1973 Volkswagen Beetle Restoration | Part 1

Posted: April 17, 2019 in Uncategorized

1973 Volkswagen Beetle Restoration, Part 1: Introduction

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Like many of you probably know, pre-1981 vehicle histories are hard to track down without a paper trail. It wasn’t until 1981, that the standard 17-character vehicle identification number (VIN) was established. I was lucky with my 1973 Volkswagen Super Beetle.

My Bug came with a bit of its history in the glove-box, and within a matter of a few years the intertwining story that followed this Beetle would be revealed to me. I bought the car in April 2011, from my brother-in-law, who had purchased it in July of 2009.

Both my brother-in-law and the previous owner were military guys and both had purchased the car for their daughters respectively. Since I too was in the military at the time I purchased the car, I consider the vehicle to have had a bit of a “history” with the military and specifically Fort Bragg (where all three of us were stationed when we bought the car). At any course, its tough German exterior withstood (to some degree) a few “marks of affection” left by the previous owners’ daughters.

Despite the apparent damage, I really considered the car to be in decent shape at the time I purchased it. The mismatched bumpers, scrapes, dents and dings ad ded to the character. After all I was purchasing it to “keep it in the family” and to have a bit of a project for some of those long military weekends.

My brother-in-law was helpful with the transition to Beetle ownership. He told me the basics that every classic Beetle owner should live by, “Don’t let the fuel level get too low” and “Watch the oil temperature.” He also added a bit of advice about where to get the car “checked out” if I needed to at any point. Eventually, that point in time came so I headed out to Save-Your-Car-Auto Repair  in Fayetteville, NC. My brother-in-law had added that he had taken the car to this shop before to get some work done, and informed me that the owner of this repair shop was also the original owner of the Beetle.

Being from the South (where a handshake and some common ground tend to go a long way), I was hoping this vehicle’s history would save my pockets a bit of damage. Upon arriving at Save-Your-Car-Auto Repair it was evident that this shop was in the backyard of the owner’s home. Again, I’m thinking, “this should work out pretty good.” Over the barks of several dogs the owner introduced himself as Mario, and I proceeded to explain to him the issues I was having with the car, which were in my words… “It’s leaking oil and it doesn’t seem to be running right.” I cranked the car for him and before I raised the hood (a.k.a. decklid) half-way up, he had already given me a diagnosis.

Before long, we were discussing an engine rebuild, and it was in that yard my car would sit while parts were machined, an engine was rebuilt and a friendship developed. I’m not so sure Mario believed me when I first told him that this Beetle used to be his car. By the time I had brought it to him for repairs, it had been repainted, the headliner was changed from white to black, the dash carpet was removed and I had also removed the from-factory A/C that he had installed over forty years earlier. However, during that summer he would be converted to a believer.

As the car sat in his yard awaiting a few machined parts, I removed the wheels to have them micro-blasted and found that the brake drums had Mario’s initials written on them. For Mario, it was this little fact that made my claims about his ownership true. After this point, Mario began to open up to me about the vehicle, telling me about the installation of urethane bushings, front disc brakes, more about the A/C and how the factory yellow (as he remembered it) was a bit of a different shade.

The original owner of this VW was officially reunited. I have since moved from Fayetteville, N.C. to Rock Hill, SC and haven’t been back to visit Mario, but since it’s Spring I am now reminded of the time we spent together. Over the course of a couple of months I was able to learn a great deal from Mario; I learned about Volkswagen (obviously), but also he taught me a great deal concerning gardening, composting, business ownership and politics among other things.

Meanwhile it was my brother-in-law who did the micro-blasting of the wheels as well as helped me paint them. Although I haven’t been able to track down the second owner of the Bug, I feel as if the car’s history is pretty much intact. Moreover, it meant something to me to have had experiences with two of the previous owners relating to my restoration and customization of the car.

This short history is provided as an introduction to my Volkswagen Restoration.  Check out Part 2 and Part 3 to learn more.

If you have specific questions about the restoration of your Bug, feel free to comment below and I will be sure to address your issues directly or in future posts.

Stay tuned for more about my experiences with:

JBugs

Herculiner

Gene Berg

Carolina Import Parts

Mid America Motorworks


Jordache Williams Atlas ConceptsJordache 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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