One step forwards, two steps back

Its been a couple of weeks since my last post and I had been having a great time test fitting bits to the chassis and cleaning parts up.

I finally sorted the pedal assembly so that everything moves freely.  I attached the clutch and accelerator cables to the pedals through the tunnel and checked they all worked.  I also put the driver’s seat in to test the pedal travel!

I also ran the heater cables through the tunnel, along with handbrake cables to check they fed through properly and worked.  Everything was going smoothly!

I then removed everything, so the chassis was ready to be sent off for blasting and plascoating.

Before doing that, I cleaned up all the ancillary bits of the car that also need coating, such as spring plates, axle tubes etc. As part of this process, I removed the bumper irons from the bumpers and also managed to take the tow bar apart so that can be cleaned up too.


Feeling pleased with myself I also finished cleaning the expanding foam out of the body shell and then also set to work with the wire brush and drill to take the rusty areas and split paint areas of the body back to bare metal so they could be painted with primer and identified easily when the body is sent off for prep.

With all that progress, it was with anticipatory excitement that myself and a few of the guys from the VW club (Josh, Dave, Dan, Ben and Andy) came and helped me move the chassis out into the garden so we could test fit the body to the chassis to check it was a good fit.  This was the final test before sending the chassis off and a big milestone for the project.

So, it was with a mix of bemusement, anguish and disappointment when the guys and I realised that the fit was far from perfect.  Its out a lot in places.  Not by millimeters but centimeters.  This was not a good sign. Heater channel bolts didn’t line up and the rear cross members were very out of alignment.


So, after putting all the bits back under cover from the torrential rain and supplying all the chaps with a “thank you” pint.  I tried to make sense of what had gone wrong.

I sent the photos off to Gary at the Speedster Clinic who had done the work and we had several phone calls about my concerns.  The problem it seems is that whilst the parts I had bought were the best available, the best is still not anywhere near as good as the original and there will always be an amount of fettling to get parts to fit.  Add to that the way the metal on the body just above the rear cross member has been mangled for a previous floorpan replacement- you can kind of see why nothing fits perfectly.

Gary welds beetle chassis for a living day in day out.  He stands by his work and I don’t blame him.  What I was expecting was for everything to fit and that was an unrealistic expectation.  Having someone of his experience explain how out the bodywork was from the photos he had seen (by pointing to the position of the torsion tube as a marker) helped me manage my expectations. Whilst I am not sure that the gaps should be anywhere near that big, we are where we are.

I have spoken to Paul at Mid-Norfolk Car Company and warned him to expect not just a beetle body but also a chassis, so he can work on fettling it to fit before I send it off for blasting and coating.  So, a slight change in plan and probably a lot more expensive but not as bad a situation as I was thinking it would be at first.

I am now at a pause in the project, aside from a bit more cleaning up of the body.  I can’t do any more to the chassis or parts for coating.  Its now a waiting game for Paul to have more space and time to take Ruy into his care.

Lets hope I am thinking the worst and that reality is far from it!

Beaten bearings

It has only taken a couple of weeks but I have finally managed to get the rear wheel bearings off the car!

It appears that the offside bearing was stuck fast, and no amount of hammering, pushing, pulling or swearing would see it free, so I have to take the angle grinder to it, being careful not to cut into the axle or the axle tube.  It still took a long time to remove but eventually it came out!

I then started work on the nearside with a small amount of trepidation.  I need not have worried though, as the bearing came out within a minute, sliding out easily.

My last task was to make sure I knew which way the spacers go back into the axle tube, along with the washers and O-rings.  Thankfully the Haynes manual was most useful!

All I have left to do now in terms of dismantling is to remove the foam from the body, clean back the rust holes and primer it all.  Before the chassis goes off for coating, there needs to be a little bit of welding and a bit of taking stock, to make sure everything is where it should be and I have thought of everything I need to!


Place Headlining here

So, today was a good day.  A productive day.  A day of obvious progress.

I was able (through much swearing and cursing and damaged fingertips) to remove the loom.  This is a huge step in the right direction as it can now be sent off to be copied into a new loom entirely.

Removing the loom was problematic in a couple of areas.

Firstly, the loom going from engine bay to rest of car was held in place by lots of expanding foam – an original installation tool – not aftermarket.  It took a lot of hacking, stabbing and gouging with various tools to remove enough foam to get the loom free. Even so, I had to cut the loom in half at the point it entered the rear quarter panel in order to free everything.

Secondly, to get the loom out from the bonnet, I had to remove a number of plugs so the wires could come up through the body.  Lots of photographs were taken to make sure I could put the wires back in the right order later!

You can see a video of the loom out here:  Loom video

As you can see from the photos below, the loom is now out and I have bagged it ready for sending away.  I just need to decide what modifications I want to make to it.

I was also able to remove the headlining from the car now the glass is out.  This was a pretty straightforward job, aside from where the door rubbers are.  These are sewn into the headlining and then pinned in place with metal clips attached to the pillars.  A bit of teasing the clips out and the rubbers came away ok.

Finally, I removed the remaining chrome trim, and the boot and bonnet catches.

All that is left to do on the body is clean up the remains of the felt wadding and remove the remaining sound deadening tar boards, so that body work can begin without having to pay for cleaning up.  So, a good deal of progress made!

What did they glue that on with?

I seem to have come across the strongest glue known to man.  Not only has the glue survived 45 years, sunshine, heat, cold and cigarette smoke no doubt – it is also withstanding chemicals and brute force!  It simply will not budge!

I am in the process of prepping the body for being worked on, removing old sound proofing and insulation.

So, in frustration, I took the rear side windows out!

Overall, progress is being made.  The chassis is off being welded and the body is lined up to be worked on.  At the weekend at Stanford Hall I picked up the right quarter light glass for Ruy too but will need to source some decent quarter light frames I think.

As you can see the photos of the body without glass, there is a hole in the top of the passenger side panel which I hope won’t take too much to sort.  The worry is that all of that side seems pretty rotten in places and it could cost a lot to resolve.

That is my main concern at the moment – that until it is being worked on, I don’t know how much the body work is going to cost me!

Off to the clinic!

Since my last update, things have been progressing slowly.  As I have previously mentioned, the cleaning is something I hate doing and it has been hard work to get motivated.

The torsion leaves were removed from the old beam and put in storage.  I then began work on degreasing the chassis and removing the original sound deadening material ahead of sending it off for welding.

As you can see from the photos, the chassis cleaned up well and the tunnel is in very good condition.  After a pressure wash (thanks to Mark for helping to lift the chassis outside!!), I was able to remove the pedal set plate and under seat heater cables and that meant everything was ready to be welded!

After a short tendering exercise (I do work in Procurement after all..!) I chose to send the chassis to the Speedster Clinic, Kenilworth for the welding.  Not only is Gary providing excellent value for money, he also has the jigs to weld the framehead properly and spends all his working day welding beetle chassis for customers who want to create their own replica Porsche 356.

So, today Ian (him of the comments on this blog and 356 build fame) and I took a trip to see Gary.

Whilst the chassis is with Gary, I have lots more work to be getting on with but I hope to have a fully welded chassis back with me by mid-May!

And in case you don’t think a 356 replica man has the VW history, Gary showed me a number of his original 1970s VW sales brochures!!  Fantastic!


Beam me up!

Now everything is tucked away, my focus has moved to cleaning up parts and assessing what needs replacing.

I am incredibly impatient, which means this phase of the restoration is going to be difficult.  I hate cleaning stuff up and would prefer to buy everything new but that is incredibly expensive and I won’t learn anything!

So, the last couple of days have seen me clean up the front beam, scraping off grease and dirt, using a wire brush and paint scraper and basically making a mess.

I degreased and pressure washed the beam to clean that last remnants of grease and then had a good look around.  Unfortunately I found a couple of holes around one of the torsion bar ends, which means the beam is not worth saving.

So, I stripped everything else off the beam – steering box, track rods, spindles, torsion arms and shock absorbers.  Every ball joint was a pain and both shocks needed grinding off but everything is stripped and can then be either re-used or sold on.

The only thing left to do is remove the torsion leaves.  A very messy job!

I have decided to have an adjustable front beam, as the stock ride height was a little high.  But that is for another day..!

Getting by with a little help…

…From my friends!

Today was the day that Ruy’s body was separated from his chassis for the first time since leaving the factory.  In order to capture the historic moment, I invited several friends to come over and help mark the occasion… by lifting the body and moving it to the newly built shelter!

Firstly, Ian headed over as advance guard to show me the best way to remove the rear suspension, brakes and Z-bar.  Thankfully the reading I had done meant I had a good idea of what was going on and seeing it physically meant I increased my understanding.  Aside from a few stubborn nuts, things went pretty well.

We then turned our attention to the front beam and removed that, which meant supporting the front of the car on a pallet so we could slide the beam out!

When Fran turned up, the three of us were able to lift the body off the car and put it down close by, so we could work of removing the pedal assembly, gearbox, spring plates, gearshaft and all associated cabling from the chassis.

Fran worked his magic on the pedal assembly and created a template so I know where to have the plates welded for it and the accelerator pedal.

By this time, Josh, Mark, Dan and Dave arrived and we were able to lift Ruy’s body, sedan chair fashion, over the fence and into the shelter built especially for him.

We then cleaned up the chassis, bagged and tagged all the bits and checked the chassis over for major issues.  Unfortunately I will need a new frame head, Napoleon’s hat and rear cross member along with floor pans but otherwise, the chassis is good.

I will admit to embarking on the next phase of the project with trepidation.  The fun part of dismantling the car has been done.  Now it is the slog of cleaning parts, stripping down assemblies and so on.  This might cause me to lose faith but I will try and remember the end goal!

I would like to say a huge thank you to all those who helped today.  I may have seemed a little bewildered at times, as so much was going on and I wasn’t able to keep track of all the bits being removed and the advice being given.  I really appreciate all your help.

Now to crack out the credit card and buy some parts!

Getting naked

No, not me silly!

Today I used the first really good weather since before Christmas to make Ruy’s body a bit lighter ready for the lift.  It has been hard to get people together to help lift the body, so I am using the extra time to do what I can to lighten the potential load.

Today I continued removing parts from behind the dash.  That meant all the air vents and ducting were removed, along with the air controls, the wiper motor, the ashtray holder and glovebox.

Everything went smoothly, albeit with some fiddly bits taking a while to remove.  The only issue is that the driver’s side air splitter which connects to the heater channel was loose and came out along with the ducting.  The potentially poses a problem later on in the build.

After removing the headlamp and hazard light switches from the dash, labelling everything up and placing in the bonnet, I moved on to removing the wheels – just because I can.

I then began the task of removing the doors, which I hoped would be easy enough, thanks to an impact driver borrowed from a friend.  Everything was fine until the last screw, which refused to budge.  I resorted to heating it up for a while then trying again.  It soon came out!

So, everything is set for removing the body.  Then it is on to removing everything from the chassis.

Before I do that, I will need to measure the existing floorpans, so I know the correct measurements for welding in the new ones.  I will also need to clean everything up, before shipping it off to the blasters and plasticoaters.

Yes, I have decided to get the chassis and pans plasticoated, as it works out about the same price but lasts a lot longer and means no need for Waxoyl it seems.


Hail stops play!

Today I managed to get a few extra bits done on the car as I count down the days until the strong man team can help lift the body off.

I thought I would try and remove the padded dash, speedo, glovebox and wiper motor.  However, I only got so far, as the heavens opened and it hailed heavily.

I was extra careful in removing the padded dash, so I didn’t rip or split any of it.  There are a couple of old splits which will need attention but I managed to remove it without much fuss.

The speedo was removed easily and I was careful to label everything, so the wiring makes sense!

I need to read up on how to remove the fresh air vents which will then enable me to remove the wiper motor.

I will try and get this task done next weekend.

We have lift off!

This weekend has turned out to be both productive and historic.

On yesterday’s post I detailed how I had gone through the last few things needed to enable the body to be lifted off the chassis.  After a text conversation with one of the sages of Splitterz Cambridge, Sunday afternoon was going to be the “lets check over everything to make sure nothing will catch you out” session.

So, when Fran (the sage) arrived, I was expecting a cursory walk around the car to say “this needs doing” and I was going to write a list.

As it turned out, I had done everything I could.  All that the final furlong boiled down to was a couple of tough bolts that needed persuading and then the body would lift off…..

….After grinding and bashing our way through several areas of weld that had permanently joined body to chassis.  Now I can’t complain, as over the 20 years that I have had the car, and before, work has been done to get the car through an MOT, not to make it look pretty.  Every weld served a purpose but for this restoration, they had to be cut through.  Lets just hope that nothing serious lurks beneath!

I would never have noticed most of these joints had Fran not showed me where they were and why they were problematic, so I am extremely grateful to him for his help – and his angle grinder, long bits of wood and perseverance!!

As you can see from the photos, a good couple of hours hard graft meant the body could be lifted for the first time in 42 years.  That in itself is an historic moment and I am pleased that I was able to see it and help to do it!

Now all I need is four strong friends to help me lift the body and store it, so I can crack on with stripping the chassis and cleaning it ready for any remedial work before new floor pans and powder coating!