Monday, 10 April 2017

New BBT rear valance

I am slowly acquiring top quality reproduction panels as and when they happen to be on sale. This week I got an accurate rear valence manufactured by BBT, who are based in Belgium:

Really impressed by this panel in every way and the finish is simply excellent. When compared against my original valance I was able to see just how bent and knackered the old one was:

The photo doesn't show the full extent of the damage, but replacing it is definitely the best course of action. Even if I possessed half decent panel beating skills it would take a substantial amount of time to get this back to anywhere near straight - and that's before any fabrication work to repair the inner reinforcement section behind the tail pipes.

Couldn't resist a quick dry fit on the car:

Looks great but the fit is slight off in places, but I think this will be corrected when I have straightened out the rear bumper hangers. In summary, I am very happy with this panel!

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Repairing the original accelerator pedal

It would have been quick and convenient to simply replace the old accelerator pedal with a remanufacted one. However, I am keen to keep all of the tactile control services original as I believe they embody the historical ‘soul’ of the car. When I am eventually driving the car again I want the satisfaction of knowing that I am pressing on the same pedals that were operated by all of Gretchen’s former owners  since the day she left the VW dealership.

The accelerator pedal was in a bit of a sorry state, with the bottom section having been hacked off by a previous owner (after it started to rot away I am guessing). A door hinge was instead bolted on and welded to the floor in a ramshackle fashion. It was unsightly and not at all smooth to operate. Occasionally when driving the pedal would jam solid if depressed too far. Not particularly good or safe!

I took the later ‘roller ball’ donor pedal that I recently scored for a fiver at Dubfreeze and compared it against my original and decided how best to join the two together:

After careful measuring I cut the required bottom section off of the donor pedal:

Marked up a corresponding cut line on my original pedal and trimmed down accordingly:

Got the two pieces and aligned them on a flat sturdy piece of copper backer:

After tacking the sections in place from behind I unclamped and double checked everything was correctly aligned before fully welding from the front side. Had to crank up the amps on the welder to ensure good penetration as the steel is quite thick:

After linishing back I reached for my new magic toy, a 5" Random Orbit Sander:

I am so impressed with the way that this thing finishes the metal. It really helps smooth out and blend the repaired area given an almost invisible finish (assuming that prior care has been taken with panel alignment etc):

After a lick of zinc primer I measured out the correct location for the 6mm hole. I don’t think this serves any particular purpose, but who am I to argue with the wisdom of VW:

All finished and looking like a functional whole once again:

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Original workshop manual

Whilst scouring the swap meet at this year’s Volksworld show I came across this original VW workshop manual from 1965:

I have been on the hunt for one of these for some time as the technical information provided within is second to none. These were originally produced for official use at VW approved garages and not available to the general public:

Worth the investment in my opinion and this will now serve as my main reference source for crucial measurements and certain repair procedures:

Just need to keep my eyes peeled for Vol 1 now…

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

A post inner reinforcement panel

With the remnants of the old heater channels out of the way I could begin work on the drivers side A-post. This was rusting through and had also been patched up once in the past. Started by roughly trimming away some sheet metal to reveal the inner reinforcement section: 

This was heavily corroded towards the bottom as expected. There was also a deep horizontal gouge that was clearly inflicted by a stray angle grinder during the past hasty repair (just visible about midway down this photo):

Shot blasted the area above the corrosion and damage to reveal solid material:

Cut the bottom portion of the reinforcement panel off with a hacksaw (yep, sometimes it feels right to revert back to handtools as they are less aggressive and offer more control):

Drilled out the spot welds of the Hookys repair panel to separate the inner and outer sections:

Using the Hookys Door Alignment Tool (DAT) I lined up the repair section and scribed a cut line:

trimmed it down to size:

I then spent a long time finessing the alignment of the repair panel. Filing small amounts here and there until I was happy with the fit. The profile of the repair panel doesn't line up exactly right, but it is close enough and will never be seen once the outer skin is on, so I am not too bothered:

Started welding one tack at a time to keep the heat build-up down:

Ground the welds back and linished smooth. Finally sprayed with the obligatory lick of zinc primer:

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Removal of front bulkhead

Time to get the old unsightly bulkhead out:

Located and drilled out a ton of spot welds up the side of the front quarter panel:

The other side needed some angle grinder action at the bottom to remove an old repair patch that was in the way:

I was then able to get at the last few spot welds hidden behind:

I used a piece of sandpaper to lightly rub along the top edge, which made the spot welds easier to identify:

I used a small 3.5mm bit and drilled through both panels. My thinking was that this would help with realignment later using Cleco fasteners to line up the holes and pull the seams snugly together:

The ends of petrol tank support rails were brazed to the bulkhead and I ground these back using the Dremmel tool and used a flathead screwdriver to gently separate:

On the inside of the car (underneath the dash) I used the heatgun to soften up the old seam sealer. Once heated it all scrapped off very easily and the panel started to loosen:

Patience was key at this point. I took my time redrilling certain holes a fraction larger if it seemed to be holding things up and delicately kept on wiggling the panel. I didn't want to apply too much force or I would have risked bending either the bulkhead or lip of the top panel out of shape. Once loosened I found the panel needed tapping backwards (i.e: towards the inside of the car) and away from the tank support brackets. The top lip of the bulkhead tucks up behind them in an awkward fashion, but eventually it came free without drama:

Clearly the bulkhead panel is in need of substantial work to make it straight again, but to better assess the overall condition I decided to separated the two sections. Drilled another bunch of spot welds:

Hey presto:

I shot blasted a few key areas in my cabinet and found that a fair amount of both sections are still usable:

Therefore, I will attempted to repair using sections from a repro panel and if that doesn't work, or it looks substandard in any way, then I can always resort to plan B and source a genuine Mexi replacement bulkhead (which will work, but looks vastly different to my mid 60's panel).

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Epic autojumble quest

When I purchased Gretchen back in 2000, the owner before me had carried out a few cosmetic modifications that deviated from true stock appearance. The tasteful alterations included an earlier style 'popes nose' licence plate holder, earlier model of front indicators and a gleaming set of Sprintstar alloy wheels (Flat 4 reproductions). I personally loved the changes he made (I still do!) and they were part of the reason I was drawn to this particular car. To me, they formed part of Gretch's character and I had every intention of keeping these parts as they were. However, a funny thing has happened to my perspective during this restoration journey and I now find myself desiring period correct components. Call me sentimental, but I think this stems from researching the cars history and being in touch with the original owners. I have garnered a different kind of respect for my old Beetle. I feel her original identity needs to be reinstated and celebrated, but with room for a little of my own personal expression. Therefore, I have redefined my vision for the finished car; a stock looking 1965 Beetle, which appears as though it has rolled straight off the factory production line and then slammed with a slightly narrowed 2" front beam (to avoid body modifications). I will add a couple of period accessories and put her back on the original steel wheels with domed logo hubcaps, which have been in storage for the past 15 years...

With this clear vision in mind I have been actively scouring the web for missing or incorrect parts. I have also started searching autojumbles with fresh eyes and recently got lucky at Dubfreeze:

I managed to bag a year correct number plate surround (the white one) within minutes of arriving. Unfortunately it was missing the bulb holder, but I found the correct part on another stall shortly afterwards. As an added bonus it came with a new and unused rubber seal. Later that afternoon I came across another complete unit (surround, lens & bulb holder) that was in slightly better condition and ridiculously cheap! So now I have two to choose from. Curiously, although these surrounds are both correct old parts, one is manufactured by Hass (white one) and the other by Hella (green one). They are almost identical apart from the fact that the Hella version has some additional cylindrical protrusions on the inside. It doesn't particularly matter which one I use (who is really going to know!), but I will try and find out which is native to the early '65 model nonetheless...

Also found a later model RHD accelerator pedal in great condition with hinge pin and return spring:

I have come to realise that early RHD accelerator pedals are unobtainable, so I will graft the bottom section of this one onto my original pedal to make it functional again.

Following my previous success in obtaining some Genuine VW Mexi steel, I managed to get a rear quarter panel (albeit a cannibalised one that has been hacked for cuts) for a bargain £35! 

These obsolete panels are now becoming so scare that the usual aircooled parts vendors were last selling unbutchered ones for in excess of £500! Now, despite several sections being missing, I am fairly certain that I can use some of the steel to repair Gretchen from the swage line down. For the cost of it has got to be worth a punt!

Other autojumble finds I have recently acquired include a couple of OG bumper overiders (to replace my thin repros) and interior grab handles (to replace my damaged/split originals): 

I also got hold of these original front indicators for a song off of eBay. They are in remarkable condition for their age:

Lastly, I acquired a front scuttle section (eBay auction success again!) that has very little rust around the window corners where the de-mister parts exit:

It is cut from a later model Beetle, but the specific donor areas that I require are an exact match, so nobody will ever know. Say. No. More! Wink, wink, nudge, nudge, know whatahmean? A nod's as good as a wink to a blind bat!