The Restoration Project of the 1962 VW Käfer continues

Several friends who know about my venture into the deep waters of yet another ‘ground-up restoration’ project have been asking about its progress. Well here is an update.

After having separated the body from the rolling chassis (see previous post by clicking here), two main tasks have been taken care of:

  • Sandblasting the body shell and it’s already removed parts (bonnet, deck lid, doors, fenders etc.),
  • determining the actual condition of the car and drawing up a ‘parts required’ list

The verdict (and the lesson learned) is that if one plunges into a restoration project, ‘you either do it right or do not do it at all’. What I mean is that only after one skins the shell (in this case by sandblasting), can truly assess the actual condition of the metal, which more often than not, in old cars has been surfaced by several coats of body filler and paint, effectively hiding its true condition. Nasty surprises uncovered? Oh! yes. The bonnet (or front trunk hood) has been badly treated apparently after a front end collision. Ditto for the apron. The spare wheel well bottom looked like a strainer with several pit holes. The door bottom part has been treated badly from a rust attack. The rear deck lid (engine hood) as well as the lower heater channel areas had its own rust malaise’s. All these parts are characterized as ‘B.L.R.’ (i.e. Beyond Local Repair) and need to be replaced.

Back to the drawing board. That is the list of spare parts required grew longer than initially anticipated. While sourcing parts on the Internet is a great boon for any restorer, believe me the task of searching, identifying parts, comparing prices, determining delivery availability and summing up the costs from many vendors is a very time-consuming job! I ended up breaking the purchase orders from three sources: VW Heritage in England, Custom Speed Parts in Germany and BBT4VW.com in Belgium via its local new agent and friend Oval Dean Parts. Orders were placed, screened, verified, negotiated and awaited for taking delivery. Overall about 200 items were included in the lists. Few days ago I took partial deliveries from the three suppliers while back orders are still outstanding and will be forthcoming in the near future.

Blaupunkt Frankfurt radio for VW Beetles

And what about a period correct sound system? To my rescue comes a great German classic car radios provider (who supplied the Becker radio for my Mercedes-Benz 250SE Coupé), the firm www.koenigs-klassik-radios.de. The proper radio model, the Blaupunkt Frankfurt special car radio for VW beetle and speaker plus antenna and iPod/iPhone/iPad cable have also been selected. What about the cost of all these parts? Way out of my initial budget calculations. But as I said, you either do it or you don’t! No regrets as the end result will be such a good one which will certainly make me feel proud! 🙂

So here is a brief slide-show of the tasks at hand so far. We now have plenty of spare parts to go on with the Käfer restoration.

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June Update:

The rolling chassis has been treated and repainted.

The restoration works are progressing at a slower pace than I would have liked but as the proverbial saying “it takes some time to cook a good meal”, I have now complaints. The gear box has been entrusted to Labros Dimitriou in Melissia, the half axles and rear drums have been removed and now repainted while the sourcing of parts is underway to replace the faulty synchronizer rings before the box is reassembled and complete.

Similarly the floor pan has been scraped and repainted by my guys at A & B For Cars. More rusty spots have been treated and some hand-made metal parts have been skillfully fabricated. My new friend Tassos Baxevanakis has been most helpful in sourcing used but in excellent condition major body parts as front hood, rear deck lid and both doors. The hard to find correct 1926 rear engine lid was found and shipped from Sweden! Both front and rear aprons have been replaced by new parts and the front hood has been fitted.

The TMI Co. interior upholstery kit has arrived!

Just a week ago three parcels arrived from England, shipped by VW Heritage, containing all the important TMI Co. upholstery kits. Boy do their quality and perfection will make my “De Luxe” Beetle looking so good when finished. 😉

This question jumps-up. WHEN? To be frank I have no idea. There is so much more ground to cover. With almost all the required parts now gathered, on that department we look good. But the summer months are already upon us. That translates to more delays as shops will close for summer vacations and so on. Mentally I will set a target for the Bug to be back in the streets of Athens in her reincarnated form by the middle of September. As it was similar in the case of my Mercedes-Benz 250SE Coupe project, I would like to have the car ready to participate in the PHILPA 41st International Rally 2012, a major Regularity event this year taking the streets of Pelion (see here: 41st In’t Rally 2102 English).

July-August Update:

The rear apron had to be aligned and made to fit properly…

During July and most of August the progress of the restoration was slow due to a number of problems which had to be resolved. First the LH door that was sourced proved to be of a slightly later model year and had to be modified around the hinge areas to make it fit. The engine lid which was sourced from Sweden also required some metal work to treat some rust and fit the handle cylinder lock to an oversized hole.The rear apron which was sourced as a new replacement part from CSP Germany was way out of spec in terms of size and form. Plenty of hours were spent to make it true. The RH side windshield post was damaged to the extent that a replacement was sought. This proved to be difficult, so my body shop guys had to also spend extra time to heat it up, reform it and bring it back to spec, ensuring a good fit for the windshield glass without water ingress from the rubber seal.

Having overcome these challenges successfully, the body became ready for its final treatment and preparations before entering the paint oven. As planned, the color had to be the same as per the original specs of the factory, as attested in the ‘Zertifikat”, i.e. the L 469 Anthracite.  In early August of 2012, the color recipe was cooked by Master Painter Costa Vitaliotis  and the Käfer shell was carefully and lovingly resprayed.

Milestone moment: the Bug has be repainted to its original factory Anthracite L469 color!

At the same time, two other tasks were taken care of. First the old, original gear box was rebuilt as the synchro mesh of the

The gear box is refitted to the rolling chassis and mated with the engine.

2nd gear had weakened. Upon inspection, the 1st gear mesh was also replaced as did all the seals and axle boots. Prior to reassembly, the half axles were repainted black as well as the drum assemblies. The completed g-box looked nice while the first test drive will prove if the ‘surgery’ was successful.

Second, the old seat covers were removed from the seat frames and the frames were scrubbed and painted in light ivory as per their original color. Next, a friendly upholsterer was recommended by a friend who was doing up the interior of his newly acquired 1962 Jaguar Mk II and was quite happy with the quality of his workmanship. One hot afternoon I loaded up all the seat frames along with the TMI Inc. upholstery kits and ventured to west side Athens to meet my new collaborator, Christos Tsadilas.  After inspecting his work on my friend’s Jag, touching bases and helping him to file an application for a FIVA card on his Dodge Charger classic, a deal was struck ‘on the interior job’ and we agreed to bring the car to him prior to fitting the front and rear windshields so that he could also fit the new headliner.

The engine-trans-axle-gear box assembly has been refitted to the rolling chassis.

Finally back at the A & B For Cars body shop, the guys started to reassemble the trans-axle and engine onto the reconditioned chassis. All the engine tinware and fan doghouse were repainted flat black and the new screws were fitted from the appropriate kit provided by VW Heritage.

Next task: re-mating the body to the rolling chassis!

More updates will be forthcoming…

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