Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Desert seasoned German steel

Quite an exciting post this one; at least for a self-confessed panel pervert like me! I have just taken delivery of some wonderfully preserved original German steel cut from an old Bug that had been languishing in the sunshine of the dry Mojave desert, USA! 

Here is the donor; a '66 still sporting its original factory Jade Green paintwork:

Got to love dry state cars; no rot anywhere to be seen, just the expected patches of light surface rust and sun bleached patina. My box of goodies:

Delighted to have got my mitts on both rear body mounts: 

and some of the hard-to-find recessed wing mounting nuts: 

Arranging and sorting out the logistics of the sale was an interesting mission in itself. In fact, I had previously tried and failed to acquire similar donor cuts from another seller a year ago, but communication proved to be an issue and it never came to fruition. However, knowing that the utterly abysmal Klokkershite panels were the only repro option on the market, I thought it was worth giving it another shot. Honestly, I could not stand the thought of attempting to weld this inaccurate wrinkly-bin-bag crap into my car:

The photos fail to convey just how disappointing this panel is. Nothing is where it should be, the body mounts are not double layered and have been spot welded at the wrong angle. On the reverse the finish is rough and there is no return flange:

So, I made contact with a small VW breakers (literally a one man operation) through the classifieds section of the Samba forums. We exchanged a few emails and after some pleasant negotiation I arranged for the sections to be cut out and shipped over to the UK for a very fair price. At the same time I was busy making phone calls to HMRC and thoroughly researching how much the import VAT, duty and handling fees were likely to amount to once the parcel had bee processed by border force. Pleased that my estimate was actually within £3 of the final cost and there were no alarming charges that I hadn't accounted for. 

I set about the panel preparation with much enthusiasm. Opted to start with the drivers side panel, as this was the side currently accessible on my car in the garage. The donor section needed a few hours of work to straighten it up and to weld up the odd gash and hole where the spot welds had been separated. I'll let the pics do the talking:

I will put it through the blast cabinet once it is trimmed down to its final size which will take care of the surface rust around the return flange and bowl section. 

Now to decide the best course of action with regards to cutting out the old section and grafting in this fresh steel. Internalised brooding, pondering and deliberation now in progress...

Monday, 30 April 2018

Quickie: All about tool rolls

It's funny, I have been on the look out for an original tool kit for my car for some years, but nothing suitable has come up for sale. Occasionally I have seen the canvas roll minus tools and sometimes the odd individual tool, but nothing close to complete. I decided to invest in a good quality reproduction item that Wolfsberg West manufacture and picked one up recently at a VW show. However, less than a few weeks later a complete original kit from a '62 turned up on eBay and fortunately I was the highest bidder. I was delighted that I actually paid less for the original kit than I did for the repro WW version! 

Anyway, I thought it would be good to do an overview and comparison post as I am now in possession of both an original kit and the re-manufactured version.

The original kit includes the following (as confirmed by the official owners manual): 
  1. Tool roll
  2. Hub cap removal tool
  3. Combination pliers
  4. Screwdriver 0.8
  5. Screwdriver 0.5
  6. Open end wrench 8/13mm (Hazet)
  7. Socket wrench (for spark plug, fan pulley nut and wheel bolt)
  8. Socket wrench 14mm
  9. Bar (for socket wrench and jack)

The WW remanufactured item is largely the same with small variations. These deviations could be a way of making the kit appropriate for a wider range of cars years. Anyway, you would have to be a really anal person to let that put you off as the kit is pretty sweet for the price point. Here be a few shots giving some side by side comparisons:

All original items shown on top and repro versions underneath:

In summary, there are no prizes for guessing which one I will be keeping. Although, I do have to say that WW have certainly produced a great item here and my only minor criticism is that the finish on a some of the tools could be better. However, I guess any small quality refinements would inevitably push up the manufacturing cost and subsequently the retail price. On balance it seems WW have struck a perfect balance between affordability and a product that closely resembles the original.

Ohh, last thing. I do get a geeky tingle from the fact that my combination pliers say this on the side:

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Front valance removal and clean up

I have been struggling on with that double smile bulkhead panel, but it has been fighting me every step of the way. So in the interest of my own sanity I have turned my attention to something else. The front valance will do just fine...

I had to cut away some patchwork crap on the drivers side to free the valance from the quarter panel:

Located and drilled out the spot welds on both edges:

Then I had to grind back the small welds at the top edges and also on the guide tube:

Following that I started drilling out the spot welds along the bottom edge inside the spare wheel well:

After a bit of faffing the valance came off without too much drama:

Wasn't sure if the valance was salvageable at this point as there were a few 'Oouch!' areas:

Figured that it couldn't hurt to have a go at straightening it out a bit. If it appears to be too far gone after clean up I could always get a new Autocraft valance, which is a very accurate reproduction indeed. Anyway, I started sand blasting a few areas, knocked out a few dents and carefully removed the crusty weather strip. As a test of my panel beating skills I had a go at reshaping the nasty bit of damage at the bottom of the 'finger' as seen above. Really took my time and progressive reversed the damage. I have to say that reading 'The Key to Metal Bumping' (by Frank T. Sargent) has equipped me with some good procedural strategies for tackling damaged areas like this. It is well worth a read, especially if, like me, you have no previous training in panel beating. I was pleased as punch with my result:

I then roughly got the bottom edge back into shape using cheapo repro panel I have laying around as a guide:

There are obviously some repairs that need to be made where the steel has rusted through in areas, but I am confident that I will be able to save this panel and proudly retain yet more original steel:

Monday, 12 March 2018

Quickie: NOS front quarter fest!

Spotted a genuine VW NOS front quarter panel up for sale on eBay recently for a reasonable price (in fact it was the same amount as I had paid for the Mexi panel), so I threw a bid in and snapped it up:

The fuel tank support indicates that it is suited to an earlier car than mine (can be easily changed though), but the eagle-eyed amongst you will note that the stampings on the front edge are from a later car. I understand that this is something that VW would do to cater for all the incremental differences and thus this standard replacement panel was intended to cover a wide range of model years.

There were a few things about this panel that made it more suited to my resto than the Mexi, but before I go into detail I will give you a visual a side-by-side comparison:

Firstly, the inner arch on the German NOS panel is completely smooth a doesn't have all the lumps and bumps that can be seen on the Mexi. Also, It doesn't have the later petrol filler cap integrated into the panel and the wing mounting captive nuts are the square 'recessed' type, both aspects are correct for my car. Although the front pressings are generic, the panel does feature a suitable mount point for a blade bumper:

More minor quality details include the correct jack mount and weather sealing strip already spot welded into place:

There are a few adaptions I will need to make in order to fit it to my '65, but overall it will be far less work than the Mexi panel and will produce a cleaner more accurate result.

Fortunately, I believe that the passenger side panel that I recently acquired can be adapted to closely match the German NOS panel. The extra Mexi pressings are not as prevalent on this side and I should be able to delete them without too much hassle. I will obviously need to change the wing mounting studs, add a blade bumper mount and plug few holes, but no significant cosmetic surgery required.

I find it remarkable that these original unused NOS panels still occasionally turn up for sale. I asked the seller what the story was behind it, this was his response:

"Just bought garage buildings we've been leasing for passed four years, junk in loft space basically been feeding it through eBay passed few weeks....story on that part you bought guy who owned garage now 87 rebuilt an old beetle for a customer long time ago"
So, there we have it. This panel was stowed away in a mechanics loft space up in Bradford, for what I assume must have been several decades. Apart from the expected surface rust it is completely straight and there is not even a minor dent anywhere on the panel. A good purchase indeed.

Monday, 26 February 2018

Quickie: Scuttle repair plus a dozen drill holes

A quick update on the previous couple of weeks of sporadic garage work. First up, I chiselled off the bonnet seal retaining strip from the scuttle panel. It had become pretty ratty in places with evidence of rust creeping out from underneath:

Came off pretty easy. Just took my time and avoided putting any unnessarsary stress on the scuttle panel when prying it up:

Next was to cut out this little area that had rusted all the way through:

I could have made my own patch easy enough, but figured that I would instead use the corresponding section from the donor scuttle that I had. Feels good to know that a bit more German steel (albeit a small amount) is getting grafted back into the car: 

Welded, ground back and blended to an invisible finish:

My next mission was to patch up a total of 12 drill holes of various diameters that peppered the front-under-bonnet panel (not sure if this section has a technical name, but you'll get what I mean):

I am guessing that these holes would have been drilled by previous owners in order to mount radio units, car alarm systems etc. Some were small and discreet, while others were significantly larger and punched through the thin steel in such a way that they looked like mini volcanos:

For these unsightly blemishes a gentle bit of hammer & dolly work was required to make the areas flat and smooth out any depressions and denting in the local area:

Filling the holes was a simple case of backing them with copper and progressively filling with the mig welder before grinding back to a smooth finish on both sides. Just a bit of time and patience was all that was needed:

Last ones:

Holes no more: