1973 Volkswagen Beetle Restoration | Part 3

Posted: March 5, 2016 in Automotive
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1973 Volkswagen Beetle Restoration, Part 3: Engine & Exterior

1973 VW volkswagen super beetle bug

When I look at these old pictures of my bug, I can’t help but miss the way it was.  Dents, dings, bits of rust, mismatched fenders…it was what I bought and, to me, “it had the look.”  I’m not too sure, as I think back on the restoration process, what drove me…I didn’t really have a vision.  In reality, I had very little automotive experience.  What the car reminds me of now is how much it changed me.  It helped me grow from an average admirer of vintage vehicles to a person who has a much deeper appreciation of the process, dedication and skill required to accomplish auto restoration.  As I believe the beetle holds the record for the longest-running body type of all time, I’ll spare most of the details and attempt to cover the parts of my restoration which are on the ends of the spectrum of good and bad.

True to novice form, I actually had the car painted before the engine work was completed (or started for that matter).  This is a pretty good car to make that mistake on because, of course, the engine is removed from underneath the car.

1973 VW volkswagen super beetle bug

For me, the most difficult item to find for this engine was a K & N Filter to fit the Air Cleaner shown.  I know enthusiasts swear by the stock cleaner, but I haven’t really seen any negative effects of the supposedly erratic air flow created by this style cleaner.  My two favorite modifications are the Gene Berg Oil Temperature Dip Stick and the SCAT Serpentine Belt System.  If your a fan of EMPI you can also check out their comparable Polished Aluminum Pulley System (paid link) as well.

1973 Super Beetle VW Volkswagen 3 modified

After the decklid is closed, there isn’t much to see back here except the CURT trailer hitch (paid link).  Yes, the beetle can tow!  I mostly use the hitch to haul and launch my 14’ foot aluminum jon boat.  Since there’s usually more beetles than anyone wants to see at car shows, this is where my bug really gets some attention.  On the back end, I also refit the entire muffler system.  My biggest complaint is the chrome tailpipes.  There’s just no way to stop them from rusting.  Mid America Motorworks lists a set made of polished stainless steel, which I am sure are much more resilient.  The only issue for me is that anytime I go to make the purchase they are out of stock.

The question I get the most about my Super Beetle is, “Is that (truck) bed liner on your fenders?”  The answer is yes.  The story behind the bed liner is also telling of my level of experience when I was completing this project.  As you can see in the first picture, the passenger side rear fender was damaged.  I proceeded to hit the fender with a hammer (a wooden handled, homeowner type hammer) until it appeared to be close to normal.  Then, using body filler for the first time, I called myself doing body work.  The truth of the matter is that the bed liner was something that came to mind when I was searching for a way to mask my shady workmanship.  So in a nutshell, this is the story that usually starts every conversation I have about this car.  Inadvertently, total strangers constantly remind me that if I reach my hand underneath that fender, I can literally count the dents and tell how many times I hit it.  It is of note that the particular bed liner I used was Herculiner (paid link).  While it was very easy to apply (it rolls on with a paint roller), it faded tremendously over the first summer, in a matter of months.  At the time I didn’t know that it wasn’t UV resistant, so to fix the mess, I merely taped the car off and spray painted the fenders gloss black and then clear coated them.  That fix has held up (for the most part) for over 3 years.

1973 VW volkswagen super beetle bug

All in all I am happy with the car.  I usually find something to mess with on it from time to time, even though I usually refer to the project as being complete.  In reality, the 2 biggest mistakes I feel like I made are 1) trying to use body filler to fill in the louvers underneath the windshield and 2) not replacing the hood and decklid seal channels.  With all that I have learned over the past couple of years, I’ll definitely dig back into this car at some point, but for now, I just enjoy driving it and sharing my experiences with others.

Jordache Williams | Atlas Concepts
Jordache Williams
, of Rock Hill, South Carolina, is the Program Manager for Atlas Concepts, LLC.  He understands that sometimes a small piece of information is the difference between success and failure. His contributions to the Shop Talk blog are purposed with sharing relevant information based on his own experiences.


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