THE LEMON REVIEW

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1968 Volkswagen Beetle


After having owned a few beetles, towards the end of 2016 we found ourselves “beetleless” and my oldest son and I decided to shop around for a nice car. We found one on the internet and made the disastrous mistake of buying the car without going to look at it. It looked great; the guy even took a video for us and everything. I can still hear his words in my head, “The car is perfect. It does not need a thing.”

So let’s just say that there are a few different definitions of the term “perfect” and leave it at that. We basically had two options, either to confront the man who conned us out of our money and send the car back, or we could keep the car and sort it out.

I think we felt sorry for this beetle, like you would feel for a stray dog or an orphan child. The car was clearly abused and we wanted to give it a better life, a better home. So, we kept it and embarked on a journey to restore its dignity. It was a long road….

The original ad said “professionally restored beetle”. However, in some places the car was painted with a brush, or maybe a roller. The red interior was sprayed red, with the original black still visible in places were the red paint was peeling off. There was red overspray on all the interior trimmings. I kid you not!

All the rubbers and seals were rock hard and brittle or even missing. You dared not touch any of them as huge chunks came loose when you did. The tyres were probably the tyres the car was delivered with when new.

The term “leaking like a sift” also got a whole new meaning when referring to the engine of this car.

So basically, it was a wreck and there was almost nothing on the car that was good. Well, almost nothing. The car started first time and driving it from the depo in Midrand to our home in the Vaal I realised that the car was very mechanically sound. It ran like a sewing machine and I was easily doing 70 to 80 mph, even accelerating up hills to overtake slower traffic!

We discovered that the car was actually a numbers match car, with original engine and gearbox. This is somewhat special as beetle engines are so plentiful that it is very easy to simply stick a new motor in when you start having mechanical problems. So, original engine with its 12v generator and even the original fuel pump is still there. Going like a bomb…. And leaking like a sift!

So the intention was never to restore the car in the true sense of the word; to showroom condition or “as new” condition. The problem with restoring a car to that level is that you don’t want to drive it afterwards because it becomes so special and valuable. We agreed we will make the car nice to drive and enjoy, cosmetically good and mechanically sound which is exactly what we achieved.

We chose pastel green as the new paint colour for the car. When we got the car it was white, micatex white! The original colour was light blue but we decided on the pastel green, which was my son’s (great) choice. I picked the interior colour and had a local upholsterer redo the interior. We made several trips to Volkspares for various bits and pieces and I must say, they make it really easy to take on a project like this. They have a great range of parts and accessories in stock and their service to the public is fantastic.

The list of repairs included:

  • Complete body respray
  • Complete interior reupholster and recarpet
  • New window rubbers all round
  • New body seals all round including light and handle seals, fender rubbers and engine seals
  • New headlamps
  • New beading kit
  • New mirror
  • New hub caps
  • New tyres with white wall inserts
  • Several new trim parts on the interior which were previously painted red!
  • New fuel cap
  • New sill guards
  • New seat belts
  • New exhaust and tail pipes
  • Complete engine gasket set, including rear main seal and pushrod seals
  • New king pins and link pins fitted
  • Car was serviced
  • Brakes redone
  • New handbrake cables
  • New hooter
  • New pedal rubbers

I am sure there must be a few things I have forgotten but as you can see, it needed a lot!

Now, as I drive drive this car around our sleepy town it gets a lot of attention from the locals. Isn’t it strange that just about everybody you speak to, at some point in their lives owned a beetle, or at least had one in the family? Every time I park the car i get two or three people hanging around the car, asking about it and complimenting the car!

So this orphan beetle now has been given a second breath of life and I am sure the new owner will enjoy the ownership experience like we have enjoyed it and will have many happy motoring miles in her.

 

Sort of sad to see her go…

 

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