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:
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.