The BugShop: Project '57, pg 17

This page last modified- 11/3/01

With all the catalogs of parts out there, it may seem like restoring a Beetle, or at least re-assembling one, is just a matter of ordering all the right parts and putting them together. It is not, I assure you. In this restoration, virtually every stage was a challenge in some way. New parts rarely just "bolted" right on, and in many case, I was faced with a problem of fixing/modifying/creating/forcing/etc. something to make it work. And then there were parts that I just happily waltzed along thinking they were readily available that I later found, after calling 11 vendors and supply houses, had gone the way of the pterodactyl.

The pressure to finish the restoration at this point is immense. When I run up against a wall with something, I can no longer just drop it and go on to something else. Each problem must be dealt with and progress must continue. Thus, some creative solutions are found (and some cussing takes place).

This page covers a few of those challenges....

Like a few other parts, I had every intention of re-using some original pieces of the car, that is until I dragged them back out and looked at them. What seemed "fine" when I removed it, now seemed tattered and old next to the shiny car. The engine tarboards were one such item. I just couldn't put the worn pieces back in my shiny engine bay. "Reproductions" are available, but they look and feel nothing like the original early tarboards. So I set out to make my own.

What you see here are the originals (top) and the "base" for the new ones I made. The material you see is two layers of 30lb roofing felt (available at Home Depot, about $11 for a roll you would never use all of) glued to together with DAP "Weldwood" contact cement and cut the size and shape of the originals. If you do this, by plenty of glue, I used probably a quart and a half just to make up these tarboards. If you are doing an interior resto too, go ahead and buy can, you will use it. 

Here is basically how one of the pieces was assembled. When using the contact cement, brush the glue on both facing surfaces to be glued with a wide paint brush (in a well ventilated area). Spread the glue all the way to the edges in spite of what this diagram shows. Let it "tack up" (dry) for 20-30 minutes, then attach. Note that the rolled roofing piece is cut about 3/8" smaller all the way around (exaggerated smaller in this diagram).

Here you can see the rolled roofing piece, face up. Rolled roofing is like a huge shingle all rolled up. It is about 1/8" thick. Now ideally, you would find some that did not have this "gravel" (mineral) coating glued on. That is the white stuff you see here. I called all sorts of roofing supplies and couldn't find any. It really doesn't add that much weight and I thought since it would be heavily glued it would be fine. All of this is easily cut with a razor knife. 

Here is the completed back piece. The back of the rolled roofing isn't all that nice and black, it has a "dusty" look to it. But wipe the whole thing down with a rag soaked in mineral spirits and it gets nice and black like you see here (and stays that way). Notice how the rolled piece falls short of the edge of the felt. I don't have a pic of the original, but this looks very close to it. It is a very similar weight and thickness too, about 3+ mm thick overall.

You can also see the wiring hole punched in the right side and note how to the roofing felt part is left long at the top to replicate the folded over section on the original that gets tucked up under the panel in the engine bay.

The two side pieces are made up the same way.


 A bit of an aside, but remember that step ladder that fell on the newly painted car body after it had been in the garage only 2 hours last April? Well this is what became of it, it was then thrown in the brush pile and burned with all the other yard waste. The newly purchased ladder was brought out to witness the commutation of the sentence and it has been very well behaved since..... 

Even on vacation in Vermont I didn't slow down. I took my black painted '57 plates with me and some paint and painted on the letters. This was my second "practice" plate, a 6 letter, you you can see the first in the background. Later I painted one of the 5 letter plates I will use on the car.

That T-shirt is an "" shirt from John Connolly. I traded him an "Original recipe." shirt for it. Very cool shirt, you should get one.

Being the engineer that I am, I wanted to "upgrade" my euro lights. I wanted white light from them, like I was used to on my daily driver '85 Cabriolet (with 520 watts of halogen in the grille). Not that I planned on driving the '57 at night all that much, but I hated those yellow lights that you see on all 6 volt Beetles. It makes them look sick and tired (but not the "sick and tired" that my mom always used to say she was).

I found 6 volt halogen H4 bulbs at JC Whitney and ordered a couple. They are made by "Narva" (or something like that) and seemed to be of a decent make. They are 55/65 watt bulbs. Unfortunately, my "euro" headlights used an older "P45" bulb, the good old (yellow) incandescent technology. So I set out to modify the assemblies to make the H4 bulbs work in the older headlights. Agreeably not a mandatory job, but it became an engineering challenge I couldn't resist.

On the left, you can see the H4 bulb, and at the top you can see the P45 bulb (part of it) with its "collar" removed and on the right. The challenge was to remove the collars from both bulbs and attach the P45 collar to the H4 bulb. The collar on the P45 bulb was just soldered to the bulb base. By holding the bulb by the glass with heavy leather gloves and passing the base through the flame on a propane torch, the solder melted and the base could be easily pulled off with a gloved hand.

The H4 bulb was a bit more tricky, as the collar was secured by 3 pairs of tiny spotwelds to the base (you can see a couple of them in this picture). Some surgery with the Dremel did the trick. The welds were cut, the collar slid up and the remaining nubs of the welds on the base were ground down smooth with the Dremel. Then to collar was slid down and off. 

Here the mod is completed on the H4 bulb on the left. On the right is another original P45 bulb. What I was hoping to show was that the distance of the filament(s) above the collar was the same between the modified H4 bulbs and the original P45 (sorry for the washed out pic). This insures the correct focal length of the projected beam. The bulbs must also be rotationally correct in their bases, as the "cap" over the low beam filament must be positioned right when the bulb is inserted in the reflector (there is a "key" in the collar that matches a slot in the reflector). At the top you can see the original H4 collar and the P45 bulb from which the "donor" collar was removed 

This section could be called "Pop Out Window Hell"

This is one accessory that isn't quite correct for my '57, but too cool for me not to have. I have been told that pop outs weren't available in 1957, but many people "retrofitted" them in the years following. I scored a pair of them for around $125 on the 'net, and set out to replace both the glass-to-frame and outer seals. I thought it would be easy.

It wasn't.

These pictures were taken across a period of many months, as the first time I did attempted this I go so frustrated that I knew if I didn't leave them alone, I was going to break something. So I wrapped them up and put them into the basement. Of course I eventually succeeded, and of course the second window was much easier (but still a real bear of a job). If you do attempt this, make sure you have lots of time and lots of patience.

Ok, now keep in mind, these first 4 pics are of the first attempt. So at this point, I'm all happy, whistling, I think I know what I am doing. I have taken the hinge bracket off the edge and pried the frame apart. Now the new seal that you see has a "lip" on both sides. But the original windows did not. While you slice this lip off from both sides when you are done, this lip is very important in keeping the seal evenly "wrapped" around the window edge as you are installing it. You can see the old seal and how much "shorter" it is. I got the new seal from Wolfsburg West.

Like many well used windows, these had a haze, especially down around the frames. This is removed with a chrome polish or a rubbing compound (which I later found is more effective). Here I use a buffing wheel on the drill but with the drill speed lock on a very slow speed (else you get splattered).

That black tool is my cordless, cheap, low speed "Dremel knockoff" that I started with using a smaller buffing wheel. too slow.

Now this was when things started to get tough. I couldn't get that frame to close up all the way, so I employed the use of a nylon binding strap. This worked a bit, but as I later learned, is not the most effective use. It tends to bow the frame in at the points it is applying pressure. The plywood is to keep the metal parts from putting pressure on the glass and breaking it.

In this pic you can see the little lip of the new seal. Personally, I like the nice beveled lip but on both windows, it didn't "lay" into the corner nicely all the way around, so I sliced it off.

So after about 3 hours of struggling with this, I almost got it closed up. Then I noticed that the seal lip had "submarined" and was pinched down in the frame at one point, so I had to pull it apart again. Then, another 3 hours later, I had it closed, seal was nice, I bolted up the hinge plate. Then I grabbed the outer seal.

"Geee, how does this go in? I bet if I undo the frame and pry one end out a tiny bit I can just slip it in from the end and bring it around". I unbolted the plate and "BOING!!" the whole frame popped open.

 I quit and put the whole deal away. 

Attempt #2, 5 months later....

 Knowing the battle I was getting into and the time it would take, I had psyched myself up for this. I had concluded that the reason the frame was so hard to close up was that I had distorted the curvature of the sharp curves too much. These aluminum frames are super flexible. They are literally "wrapped" around the glass. I struggled with the window again, and modifying a nylon strap and using my workmate, I got it back together. Armed with the new knowledge, I attacked the second window.

This is how I opened up the second window. It may look extreme, but it is far better to distort the long straight parts of the frame than the corners. The new seal is lightly glued to the glass edge with some 3M Super 90 adhesive. This is important, the seal will slip off too easily otherwise when you start cramming it into the frame.

Ok, here is the trick tool folks. Modify a nylon binding strap by removing the short strap with the hook on the end fixed to the binding mech. I had to drill out the pin that held that strap. Then on the long removable strap, pry the hook loop open and take the hook off. Then, using a bolt about the size of the pin you removed to free the short strap, secure the hook end of the long strap to the mech with the bolt. Then thread the free end of the long strap into the spool just like it it normally. Now you have a "closed loop" binding strap with no hooks.

Those binder clips to the rescue again. This time the "medium" size. They hold the strap along the edge of the frame while you tighten it up. There is an aluminum plate between the ratchet mech and the frame to prevent marring up the frame; you can see it in this pic.

Yes, there was quite a bit of struggling to get to this point. Start by pressing the back point of the window into the frame. Use lots of soapy water and close up the frame slowly as you go.  Important: inspect the seal often as you go, on both sides, to make sure the lip is staying outside the frame. Once you get it about to this point, you can place the strap on it. 

As I tightened the strap, I did a lot of pounding along the outer edge of the frame with a rubber mallet. You are actually pounding the strap, make sure it stays centered on the frame and doesn't slip off. As you can see in this pic, it really stretches itself around the frame. I actually applied a "cheater" wrench to the binding mech handle, this thing was seriously torqued up. Eventually, I got it most of the way there, but had to employ a second strap to get the gap closed up all the way. Still a very difficult job.

This pic is a bit washed out, but you can see the gap in the frame. You must get it closed up all the way before you can replace the hinge plate. If you try to put the hinge plate on sooner, you risk cross threading the frame bores and/or stripping them.

So here is what I learned:

As for the installation of the outside seal, it was pretty tough too. I don't have any pics as everything I did with it required the use of both hands. Here's the high level:

Whew. That was fun huh? Want to do my friends pop outs for him?