The VW Käfer is back on the streets!

The finished 1962 VW Beetle made its first 'after the restoration' appearance during the '9th Concours d'Elegance PHILPA 2012'.
The finished 1962 VW Beetle made its first ‘after the restoration’ appearance during the ‘9th Concours d’Elegance PHILPA 2012’.

I am pleased to report that at long last my 1962 VW Käfer restoration project has been completed successfully! And just in time to enter the car in the “9th Concours d’Elegance PHILPA 2012“. The ‘spare no expense’ restoration project lasted about nine months and by all accounts the result is quite stunning.

Picking up the thread of the story since the previous post detailing the process, I add few words before completing the project; the car was loaded on a transporter from the body shop heading to the upholsterer, Christos Tsadilas. There, the TMI upholstery kits were fitted to the car, the front windshield was replaced along with new rubber seals, the carpet kit was improved and fitted.

Here is a short video clip from the unloading sequence:

Afterwards the car was taken to the electrician Stefanos Tokatlian (who had fitted the new wiring loom and had done all the connections), for fitting the new Blaupunkt Frankfurt radio sourced from Koenigs Klassik Radios, plus few other details.

Several last minute missing items were sourced from Oval Dean who carry BBT stock items in Athens, before the car was declared ready. On the first drive home along the highway, the speedo climbed to 110 kph without any hesitation or drama.

The renovated little car with matching numbers is intended to be driven regularly, has normal licenese plates and is pledged to my wife Ivi as a birthday present 🙂

Enjoy the photo album here below.

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…

A 1962 VW Beetle joins the ‘family’

Preface

The story of the Volkswagen Beetle is well known; it was designed by Ferdinand Porsche to provide cheap transport for the hard working German masses, hence the name, the “People’s Car”. For the myriad other names given to this popular car click here! Initially they were built in very small numbers before and during World War II; later the Beetle literally rose from the ashes of Volkswagen’s bombed-out Wolfsburg factory to become an instant success across Europe, Britain, America and virtually every other country in the world.
The model evolved through various facelifts and numerous mechanical changes – there were more than 70,000 identifiable modifications – while it also provided a platform for other models, including military (such as the Kübelwagen and the remarkable Schwimmwagen), commercial vehicles (such as the Type 2 Bus) and sporting derivatives such as those by Karmann-Ghia. It was this constant development and attention to detail which allowed the Beetle to maintain its remarkable sales success , and as production raced past the 15,000,000 mark, the Beetle went on to be known as ‘The Best Selling’ car of all time. But this record was eventually superseded by the VW Golf.

My story

My old VW Beetle named Marlen, during College years (ca. 1972), here in Aspen, Colorado.

Readers of my Cars & More pages in this Blog may have noticed that while I was in Lake Forest College (during the early 70’s), I had obtained an old 1962 VW Beetle, into which later on had thrusted a rebuilt by-my-own-hands Porsche 356 engine in the back bay, turning the little car into a nondescript hot-rod; eventually converting the Bug into a wicked Autodynamics Deserter GT beach-buggy that accompanied me back home to Greece after graduation on board the super-liner SS Michelangelo.

The 1962 Beetle as I first encountered her in the Corinth storage of the ‘Smile of a Child’ Org.

I guess that the notion of re-living those long gone days of innocence and thirst for an adrenaline fueled life, was in the back of my head for some time. And out of the blue, the opportunity to acquire another 1962 Beetle came sometime in the spring of 2011. In April a bunch of car aficionados  had successfully formed the “Car Friends Close Group“, a small private Face Book Group of friends who share their passion and love about anything on wheels. We then organized an event with our cars showing in a private collector’s garage aiming to raise funds for ‘a good cause’ in support of the Smile of Child, a well known Greek NGO (http://www.hamogelo.gr). Since the President of the NGO is an ex colleague from the IT Business, he asked me to help him in selling some old cars that were donated few years ago to the organization. Arrangements were  made for me to visit the storage area in Corinth in order to take pictures and evaluate the cars on his behalf. Lo and behold, when the gates were opened I first encountered a 1973 R107 Mercedes-Benz 280 SL and right behind a 1962 Type 113 VW Beetle (aka Käfer) in anthracite color. Having myself bought just few months ago an immaculate R107 (see The Day I met “Princes Grace” post) I had no interest for yet another one in need of restoration. But the Beetle touched my soft spot; I had to rescue this neglected but quite original and in sound condition example. I must confess that among all my classic or modern cars, the Beetle, named Marlen II, currently commands the highest emotional charge! 😉

The “just arrived” Porsche 356 engine in a box!

Rewinding on the story a parenthesis is due; the idea of re-living my College year’s of owning an early 60’s  VW Beetle powered by a 356 Porsche engine, included a quest to source an appropriate unit for rebuilding and then fitting (a straight bolt on job) it to the newly acquired Beetle. Seeking such in Greece was unsuccessful; Enter in the picture a generous and noted Porsche cars collector, a Greek-American friend, Myron Vernis, who upon learning via e-mail exchanges of my quest, graciously offered to provide such a unit as a present to me! Ain’t that nice? Hence, after many arrangements done by my other close Greek car collector friend, Alex Vazeos, one September morning the 356 engine arrived at my garage in a crate, directly from Ohio, USA! I am most grateful about getting “a little help from my friends!” 🙂

Just about ready to unload the Bug on “Terra Attica” after its journey from Corinth.

Closing the parenthesis, back to present, making a longish story short, after negotiating with my ex colleague for a two car deal, I was able to get yet another Greek car collector friend of mine interested in the Merc R107; hence we concluded the purchase of both cars in late October 2011. I made arrangements for both to be loaded on a car transport truck and delivered to our respective workshops in Athens. I took delivery of Marlen II on Friday afternoon 18th of November at the premises of my trusted body shop, the A & B FOR CARS in Geraka (the friendly guys who did such a nice job on the “ground-up” restoration project of 2010 for my 1967 Mercedes-Benz W111 250 SE Coupé. Click here for the related stories). The drums of anticipation jumped gear thumping faster as I heard the truck’s diesel engine maneuvering outside the body shop’s gate. I had not inspected the car carefully while in its Corinthian storage, as there was not enough room nor had I the possibility to raise the car and examine at the undercarriage for rust spots. It was sort of a “blind date” purchase and now after several months of dreaming about the little car, I was going to face the truth, good or bad…

The relevant ‘Apocalypse Now!’ video clip is here-below; Manos’ expert eye confirms that the undercarriage is original, rust-free and unmolested. “Poly Kalo!” (Very Good! was his verdict). The car has not suffered any injuries from any serious crash accident and there would be little intervention to be done in her underbelly aside from a thorough steam cleaning and wax-oiling! A pleasant surprise 🙂

Engine Number: it turned out that this is indeed the original engine!

After some more documenting pictures were taken, I left the car there and headed for home (on the way I decided to offer Marlen II as a birthday present to my beloved wife Ivi, her anniversary being on Sunday 20th November)! Full of excitement about all that was eager and thirsty to hit the web and start researching about her birth date and many other Käfer related details.  Her chassis No. 4 725 111 revealed that the official model is “113, VW De Luxe Sedan”, manufactured in May 1962; in addition, the engine No. 6 766 861 means that it pumps out 34 DIN PS with a displacement of 1.2 Liter. For more details I would have to await the receipt of the official ‘Zertifikat’ applied for from the Stifung AutoMuseum Volkswagen, Schatzkammer der Marke.

On the following Saturday morning the primary task was to start the engine! Of course the 6 Volt battery was dead so I had to ‘borrow’ the one from our 1956 Citroen Traction Avant! Armed with a ‘light’ toolbox and the extracted battery plus a spray can of ether engine starter, I proceeded to A & B FOR CARS to do the honors.

VW engine key (aka key to happiness)!
The VW speedometer indicates some 80’s kilometrage…

After cleaning the battery terminals and positioning the fresh power source in its tray under the rear seat bench-(also not rusted), I removed the carb air cleaner and was ready to turn the ignition key. I asked one of the guys to assist by only squirting ether twice inside the carb barrel. Ready? Ignition: on the second cranking the air-cooled motor without much ado, spurted to life! I could not believe my eyes, ears and nose. All three senses acted in unison as a total recall to long forgotten but familiar VW Beetle sounds and smells. My new ’49-years old’ VW was purring, revving at higher idle as a cold engine should. No excessive smoke nor valve train clutter was noticed. The red indicator charging/oil pressure ‘idiot light’ on the speedometer instrument going out as it was supposed to. Good omens for an unusually warm and sunny late November Saturday morning. I was very happy indeed! 🙂 A time capsule? Who knows how long ago it was when the engine was last used? How many previous owners? Are the 81310 kilometers indicated in the odometer true and correct? Further inspection and getting to know my Marlen II would sooner or later piece together some of the puzzle pieces of her past life.

The first steam cleaning attempt of Marlen II was half done: the machine broke down! 😦

Next stop was at the cleaners! Unluckily my friendly Pakistani hot pressure water equipped car washer was not available, so I had to hunt in the neighborhood for an alternate. After several gas station stops, one had the right equipment and was willing to undertake the job. A lot of old grease and caked oil had accumulated in the rear engine and gear box area as well as in the front torsion bar suspension. While at it, his Karcher machine broke down… 😦 The job was half done and the bill was reduced. Oh well, Kumar will do it properly for me come Monday.

A more detailed picture album of the car can be viewed by clicking HERE!

Overhauling the brakes at Cabilis Performance ‘clean’ shop.

Next task was to change the vital juices: engine oil, gearbox oil, brake fluid. In addition to check on the road safety of the car in areas of steering, suspension, brakes, electrics (lights, turning indicators, horn, windshield wipers etc). These items were taken care of (the juices by Christos Economou VW Service) and the rest by Cabilis Performance, a VW specialist conveniently located only one block away from my garage! In between five new tires were fitted and the wheels dynamically balanced.

The mechanical repairs effected so far (Dec 2011) include:

  • Brakes overhaul (new master cylinder, wheel cylinders, linings, hoses, bleeders)
  • Front end (new steering damper, tie rod ends, wheel bearings cleaned & greased, new shock absorbers, travel end ‘stop’ rubbers)
  • Rear end (re-tuned torsion bars as the car was sitting too high, new shock absorbers, travel end ‘stop’ rubbers)
  • Engine (new distributor assembly, spark plugs and HT wires, valves adjusted, carb cleaned, fuel filter fitted in non-conspicuous spot, replaced gear shift lever with original one)
  • Electrics (headlights replaced, light bulbs checked, horn, dome light, windshield wiper motor, wiper arms, windshield washer line replaced, generator coils re-winded and new bearing fitted).
The engine bay is quite original. In this pic after replacing the distributor and overhauling the original 6Volt generator.

What is interesting to note is that the Cabilis people (father and two sons) report that the engine has not been opened and its compression test was good and even! Aside from establishing that the engine is a “matching numbers” case, this good news supports the possibility that the indicated 80k kilometers might also be true. In the mean time, the “Zertifikat” along with the confirming letter stating that “that the above engine number is that of the original engine”, came via post just the other day. Considering all the above, I am now in a dilemma about replacing the original-in good condition-engine with the more powerful Porsche 356 unit as originally planned. That issue will be resolved in the near future as the restoration project progresses during 2012…

Marlen’s II birth “Zertificat” as issued by the VW AutoMuseum
The VW Museum Letter confirming engine “matching numbers” dated 30.11.2011.

Next phase of repairs to commence in January 2012 will cover the following areas:

  • Body shop work (addressing the few rot spots, stripping and sanding and respraying to the original color “L 469 Anthracite”, replacing front and rear bumpers, sand blasting and respraying the wheels to the original color “L 471 Stone Beige”, replacing front & rear windshield seals, all other rubbers and seals etc).
  • Upholstery work (replacing seat upholstery according to the factory fitted “M 079 Upholstery leatherette” and the head liner of the original 1960-62 style in light gray nap cloth perforated type, fitting the proper carpet set as the original tan colored German square weave material, plus anything else required so that the car will be in an as much original condition as possible).
Hopefully we will not get as analytic during the preservation phase!

Preparing for implementing that exciting phase of the restoration, I have delved in appropriate VW parts sources and related info which I list below as a reference for other interested Beetle loving friends and readers:

➡️ To  be continued as the restoration progresses❗️

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