Wednesday, May 28, 2008



My Lord…..I thought it would never happen. After Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years Eve, Annual Sales Meeting, preparing to move, moving, settling in new home, starting the MBA process, and finishing off the storage attic to make an office………I was able to start working on the oval again.

I was able to coerce my brother-in-law to tote my floor pan in his new trailer. I used 10 bags of the Black Diamond blasting media. It felt like about 2 of those bags ended up in my shoes and the undercarriage of my nether-region. Hell, even when I rubbed my ears I could hear sand rubbing together. Despite the beach blanket bingo approach to sandblasting I got this pan really clean. I also found that the front pans have some perforations too. I sprayed the pan with some cheap automotive primer from Lowes. When my brother-in-law saw the look on my face when he asked me how I was going to get the floorpan back he reluctantly offered to bring it back for me. I humbly accepted since I truly didn’t know how it would get back.

The pan looks beautiful and it is sitting comfortably in my garage again. In a couple of weeks I’m going to weld in new Danish quarter floor pans from M&T Manufacturing. I hear they are the best quality and thickness that you can buy now. My good friend Jon is coming over to teach me and help me weld these in. He claims that I’ll be an expert in no time. I just hope that I don’t weld a hole in my hand.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Oval Genesis - 1957 Volkswagen Beetle “Rustoration”

In the beginning......God made the VW Beetle. And he saw that it was good. Quickly He found it was lonely. Then came man. Somewhere along the way man was briefly distracted by the newly created woman. A similar issue that continues to occur throughout chronological history which juxtaposes mans basic desires for companionship and the smell of petroleum and steel.
My passion began with my first memories riding around in my Grandma Kopp’s Black all original 1965 Volkswagen Beetle. I remember the smell of the interior when we would first get in the car to head down to the original Steak N’ Shake on Wabash Ave in Springfield, IL.
It also had this unique sound that always made me smile. My grandfather, Phillip Kopp bought this originally. My Grandmother, Mary and all their children drove it in college (Mary Sue, Martha “Sug”, Penny). . In 1988 when I was only 12 years old my mother told me that my grandma was going to trade her car in for $500 dollars to get a Ford Escort. I begged my Mom to buy it from her so that I could drive it in high school. I then drove it in high school 1990 and college 1996 until an unfortunate
accident that occurred. And so my passion bloomed.
There were a few times when that black beetle was sitting in my parent’s driveway and I just couldn’t wait to drive it. I would snake the keys when they weren’t home and start it up and just sit there and listen to it with its distinctive chirping. Hindsight this was probably the best thing I had done for this car because I know my parents never did. This probably is what kept it running until I drove it in high school. This was before I knew how to drive a manual transmission but I would give it the old college try and see if I could just get it to move a little and then “WHAM” ….I’d stall the engine. Oh well.
I beat the hell out of this car. Dings, dents, bumps, etc. Not knowing a damn thing about how VW’s work, drive, run, or how to care for them in general, I continued to drive on. Once I went to college for a couple of years I came home and found the engine locked. I decided to pay someone to have it fixed. I had used this garage that was known for working on VW’s. I would later find out that this was a major mistake. I was the drunk freshman girl who had been seduced by the senior fraternity boys. I later discovered that they had taken many of my original parts from my car and replaced them with older or broken ones. I paid $800 dollars and drove home my new engine which seemed to run very well.
I met this guy at a restaurant that I worked at when I moved home to finish school in town. He said that I should find this book about “How to keep your Volkswagen alive forever”. This book changed my life forever. I learned so much I was amazed. I became a fanatic overnight. I knew that I loved this car but now I understood why. I felt empowered and amazed. It still amazes me how this little car runs with just a little more power than a lawnmower and the air we breathe is what keeps it from overheating.
I continued to drive it despite the hole that my battery was falling out of (held in by cardboard), the wholes in the front wheel wells which had cling wrap stuffed into to keep the water from rushing in when I rounded a corner. I grew tired and embarrassed telling my friends and girlfriends to pick up their feet. The area where the bumper brackets attached to had rusted out and came apart most likely due to a blunt trauma force (I bumped into a few things along my journey). I removed the bumpers and pressed on.
It amazes me how one small part that cost about $1.00 could ruin my passion most valuable possession. I didn’t know it but as I was stopping at a stop light on my way to school one day my rubber stopper on the master cylinder decided to pop out. I lost all my breaks and my precious coasted into a vehicle in front of me. It didn’t even make a smudge on that car but it crushed the entire front of mine. I replaced the brake lines, master cylinder and a few other things and pressed on again. Because of the front fender and the entire nose had been crushed forward the headlights didn’t line up correctly. This kept me from getting the car inspected. I decided to take the plunge and begin a restoration.
I tried very hard to make this happen. I had no experience and no money so the project just dwindled. As the years passed I began to make more money in professional career and I was single so I spent over $5000 to have someone else restore it for me. BIG MISTAKE. They were a body shop who was evidently trying to make ends meet with my money. Once again a very expensive and valuable lesson.
I realized that this project was going to cost most likely 3 times that amount if I was going to have someone else do this for me. It was tough but I realized (with the help of my wife) that it was time to cut the cord. I needed to find a new car and my wife needed her parking space back. I sold off all the parts to those few who have been bitten by the bug and were in the same endeavor as I was. I met some great people along that journey who are part of a great network. Most had either already restored one or more bugs or were in progress. Things seem to happen for a reason.
As I watched my 1965 VW beetle drive away piece by piece. Watching the rotting carcass floorpan roll away down the street in March of 2007 was actually harder than I thought it would be. It was the last piece and it was so strange to not have a VW in my life. Having this car this car for 17 years, even without actually driving it became a strong thread in the fabric of my life. I had learned how to perform a simple valve adjustment to “open heart surgery”. I knew this car better than anyone else. 2nd gear was that urban legend where I only knew how to pop it into gear.
So once it was gone I immediately found a website called “”. I began searching for her replacement. Not that I could replace her because she was so very special and we have many memories that will live forever in the privacy of my mind.
So as I looked for the right car I knew that I had to go older than the ’65. If I was to buy another one or restore another one I wanted to make it good. Anything older than 55 was either too far, too expensive, or too much of a mess. I’ve never been a real fan of anything older than ‘68. All the beetles that I found in NC or SC were again either too expensive or too much of a mess. Then one day I found this little ’57 oval in Mt Airy. For those of you who don’t know where this is it is the home town of Andy Griffith. The show was supposed to take place there which is also known as Mayberry. It was about 2 hours from Raleigh, NC where I live so I thought that it might be doable.
I called up this guy and he said that I could come by and take a look. I drove out there trying to keep myself contained knowing that I might find exactly what I was looking for. When I get there and look over this vehicle I am shocked to find that it is in extraordinary condition. There are only two rust spots- Under the back seat on the floorpan and the spare tire well. Other than that this car is in amazing condition with a clean title. Everything on it is original except the transaxle which is from the ‘60’s. I find out that this car had one owner and was sold to a guy in the 70’s who placed it in a barn as an investment for 35 years along with about 50 other cars. It took three years before he sold it to my new friend Freddie. He had one too many projects on hand so suggested by his wife he had to sell it. So on May 19th I made “Freddie” a deal. I offered him $900 down and a total payment of $3500. He gladly accepted. On July 19th (60 days later exactly) my good friend Brian and I towed this beautiful car back to its new home in Raleigh, NC.

So now the restoration begins!

There are always unforeseen issues that always come up with your project. One that I didn’t see coming are issues with the home. We had a hot water pipe that broke under our house and caused major damage. We were put out of the house for almost a week. Fortunately we were able to get things back in control.
So I set aside a whole Saturday to get things rolling and get some good momentum. To my surprise my friend Jon Turner offered to come by and offer some assistance. I gladly and quickly accepted. I started on my own beginning with the decklid and hood. I removed both with little difficulty.
When Jon arrived I was overjoyed because not only did I have help but he came with pop out windows in hand too! After I gazed at the pop out windows that I have been pining away at we quickly started removal of the gas tank. The heat outside was about 96 degrees and I have been cursed with overactive sweat glands. It was literally moments before I looked like I had taken a shower in my clothes. I pressed on. We put the car up on jack stands and took off the wheels so that we could access the fenders easier.
After some liberal doses of liquid wrench we were able to get the headlamp assemblies and turn signals out. We disconnected the bumpers and fenders. There were a few hiccups from other people’s poor attempt for repairs. We took a sawzaw to a nut and had to drill out a screw. I have an impact wrench that came in very handy and I believe kept our moods in a positive direction.

With each part removal I was very happy to find that the only surprise I had was that no rust penetration. This car is very straight, very solid and should not require any major body work (with exception to the spare tire well and the left and right floor pan). This will allow for a much quicker road to restoration. I might be able to get this finished in one year and no more than two. This has been a long day and I’m already sore from head to toe and very tired.
This was a short night. I spent a couple of hours just vacuuming out the trunk and in front of the firewall. I started to remove the interior as well. I took off the outer upholstery and found the original underneath which was almost perfect. I felt guilty tearing it apart so I just left the front bottom seat and rear seat untouched for just a bit longer for shits and giggles. I really want to get the interior pulled out just to get rid of that musty smell. Once I pulled out all the carpet and sound insulation I was astounded to find the luggage rack and rear wheel wells to be immaculate. It was as if it had rolled off the factory just yesterday.
 I’m a lucky bastard but I’m sure that there will be a “why me” somewhere along the way. I also pulled out the other rear glass on the passenger side rear. I thought about taking out the windshield and the rear oval but I had a little stage fright so I thought I would wait until I could talk Jon into coming over again to help. It was getting late and I feel as if Jon beat me with the 2x4 he raised the car with when I wasn’t looking. I thought I would call it a night.
I find myself still motivated to tear this beast apart. I think removing the smell from the garage and the car itself is motivating enough. It’s a strange smell that is repulsive but also represents a dream come true as to remind myself, “must keep going”. Bailey said tonight, as I was giving both her and Nicholas baths, that she wanted to come out and help with the Volkswagen. I told her that was a great idea. So while I continued to remove the stinky interior she worked hard on shining the pretty pink interior with her fine cloth.
I pulled all the upholstery off and began to remove the guts behind the dashboard. Radio, knobs, windshield wipers, etc. I found a little more rust on the bottom corner of the passenger door but nothing outrageous. It was a little difficult tonight to stay motivated. I have a hard time when there are so many little pieces to take apart and log. I have found that keeping all the screws, knobs, etc in plastic baggies marked with a sharpie will keep me organized. I’ll let you know once I have to start putting this back together. I couldn’t figure out how to get the seats out. They seem to be rusted on the track. I might try to spray some liquid wrench to knock them loose with the rubber mallet.

I needed to decompress a bit tonight to remove some stress. My project has now become therapeutic. It’s earning its keep. I decided to go ahead and remove the windshield and the rear window. It now officially looks like a piece of crap. But it’s my piece of crap that I will metamorphosis into a piece of eye candy.
Tonight I reached a stopping point. I have taken apart as much as I can on my own. I think it’s time to call up Jon and see if he’ll help me out with some of the parts that I don’t know how take apart. I still have the doors to mess with but I’ve accomplished more this week than I expected. I’m putting together a budget and I’m starting to get concerned. I think that it’s time to put this project on hold for a bit to give my wife some attention. I think she’s getting jealous :-)
After a house disaster (broken hot water pipe under the house) I decided to make sure the house is order. Once things settled down I decided to continue what my wife calls my obsession. I took off right running board and found the first signs of real rust damage. I poked several holes all down the side of the heater channel. Not sure what’s going to come of it. I think that next time Jon comes over I’ll get him to take a look at it. After hearing repeatedly about how my wife has lost her parking space I decided to spend time on her happiness. That is of course one of the ingredients of completing this project…..keeping her happy.

I completed the dollies that I designed. These will hold the weight of the car until I separate the body from the chassis. The wheels will be a few inches off the ground even when they are on. This way I’ll be able to roll the car around and pull it out when I need to work on it.
When I separate the body from the floor pan I will put the car up on saw horses and roll the floor pan in an out from underneath it as I need to as it will still be on the dollies. Now I need to rearrange the garage so that I can get her parking space back. Then I will give Jon ring and we’ll take off the last of the parts.
9/4/07 (My wife’s Birthday)
Ok. So far I have almost 20 hours of my time over the past 6 weeks. Let’s see that’s……about 3 hours a week of work. MMMMMM. Not bad. I just hope I can keep up the stamina. It’s a marathon…..not a sprint. The only thing more miraculous then Fatima itself was how I was able to get my wife her parking space back. I have to say that I thought for sure this would not happen. However, like everything else in this project so far, persistence and patience has paid off. After some careful thought I decided to press forward with the last of the parts. After some scratching, my head of course, and some frequent pacing I decided to take the liquid wrench to the seats. I have tried a couple of times to move them back and forth with no luck. I sprayed it liberally right on the inside of both tracks and hopped into the now absent back seat. I put my feet up on the back of the seats and took hold at the top. You don’t want to strike them with anything in fear that you will dent the hollow tubing. After some slight pressure…voila!

They came right off very easily. In fact it was far easier than I thought. After putting both seats aside the car really looks like a “resto” candidate now. My 6 year old daughter was “helping” me tonight. She pointed at the edge of the tunnel a set of keys that were buried under gunk. I was ecstatic! I took the keys over the ignition switch and luck would have it, they were the keys to the car! I need to have her help me more often. I felt so good about this I decided to take the steering wheel off too. I didn’t have a socket large enough to take off the center nut so I just put my vice grips on it and worked it back and forth until it came loose. Once again no problem. I think the next step is to take out the steering column and steering column tube. I think that I will keep the wiring harness.

If there are no splices and it looks pliable and not frayed I will just stick with the original harness. I am just about ready to pull the body off the floor pan. I’m excited about this because I know I’ll feel as if I’ve really made some progress and I can tackle that floor pan. I just don’t know how far I want to go with the floor pan. I don’t want to shortcut it but I don’t want to spend the next 6 years of my life on nit-picking. I hear Ferdinand whispering…..patience my Padawan. Well, we have so many things going on for the next 2 weekends and I’m traveling the next 2 weeks. While I don’t want to I’ll have to put this on the shelf for a couple of weeks. Perhaps I can put in a long Saturday. Have I mentioned that I love Volkswagens? Also, have I mentioned that I love my wife? I love her more than my Volkswagen. I am going to start writing a story of how much I love her. We have a wonderful relationship. She is an amazing woman. Smart, loving, funny, a great mother, everything I have ever wanted. (My wife snuck into my memoir J - although this is all true of course).
I decided that it was best if I try to take off the doors to lighten the load when I take the body off the pan. It was going great until…..I stripped half of the Philips screws. I decided the only thing left to do was to drill them out. Not my first choice but it was bound to happen. Off go the doors. I set them aside and it really looks like a monster project now. Parts everywhere and a carcass in the middle of the garage. Just another step forward. Bailey was particularly interested in helping tonight. She is truly excited to work on this with “Dad”. It makes me warm inside to know that we have something special we can share. I told here that only her and I would be able to remember this. Nicholas will always be too young to ever know how I brought this baby back to life.
So tonight I removed the screws and bolts that hold the body to the chassis. The ones above the floor pan came off with a little prep of liquid wrench. The ones on the floor pan weren’t so easy. Most came off with my impact wrench (which caused a spewing cloud mixture of dust and rust). The 2 sets of 2 screws at the top of the floorpan came off with the assistance of my torque wrench. It was enough leverage to take them off without breaking. I only broke two out of 22 screws. Truthfully I think I busted the first two because I had the direction of the impact wrench on forward…..duh. Anyway it’s all ready to come off the pan and I’m looking forward to have Jon come over for more motivation. It’s strange that he’s the only normal Bug Fan that I have met so far.
Today was monumental. Jon Turner came over to assist me in taking the body off the floor pan. I had already prepped the car to just lift it off. I knew there might be a few things I forgot. I was right. I still had to remove the wiring from the solenoid and starter and I had to take the manual choke tube out from the dash board. Once this was done Jon and just jarred it loose and it raised right off the floor pan. I was very excited and in fact we documented this momentous event by recording it on his camcorder. Now that the body is off and on sawhorses I am able to get a good look at what the problem areas are. It appears that the passenger side door at the bottom has been dented and also caused some water leakage into the heater channel. The tube looks solid but the underside is completely perforated along the heater channel. This will require some attention. I was pleasantly pleased with the floorpan and didn’t find any surprises. In fact it looks very solid. My next step will be to powerwash the floorpan and then take off the front beam and the rear transaxle. This will leave only the floor pan which I will take to Ruoccchio Designs to sandblast and etching primered. From that point I can weld in the new rear floor pans that need replacement. Then I can POR-15 and top coat the entire floor pan so that rust will never ever be an issue ever again! Then…..reassembly of the floorpan. Now I have to spend money L. This project is now on the hairy edge of out of control. I can still see a clear vision of where it will go but I can’t wait to see it in primer. Then I’ll feel like we’re going downhill towards the goal line.
I was a little stumped today. I had to sit in front of the floor pan for a bit before I could figure out what my next step was to be. I realized that I don’t need to powerwash the pan because I’m just going to sand blast it (we are also in a drought so that worked out just fine). I decided to take the front beam off. Once I got this off I took off the brake assembly, master cylinder and the emergency brake. I gave it a good vacuum and called it a day. I’m going to take off the rear transaxle and then take the pan to Ruocchio Designs and sand blast it. I want to have the front beam done too so that I can blast it as well. I put the body up on the saw horses too so that I can store the floor pan under the body. I’m still working on that “parking space” that my wife wants back so badly. I’m determined to get it back to her. I believe that this is pivotal in keeping her on motivated on my project. Of course putting it back together wouldn’t hurt either. I like the progress that I made today. I’m really anxious to get this floor pan primed, painted, and POR-15’d. I want the whole floor pan done so badly. Once I get this done it’s all down hill!! I sense a pattern in my motivation. Next step: remove transaxle, sand blast floor pan, sand blast front beam, spray with etching primer, weld in new rear pans, rebuild front beam, rebuild rear transaxle.
I have been blocked a bit on progress. Some screws and nuts have been stuck and I had to cut them off with the saw. They were impeding my progress on getting the rear transaxle off but now it’s done. I was able to get it off the pan and it is now ready to take to Ruocchio Designs for sandblasting and etching primer. This was not a one man job. I had the help of my good friend Pete Ruocchio. He wanted to sit on his ass today but I was able to talk him into helping me. I fed him and his wife some dinner and all is good. We are now starting the slow upward turn uphill. This was a great moment.
Well so much time has passed. Due to the holiday madness and end of the year closure I haven’t done a thing on the 57. Very depressing as I walk past it to do other projects. I remain positive and motivated. I want so badly to finish this. To compound this, my wife has convinced me that it is time to move to a new home. Due to the ever changing market, we have to make all the repairs on this house by ourselves. This has proven to be very time consuming. I don’t expect to do anymore work on my bug until we find a new home…..wherever that may be.
Well we found a home. We are moving to Clayton, NC. More house and more land. I am looking forward to putting this move behind us. Things are hectic and much time, energy and money is being put into it as well. If I knew we would be moving I’m not sure I would have taken the 57 apart! I put so much time into though I don’t regret it. I can’t wait to start back up on the project. I’m going to put all the pieces on a 4x8 pallet and put it on the long flat bed that Ruocchio Designs is going to let me borrow. I’ll store it at their shop for a few days until I can bring it over. In fact I think I’m going to leave the floor pan at Ruochhio Designs so that I can come back quickly and sand blast it. Bringing that home blasted with etching primer on it will be FANTASTIC!!! I sold the last of the 65’. The engine (in parts) went to a neighbor in Clayton who owns a bagel shop. I’m hoping to hold onto the $100 so when I find some “pop out” windows I can snatch them up. If not I’ll just restore without them and invest in some after market pop-outs. Well hopefully the next entry will be about how I’ve blasted the floor pan.