The BugShop: Project '57, pg 16

This page last modified- 11/3/01

Every time I make good progress, I say "Now it is starting to look like a car", then more progress and NOW it REALLY looks like a car. 
This was after some door re-assembly. Note the separator bar is not in place yet. Here are some tips (may be specific to the early -'64 doors):
  • Don't put the check rod in place until you have put the main door seal in.
  • Before attempting to install either inside or outside scraper, place several layers of heavy tape along the top of the window sill opening, right up to the edge. It is very easy to scrape fresh paint with these, especially the outer scraper (hence the name). No I didn't, but came damn close.
  • TAKE YOUR TIME! Door stuff can be very frustrating, but it DOES all fit.
  • Before installing the regulator and bolting it up, get the main glass up in the guides and push it up part way. To do this, loosen the bottoms of both channel guides. Then, slip the end of the regulator (the little "wheel" thingy) into a well greased channel at the bottom of the window and bolt the regulator up. 
I plan on putting a lot more door re-assembly stuff in my "The Doors" article in the tech section soon. 

This is the re-installation of the B-Pillar covering on the passenger side. A bit of a chore trying to get the place where the vinyl meets the fabric neat and clean; VW originally sewed these together. I just folded over and glued.

It finally occurred to me that there are only three switches in the dash of an oval. Ignition, headlights and wipers. The "Wiring Works" harness I got from Wolfsburg West was excellent. A bit spendy, but the instructions and contents were super. Every wire, termination, grommet, etc. is included. A very nice product, well worth the money. And installation of it all took far less time than I would have thought too.

Ever see a sandblasted, hand sanded backside of a dash in L412 Diamond Green? Yes, I painted that gray vertical support and you can see through the speedo opening just a glimpse of the freshly painted steering column, in L75 Beige. That is the choke cable (new) on the left next to the ignition. I referred to my videotape that I took before I took all this apart a lot for reference on how stuff went on the back of the dash.

Not sure what I'm going to do for a radio yet. I have a couple options, including a 6 volt, tube powered Blaupunkt, but I need to find knobs for it. Think I'll just install the newly painted block off plate at first. 

Oh, back to the doors for just a second. This is the bracket on the bottom of the separator bar. I found that these bars, with good chrome, are very hard to find. I also found that you can make a right bar into a left bar by just drilling off the bracket and relocating it on the other side (the little bracket at the top is oriented the same for either side). Almost the whole bottom half of this bar is hidden down inside the door. This bracket came off when I took the door apart somehow and I re-welded it.

Oddly, the bar seems to be made out of some kind of copper alloy. If you grind the chrome off, you see copper. I know copper plating is a mid-step in the chroming process, but this thing seemed to be solid copper (didn't want to grind all the way through just to find out). And MIG steel won't adhere to copper, but in spite I got a good weld first try... 

The finished passenger side door. Thanks to John Willis in TX for finding me that separator bar, I though I would never find one. Window rolls up and down very neatly. A door with all fresh rubber and trim is a real sight. 

I decided long ago to use all of the original olive green vinyl upholstery in my '57. It was in remarkably good shape. Recently I have revisited that decision several times, but have stuck with it. There are a couple minuscule rips and scratches in a couple places and the beige piping on the seats is cracked in a few places and yellowed. This has been a bit of a struggle for me, one half of the argument wants to make this car as perfect as can be, with everything pristine, clean and new. But the other half says that there is some real credibility to leaving good, original materials in the car, even if they show a bit of wear. I have had to clean up the vinyl by scrubbing it with Comet, wiping it down with mineral spirits and even carefully using lacquer thinner in a couple places. But doing that and then wiping it down with Armor All has really made it look nice.

I also had to re-stitch a couple places. One B-pillar cover's stitching had completely let go. I had my wife take it to a shoe repair shop but the guy scoffed at it and said it would cost "at least" $25 to re-stitch the straighline seam along the windlace. Then I dropped it off at the upholstery shop next door to my friend Tom's body shop. He stitched it for $5. I had to hand stitch the seats in a couple places. The driver seat has single stitches in the center, that went across each seam in the seat (about 5 or 6 of them, see the pic below), one had let go. These stitches give the seat bottom a bit of a "dish". I also had to stitch up the sides of the backrests down where the frame protrudes. I used a heavy duty needle and some black "coat thread".

Ok, there are basically 4 parts to each seat component (bottom and backrest), here are two of them. The cover and the padding (those are just indentations that the spring cage made that you see on the padding). You see the original "horsehair" padding in place inside the cover here (there is a felt cover between the padding and the cover to make it smooth, you can't see it here). If you are doing a "correct" resto, or even if you are not, this padding is the way to go. Wolfsburg West sells it. It is a bit more expensive than the foam padding that many other vendors sell, but it will give you seat the correct look and feel. Most all of the foam padding overstuffs the seats and makes them look, well, overstuffed.

You can also see the securing wire exiting in the upper left hand corner, more on that below. 

Here are the other two parts of the seat bottom, the frame and the spring cage. The spring cages are known to break if the seat has been heavily used, especially the cages in the backrest part of the seats. They will usually break along the outside edge, where they screw to the seatback frame (sorry no pic here, mine were perfect and I didn't even pull the upholstery off). A backrest with a broken cage will seem "collapsed" and may even have metal protruding through the cover. If you are resto'ing a seat and you find broken cage parts, they can be fixed pretty easily with a MIG welder. 

The seat bottom cages are held to the frames by these little "bend over" tabs, you can see them in this pic. The problem with these tabs is (you guessed it) you get two, maybe three "cycles" and then they snap off. If they do, you can make up some new ones out of 20 or so gauge steel stock, grind off the old ones and MIG tack some new ones on. Make sure you put them in the same place if you do.

And one other tip, if you just spent hours restoring and painting your seat frames, place a blanket or pad on your work surface to avoid scratches. 

Here you can see the underside of the seat frames, and what is on the opposite end of those "bend over" tabs to secure the spring cage?; "bend over" sharp tabs to hold the cover edges. Yes, these break off just as easily, if not easier than the spring cage ones. If you are going to paint your frames, make sure all of these tabs are perfect before you paint. If you know they have been worked back and forth a few times, or even felt weak when you released them, replace them with new metal, then paint. If you don't have a MIG, make up the new tabs, grind off the old ones and take the frames and stuff to a welding shop and have them tack them on.

I find it easiest to place the padding in the cover first, then put the spring cage in the cover (with seat frame attached), rather than try to stretch the cover over the spring cage and cover all at once. The horsehair covers have rolled over edges that "grasp" the upper rails of the spring cages, you can see this in the pic (look at the red arrows). It is a bit tough to work it all around while the padding is in the cover, but it can be done. And it is important if you want the seat to look right. This keeps the metal of the spring cage away from the cover fabric.

Once the cage is set into the padding correctly, you can slip the cover sides up (or down, depending) over the cage and frame .

The cover has a thin sleeve sewn into its lower edge in which a piece of "picture" wire runs. The bottom edge of the cover is then slipped over (or under) the upper tubing on the seat frames. The sharp tangs poke through the vinyl with the wired sleeve on the inside of the tangs.

This may look like a real stretch-and-cuss maneuver (getting the cover up and over the tangs) but is is really quite easy. Put the seat bottom upside down as shown here, and before trying to pull the cover up and over, press the whole frame down hard, compressing the spring cage. This gives lots of slack in the sides of the cover and it is easily slipped up over the sharp tangs. You can even place a thin board across the bottom of the frame and step on it with your foot if you need to.

Things were going well.

As I started to tie up the wire, I noticed that it was quite rusty along where it went through the back edge of the cover. So much so it seemed weak. One part of me thought "Oh, it'll be fine, just tie it up". The cautious side said "Oh yeah, just try binding it a few times right there". The other side: "NO! Don't" ..."Snap!".

Did you ever yank that waist cord out of your favorite sweat pants accidentally? This is even worse.

I rifled the "metal stuff" box and found a coil of heavy "fence" wire that I had bought some time ago. I carefully blunted the end as much as possible with the Dremel and started pushing it through. It was OK, except it kept getting hung up where there was stitching. I couldn't help but think of the poor soul in the factory in 1957 who did this all day for a job. I actually got it up one side, around a corner and 2/3 of the way across the front and then "let it out" of one of the tang holes. I pulled bunch free through and then pushed it back in the hole and fed it the rest of the way to the back. Yes, getting the "loop" outside the hole all back in the sleeve was a bit tough, but with some needlenose pliers, I got the job done. In all, not the worst job ever, but take a break before you tackle it if you have to. 

New wire installed and tied up. The wire ends are actually twisted together in the lower left corner and tucked down into the spring cage, you can't see them in this pic. But you can see the 2 sharp tangs that snapped off, one on the lower left side and one almost in the center on the bottom. And these teeth had only been undone once. Fortunately, they didn't break off right at the base, there is enough there to still catch the wire/cover edge; they will be fine.

Notice that the wire goes inside the frame corners and can be pulled pretty tight. 

Lastly, putting the bottom and backrest together. This is brought to you after a disastrous attempt on the driver's seat a few days ago. Seems I tried to assemble these parts on my rolling worktable. BIG mistake, I ended up scratching the crap out of my newly painted seat frames and had to sand and re-paint. Lucky for you, I worked out the "correct" way to do it with this passenger seat and will save you all the cussing.

Lay a blanket down on the floor and get some masking tape. See where the right side backrest frame is almost touching the pivot point on the lower bottom frame? Put a few layers of masking tape over the (bottom) frame tube at this point (better yet, one layer of masking tape, followed by 2 layers of duct or carpet tape). Right across the top of the pivot, maybe 6" long, opposite the slider groove on the frame. Then lay the parts on the blanket and "walk" the backrest over the seat bottom like shown here. Then bring the left side backrest frame end down near its pivot (topside, as the seat is laying here) of the seat frame, and with a very firm grip on the frame, pull hard and lift it up and over, on to the pivot.

The backrest frame arm on the other side will be desperately trying to scratch up the paint on the lower seat frame, but it won't be able to because of the tape you put on it. Now carefully turn the eat over, lay it on it's other side and repeat the procedure. Remove the tape.