had so much road grime and undercoating on it that I had to scrape it off before being able to bend the locking plates back and get a wrench on the nuts to unbolt it. I had been wondering just how I would know where to place the steering box back on the beam once it is ready to be reassembled, but there are raised square guides on the top of the beam that show exactly where it needs to be placed.


 

The spindles and torsion arms were the last two items to come off before removing the axle beam. The spindles are held on to the torsion arms with one bolt on each arm. Once the bolts were loosened, it was a matter of opening the split joints where they are bolted a little to allow them to pull out. The torsion arms are held on by a grub screw and a one nut. The nuts were easy to loosen and the grub screws required an 8mm hex driver, which I happened to still have from working on my 1967 back in the early 1980's. After the grub screws were backed out, the bottom torsion arms just slid right out. The top torsion arms were a little more difficult to remove as they were still under tension and resting on the stop arms. All I needed to do is hammer them out a little and then they could be pulled past the stop arm, allowing them to drop down and relieve the tension. Then they were easily removed.


 

Finally, I removed the front axle. Once the four bolts were removed, I had to pull it off as the road grime and undercoating were still holding it on. I was pleasantly surprised at the condition of the metal where the axle and frame head meet. There was very little rust there at all. I have seen quite a few restorations where people remove the axle to find a lot of rust damage there. I'm so happy to discover that this area only has a small amount of surface rust that can be easily removed. Next up - disassembling the rear of the chassis.


 

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Back to the Chassis: Getting Started

by on Mar.30, 2018, under Chassis



It's been 7 years since I've done anything notable to the chassis. Even then, not much. It is amazing how fast time flies by and how much life can get in the way and steal your time for many years. In the last half year or so, I have been eliminating all of the obstacles in really getting started on this project - lack of the proper tools, lack of working space, deciding just where to get started, and devising a plan on just what to tackle first. After careful consideration of whether to start with the chassis first or the body, I have decided that since I have so little good metal left as reference points, I may as well start with rebuilding the chassis and try to get it as close to the accurate factory specifications as possible and then build the body to match it. Since everything on the chassis that touches the body has to be replaced and everything on the body that touches the chassis has to be replaced, I may as well get started on the chassis. Besides, I have replacements for the floor pans, Napoleon hat, and the frame head bottom plate and don't have to make any major purchases. I have also decided to remove a large section of the tunnel bottom plate so that I can better assess the damage to the tunnel and facilitate replacing the areas of the bottom lip where the insides of the floor pans rest. There is a lot of damage there where water was obviously pooled there for a very long time. Anyway, that is the current plan and I'm moving forward with it.

First, I decided to cut off the outside sections of what is left of the floor pans. These are the areas that bolt to the heater channels. I am tired of hitting my shins on them and they need to be removed anyway.

Before:


After:


Next, I removed the inner areas of the floor pans. Except for a few strips along the tunnel here and there in the middle and front, there was only floor pan left in the rear on both sides. Finding and drilling out the spot welds was challenging in some areas as they were barely visible and it is amazing how just the smallest amount of weld will keep the panel from breaking free. It is so nice to finally have the floor pans removed! After that, I pulled the accelerator cable, the clutch cable, the heater cables, the choke cable, and the emergency brake cables. I cut the emergency cables off just past the shroud since I will need to access the brake mechanisms to detach the cables on that end. I coiled the removed cables up and placed them in a bag to keep them for future reference. This way I can compare them to the replacements once I purchase them.

Before:


After:


With the old floor pans removed, I just had to place the new floor pans on the chassis to see how they look and check the fit. I purchased the Wolfsburg West floor pans and I have to say that these are of very high quality and the fit is amazingly close to the factory originals. They are 18 gauge and currently cost around $195 each side. The pressings also closely match the originals. I can't tell you how gratifying it is to see the pans on a car that had almost no floor on it since I purchased it. It's a small thing, but it feels like a major one and is the first real progress I've made toward getting this car restored. There is so much left to do, but I feel encouraged and am hungry to get more accomplished.


The Wolfsburg West floor pans ship without the rear cross braces and jack points welded on so that they can ship by regular package shippers like UPS. Be forewarned that a package this large and heavy will be thrown around by the shippers and you will likely have some damage to the edges of your pans. I had just minor bends that should be fairly easy to straighten out. Wolfsburg West warns that damage is possible and likely. The box was 68"L x 22"W x 8"H and weighed 63 pounds, including a frame head bottom plate. The rear cross braces and jack points were in a separate box and the frame head bottom plate was placed inside a flattened box. I placed the pans back in the box to store them until I get to the point where I can actually fit and weld them on.

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February 2018 Update: A Sad Portrait of Reality

by on Feb.15, 2018, under Body Work

The intention of this post is to maybe give a realistic example of what happens with amateur restorations and the on-again, off-again, or maybe just off-again progression that many experience. If you have a project in your garage that looks like mine, you are not alone. Not that my failure should make you feel better about yourself. I remember reading my first restoration blog and the writer stating that it took him 9 years to complete the restoration and thinking to myself how ridiculous it was to take that long to restore one car. Well, I'm quickly approaching having this car for 8 years now and having done not much more than take it apart (the easy part) and think about it for a really long time. I am hoping to get started and stick to it very soon. I mean it. Really this time...


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Disassembling the Donor Front Firewall

by on Aug.05, 2014, under Body Work

Next up for disassembly is my donor front firewall. I bought this from the same person that sold me the Napoleon hat. It's newer than my car and came from a 1966 model, but the only real differences from my current one is that it doesn't have holes for the fuel reserve valve lever and the choke cable (and isn't rusted away at the bottom!). The stampings for the panel are the same, but the holes are just not punched out. This panel is in really good shape with almost no rust and was a great purchase at $100.


 

The key words of removing the the old panel pieces from the front firewall are Spot Welds! On the sides where it was attached to the wheel wells, most of the welds are spaced about 1/4 inch apart. On the top where it was attached to the trunk, they are spaced about 3/4 inch apart. I took a wire wheel and ground off the paint, carpet glue, and seam sealant so that I can better see the welds. On the sides where the welds are 1/4 inch apart, I decided to just cut the panel off and leave the strip of welds on the panel. This way I can just ground the strip down to the panel itself. On the other welds that were spaced further apart, I drilled them out with a spot weld cutter. On the top of the panel, I just drilled the welds out with the spot weld cutter as well. There were about 40 welds on the top piece and the sides each had more than that just in the areas where I just cut the panel off.

On another note, there was one thing that made it difficult to access the areas of the panel joints that were in the interior of the body - the seam sealant. It was anywhere from 1/8 inch to 1/2 inch thick, especially in the corners. It was 50 years old and hard as a rock. I took my time and carefully scraped it off little by little, trying not to scratch and mar the panel. The metal under the sealant was as pristine as the day it was applied. It really did its job.


 

Lastly, I removed the pieces of the heater channel from the bottom corners. On the tops where they are rounded, they were spot welded. In earlier years, this connection was seam welded. My donor heater channels were both seam welded, but they were both older than the 1966 front firewall. The other joints on the bottoms and sides were joined with spot welds that were practically on top of each other, so I just cut rough the heater channel pieces and left the strip of spot welds to be ground down to the firewall panel.


 

Again, really happy with this panel, but not looking forward to removing the one currently on the car as I know how difficult this will be. Since I don't have to save any of it, I may just cut it off where the spot welds are right next to each other and grind off what's left. I prefer grinding to cutting out spot welds!

 

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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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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 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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VIN Plate\Brake Fluid Reservoir Well Donor Panel

by on May.11, 2014, under Body Work

A while ago, I started looking for a replacement for my VIN plate\brake fluid reservoir well and found a 1958 donor front clip that included one on thesamba.com. The seller agreed to cut out and sell me just the area that was attached to the panel for $90, including shipping. It is a little banged up, but nothing that can’t be straightened out. There is also a bit of surface rust, but it is in much better condition than the one on my car.

The first 4 pictures are of the panel still attached to the donor clip and the remaining 5 are of the donor cut-out that I purchased.


 

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Some Pics of the Engine

by on May.11, 2014, under Engine

Here are some pictures of the engine. This is obviously not the original 36HP engine that came with this car, but a 40HP replacement. I was told that a rebuilt engine was installed not long before it was parked for good, due to electrical problems. I don’t know if I will rebuild and use this engine or get a 36HP one and rebuild it. I would really prefer to have a year-appropriate engine as I want to get it as stock as possible. I’m not so interested in performance and just want it to run as it did originally.


 

I'm anxious and curious to see just what condition the engine actually is in. It's been nearly 30 years since it has been in use and I'm wondering if it was trashed then or if it was in good shape and other factors were the reason it was put into storage.

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A Carrier for the Engine

by on May.10, 2014, under Engine

Although it’s a small thing, I did get something done towards the project. A while ago, I bought a small mover’s dolly to make a carrier for the engine so that I can easily move it around and get it out of the way when I need space. It cost me $12 at Harbor Freight. I made a small box out of scrap 2x4’s that is about the size of the bottom of the engine casing and attached it to the dolly. I then placed the engine on the dolly. Like I said, it’s a small thing, but it is so nice being able to wheel the engine around the garage without having to lift it. I just need to take a router and remove enough wood along the sides next to the heat exchangers so that it will sit flat and not be raised on one side.


 

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May 2014, The State of my Stalled Project

by on May.05, 2014, under Body Work

Sometimes, a picture just says it best – life takes over and the restoration project comes to a halt. For a year, two, or maybe more. As you can see, nothing has been done for a really long time. With great intentions of getting started and to keep going, I never did. I recently started following the progress of several home-garage restorations on volkszone.com and saw one project that showed a picture much like these after a long pause in progress. So I figured that I would do the same and show the reality of my stalled project. It did give me hope, though, to see others stop for long periods of time and start back up and actually finish the job. I will not make any promises or lofty goals, but I will say that I am once again really interested in this project.


 

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July 2012 Update, Donor Front Firewall & Napoleon Hat

by on Jul.07, 2012, under Body Work

I just purchased a couple of key replacement parts for my Beetle. I purchased a donor front firewall and a donor Napoleon Hat (sometimes called a front chassis support panel). Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on how you look at it, there are people in California that cut up perfectly good cars for parts. In my case, it’s a good thing as it makes it possible to replace some hard-to-find parts and panels that either 3rd party suppliers don’t supply at all or the parts they do supply are for newer models that neither look the same nor fit the same as the originals. As far as I can tell with an initial inspection, these two parts are very close to the original parts on my car. The front firewall is labeled as being from a 1966 model which appears to be correct. It doesn’t have the holes in it for the choke cable or fuel tap lever, but has the stampings in it where the holes used to be punched out. I can just drill these out to the proper size and it should match the original panel. All the other stampings and dimensions appear to be the same as the original. The Napoleon hat appears to be a very close match to the original as well and a trial fit to the donor front firewall showed a very close fit. I won’t know for sure just how close a match they are until the extraneous pieces and panel remnants are removed and I can put them up next to the originals and also until I can take some comparative measurements.

Note: These donor parts do cost a little more than the currently available replacement panels, but are, in my opinion, superior in design, fit, and quality. A new Napoleon hat is available for around $30 and the donor part cost me $75. Likewise, a new front firewall is available for around $50 and the donor part was $100. I think the extra cost will be easily justified once they are in place. These two parts are important to the mating of the body and chassis and will provide a good reference point for the heater channels on the front end of the car. Currently, these parts on my car are rusted away on their outer ends and provide no reference points with panels mating to them like the heater channels.

Along with the front firewall and Napoleon hat, I purchased a pedal cluster, 1 horn (he threw in an extra), 3 back seat bolts with washers, and 7 long 17mm bolts. All of the items together cost me $200 including shipping via Greyhound Package Express. As you can see, protective packaging is not my supplier’s forté. However, providing hard-to-find original parts with very little rust is. He wrapped the firewall and Napoleon hat together with stretch wrap as well as wrapping the horns together. They were all placed in a floor jack box with the pedal cluster and the bag of bolts. They seemed to make the journey here with little or no damage. Thanks Mike!

 

I’ve recently become very motivated to get started working on the restoration again, even if it is just little things here and there. I did some website work for one of the absolute best, if not the absolute best, classic VW restoration shops in the country and after looking at many years’ worth of their fantastic, top-notch work, it reminded me that I need to make progress, no matter how little it may be — every day, week, month, and year. I may not have the funds to buy all the replacement panels I need right away, but I can do something productive on it on a regular basis until I can. I’ve made a commitment to myself to get going and keep going.

 

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March 2012 Update

by on Mar.09, 2012, under Body Work

It’s been nearly a year since I’ve done anything on my car. I haven’t given up or lost interest, but still have the same issue of not having the sufficient funds to purchase the replacements panels needed to start the extensive rust repair. I would prefer to have most, if not all, of the pieces that I know I’m going to replace to be able to fit and align them together and to make sure everything is going to work. With so few reference points remaining, it’s going to be tough enough to get each panel in its proper place and having the adjacent parts should help quite a bit. Even with all original parts, it would still be difficult to get everything aligned properly and since I’ll be using a combination of donor parts and aftermarket repair panels, it’s going to be even more difficult for them to be properly aligned and fitting, structurally sound, and not looking Frankenstein-ed together like they will actually be.

Outside of structural and cosmetic concerns, my main concern is that the doors will work and fit well. My goal is for them to fit as well as they did when they were new. This will require the following:

     1) The ‘A’ and ‘B’ columns are equidistant. The measurements between the two columns on each side need to have the same measurements at the top and at the bottom, and the gaps between them and the door need to be even all the way up and down.

     2) The ‘A’ and ‘B’ columns are parallel vertically. By this, I mean their positions along the body of the car and not having one column tilting more towards the inside or outside of the car than the other. This will make sure that the door lays flat against the frame around it.

     3) The ‘A’ columns are structurally sound and do not flex or move. In order to be able to support the doors via the hinges and to maintain their alignment, the ‘A’ columns will need to be rock solid. I know that the lower portion of my passenger side column will need to be replaced. The bottom hinge was frozen and that area would give way when trying to open the door. Deciding just when to replace this is going to be difficult. On one hand, replacing it first will ensure that I have a more stable hinge mount to position and align the door and heater channel, but on the other hand it may just not make any difference. So many pieces have to be replaced and there will be a lot checking and rechecking as I go. Planning ahead will be critical to all of this working out, but even then, I’m sure there will be surprises and things I may not have expected that I will have to deal with.

     4) The hinges are working freely, but without excessive play. The play will make them droop and if drooping enough, the bottoms will rub on the heater channels. This will also make it impossible to align them properly and have the gaps around the doors and frames be even. This is probably something I need to address first since my hinges are worn.

     5) The positions of each heater channel are a) parallel to the bottom of its corresponding door and b) providing the proper clearance from the bottom of the door to prevent rubbing.

     6) Last, but not least, the gaps between the door and frame are correct — not too narrow or too wide.

I’m anxious to get started and to move from the planning/guessing stage to the doing stage. At this point, making mistakes is still progress.

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July 2011 Update, Donor Heater Channels

by on Jul.20, 2011, under Body Work

Well, I haven’t done anything to the car at all since the middle of March. I’ve had time to work on it, but I haven’t had the money necessary to buy all the replacement and donor panels I need for the next step. It’s also been way too hot to do any work on it. It’s been unbearably hot in Central Texas this year! Once I have the money for the parts and tolerable weather, I will get back to it again.

 

I did purchase donor heater channels from a guy in California and had them shipped via Greyhound bus to Texas. It’s a fairly inexpensive way to ship big, bulky items like this. I would, however, recommend that if you have anything shipped this way to have the person shipping it to you to thoroughly wrap and protect the item. My guy did a terrible job packaging my heater channels they got banged up more than they should have. There was also sharp metal sticking out of the packaging and a bus driver cut his hand (not seriously) unloading it at my local station. The cranky old lady that manages my station complained vigorously about the poor packaging. Being partially covered in cardboard and shrink wrap was not sufficient to protect it… and it was dangerous as well.

The heater channels I purchased included the rear quarter panels. I don’t know just what parts of the quarter panels I will use yet, but I do know that I will need the inner panels for sure. I thought I was getting a matched set of heater channels, but got a pair from two different model years. I think they are close enough to my model to fit well and only the driver side is newer. I think it is only a year or two newer as it has holes in it for the wiring harness, but the vent louvers still match. These should be much better replacements than the new ones available today.

I started drilling out spot welds on the front end of the passenger side heater channel. I first removed the paint and the body sealer covering the welds with a wire brush in my drill. I then removed the remnant of the front wheelhouse. By that time, the inexpensive spot weld bit I was using was really dull. I’m going to need to purchase a much better one before drilling any more of them. There was a little surface rust under the panel, but overall it seems in pretty good shape.

 

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