The BugShop: Project '57, pg 1

This page last modified- 11/3/01

The Beginning 

This is the '57 in the fall of 1992. It was found in Acton Massachusetts. It had been in this barn for 6 years and the seller (the son of the late original and only owner) was forced to part with this car because the wooden floor of the circa 1800s barn in which it was stored was rotting away underneath it and it (the Beetle) was in danger of falling through. Preservationist laws in the state do not allow the owners of certain antique, historically significant structures to just let them rot away.

The car was VERY complete and in spite of having lived it's whole life in New England had NO rust perforation anywhere (Ok, a couple tiny places you will see in later pics of this project). There was not a tear in the original upholstery, the paint on the dash was flawless. The only thing missing was the inside rearview mirror.

But it had been in an accident and the front end was quite punched in. You wouldn't have known, but the whole driver's side front quarter was at least 1/2" bondo. The car was actually popped so hard that the inside, upper edge of the A-pillar (where the hood release knob is) had a slight wrinkle in it. But as Ovals go, anywhere in the US, this one was quite a find. I paid $2000 for it.

For those of you from the south and CA, that red piece of machinery to the right is a snowthrower.


The Extrication 

This is how we DRAGGED the car out of the barn after putting some wheels with air in them on it. None of the 4 wheels would roll, initially. We sprayed WD-40 in the lug nut holes and beat the drums with a hammer. The tractor we used to pull it out was my trusty '68 beater that you can see the back of. I was particularly proud of this feat as the rope was tied to the bumper bracket on the '68 that was bolted to an inner quarter panel repair panel that I had welded in.

That's my friend Bill standing down near the '57, and the seller is looking underneath the car behind him.

Ready to Roll

This is the '57 all ready to be towed home. Hosed off, all 4 wheels rolling and with a boat trailer license plate duct-taped to the back window. The car didn't have an engine it, nor did it have any working hydraulic brake function. It did have (I later found, after taking the car apart) only one working emergency brake cable. The e-brake cables effectively operate one shoe in the rear drums. Thus, this car had one out of eight brake shoes working.

Bill drove the '68 and was instructed to go very slow and keep the rope tight all the time. This meant that he should let me (in the '57) do the braking for BOTH cars when approaching a stop sign. That's right, one brake shoe for two cars. The ride home was all lightly traveled back roads. He was also told to sacrifice the rope if he had to stop suddenly by pulling to one side. The theory was that the rope would break and the '57 would not careen into the back of the '68. Fortunately, we never had to put that theory to the test.

As it turned out, we only got halfway home on the back-est of roads before being pulled over by the cops (no picture, sorry) for not having a valid plate. (I argued that the car was technically a trailer since it didn't have an engine, but officer Harvey didn't buy it). But he didn't fine us. He made us leave the '57 ("this thing" as he called it) on the side of the road whilst we went about finding a "repair" plate needed for towing an unregistered vehicle. We went back to the guy I bought the car from (to return his boat trailer plate) and pleaded for help.

He gave us the name of friend who "owed him a favor" who had a shop and a repair plate. We borrowed it and got the car to my house with further incident.

My Stable

So this was my "stock", for a few months, anyway. Front to back:
  • My "beater" '68
  • My "Corvette White" '67 (shaved turn signals, painted headlight rims)
  • The '57

Making it a "Garage Roller"

I quickly made up some "dollies" to be able to move the '57 around on and pulled off the wheels.

Body Off

Probably a year or so later, I pulled the body off. This was pretty exciting as I had never done this before. Notice that that body was completely gutted. No doors, fenders, glass, hood, etc. That shell weighs only 240 lbs. I literally lifted the body off and the weight of the pan and running gear separated them (a 35 year old body pan gasket is pretty sticky)

That's an oxy acetylene hose and some air hose laying on the pan.

Save the Shell for Later

This is how I stored the body shell while I was working on the pan. The trick was to be able to park at least ONE car in the two car garage while I was doing this work. This body shell is rolled across the back of my garage leaving room for a car to still be parked on that side. The nose of the shell fits nicely under that overhang on the wall.

This was about the time I was fixing up my garage for heat. You can see at the very right the "mother of all garage heaters". It is a Lennox 82,000 BTU furnace that was used to heat an entire apartment. I bought it for $50 from a co-worker, but it cost me another $150 to get it working (licensed gas line fitters, town inspections, etc.). Code said that it had to be installed up on a pedestal such that a car bumper could not hit it if it were installed in a garage. Notice that the garage wall is insulated but not drywalled yet.

Pan Prep

Ok, probably another year later. This is the pan on sawhorses after it had been completely stripped (it's upside down) and painted with Eastwood's "Correless". No, I didn't have it sandblasted, but in hindsight I probably should have (I'm revising this text some 7 years after doing the work shown in this picture). It was covered with a uniform, thin surface rust. I wire brushed it, dollied out some small dents and welded on a new jack support. Then I painted it. Corroless is a rust neutralizer (see the FAQ's "Rust" article).

A new muffler for my Cabrio can be seen laying on the floor behind, along the wall, along with evidence of children. Near the garage door on the right, you can see the tranny on the floor.

Shiny Belly

And this is the pan underside after being painted with a Dupont Black enamel. My first use of a real spray gun to paint anything meaningful.

In the back, you can see the newly installed heater, and my workbench.

That street sign you see up on the wall (that's a pull down drop light hanging down in front of it) is from Kauai, Hawaii. No, I didn't steal it. I was there in Feb. '94 and was at a public boat ramp with a dive shop. Nearby there was a Hotel that was severely damaged by hurricane Iniki. In a dumpster that the contractors fixing the place were using, I saw this sign sticking up and told my wife "I've GOT to have that". Somehow, I got it off the post and brought it home in my bags.

Guess that makes this picture at least the summer of '94......