The BugShop: Project '57, pg 22

This page last modified- 11/3/01


Long before I even came close to finishing this restoration, I started thinking about how exactly I was going to store this car. I knew it needed a safe, protected space to sit out the "salt season" (New England winters) and also knew that even when I was driving it, I couldn't just park it amid the kids bikes and wagons and "house traffic". I have a 25 x 25 foot 2 car garage and had always managed to store the car across the back of the garage while I was working on it and still was able to park mine and my wife's car in the garage. But storing the car this way when it was completed introduced some new challenges. Even in the "driving season", I needed a way to basically keep the car covered and protected, yet had to be able to get it out and put it back in pretty quickly.

So this page shows how I store this car, both on and off season.

The challenge for me was to design a system which:
  • Allowed the car to be rolled around by one person in the garage
  • Allowed the car to be stored with the wheels slightly off the ground, but the suspension fully loaded
  • Was simple and easy to get the car on or off of
Here are the dollies that I made out of wood. The swivel casters are from Home depot and good for around 250 lbs of load each. 

This is how the rear dolly is used. First, a 2x4 is placed across the bottoms of the shock mounts on the ends of the axles, and the car is lifted with the floor jack. This 2x4 is a pressure treated spruce one, it is bowing, but it is very strong. This allows me to raise the car, yet keep the suspension loaded (wheels don't drop down).

You can see the dollies laying on the floor underneath. Note the foam pipe insulation on the jack handle to keep it from scratching paint.

Bythe way, I have another muffler I'm going to sandblast and paint with POR-20 next spring (although that one is still very solid). 

The car is raised up and the dollies are slipped under the 2 x 4, then it is slowly lowered and the jack removed. You can see that the tries are about 2" off the floor and the suspension never unloaded.

During the driving season, this is all I do with the car to put it away. With the front wheels still on the ground, I can easily push the car by the back bumper and "steer" it into the storage space. Sort of like pushing a shopping cart backwards. Also, with the driver's door window open, I can reach in and turn the front wheels to get it to fit in the storage space. Works very well, takes me about 5 minutes to get the car on or off the dolly.

For long term, winter storage I needed a dolly solution for the front as well, to get the wheels off the ground and still be able to roll the car in place. The front one was made very similar to the back. A spruce 2 x 4 was cut to 47.5", and two 1.25" bores, about 3/8" deep drilled in the ends (1 5/16" from the ends). This board will support the back end of the lower trailing arms, right where the link pin bolt is. The bores allow relief for the link pin bolt nuts so that they don't take all the strain. The nice thing about using wood is that it will "give" against immense pressure from a hard metal point or edge, and the metal will not be marred.

The little block of wood with carpet on it was placed there when I realized that as I was jacking that car up, the board bowed enough to allow it to hit the underside of the framehead. But after drilling the holes, I realized that the block stuck up too high and I took it off and just stapled the carpet right to the 2 x 4.

This dolly looks a bit different than the back one. You will notice that one of the wheels does not swivel. This is because even though I like to think my garage floor is pretty level, I had a terrible time trying to manuver the car when it was on 8 swivel dollies (in the late stages of the restoration). No matter how "straight" I tried to push from the back, the front would roll sideways and into the wall. The swivel dolly is smaller and needed a wooden "shim" to make the dolly level.

The crossmember support on the dolly is placed farther toward the non-swiveling wheel to insure it does the longitudinal "guiding" that it needs to as the car is rolled into place.

Here you can see how the back of the trailing arm rests on the end of the crossmember, the nut on the link pin bolt well into the bore drilled in the wood. Again, the car is lifted without unloading the suspension, it rests on the dolly much the same as it would on the tires. (front sway bar added in '59, it might be a bit more of a trick on a car with the sway bar)

Here is the front end resting on the dollies. The crossmember looks a bit bowed and the dollies tilted in, but as soon as the car is moved, the whole setup levels out nicely.

[Ok, I admit I just had to find a better use for my graphics software in these pages..]

Some things I did before covering this car and storing it (more complete list below):

  • Open the glove box door. Why? Favorite place for mice to build nests and I am lucky enough to have an intact, original cardboard glove box. Mice won't build nests in places that aren't closed and dark.
  • Leave the doors slightly ajar (just "half clicked" shut). This helps preserve the door seals.
  • Door windows open just a bit to allow car to "breath"

My car cover is an inexpensive, single layer cotton cover. It does have a plastic zipper on the driver's side to allow you to get inside without removing the cover. I think I paid $30 for this cover, it is a "small". A Beetle is 13 feet, 4 inches (4.065m) by the way if you are buying cover. This one is a generic "small" car one and is not made specificaly for the Beetle. If you look close, you can see how the front of the cover is flipped back over the bumper a bit, it is actually a bit too long. You must not use a cover like this out doors, it will quickly ruin your paint.

Ok, so what does this storage "space" look like? Well, this picture is facing back left corner of the garage, the back of the garage is on the right. That grey stuff you see on the lower part of the wall is grey jute carpet padding and it is hanging down to cover the cement kneewall of the garage foundation. And another piece of it is glued to the wall under the overhang. That overhang is actually part of the laundry room in the house and is a bit over 3 feet deep. And, as it turns out, the nose of a Beetle fits right under there perfectly.

Here you can see just how close of a fit this is, and why the front dolly could only hold the wheels up off the ground a tiny bit. The clearance side to side is probably under 1.5 inches. This is why it is so important to be able to accurately "steer" this 1600lb car into this tight spot. Every possible "bump" surface on either side has been covered with either padding or foam. After doing this a dozen or so times, I got pretty good at it. Sort of like docking a huge ship in a tiny slip.

This how you keep the bike handlebars away. This is a 4 x 8 foot piece of 1/2" CDX plywood, hinged on the right end. 1x3 "strapping" is used lengthwise and diagonally to give strength to the the "door". And where the strapping might be able to touch the fenders is, you guessed it, foam pipe insulation (the stuff is usually slit lengthwise, you just open it up and slip it on the 1 x 3s).

On the hinged end, you can see some more foam padding stapled on. This "pinch" area almost wrecked my paint on the front fender before I trimmed some protruding wood and added some foam padding.

Voila! The car is tucked safetly away for the winter months. The hinged wall, couple with the little "nook" that the nose is slid under, protects all but the rearmost foot and a half (mostly bumper) of the car. The bungee cord keeps the door snug against the car. 

For more insights on steps to take when storing a Beetle away, see the Resuscitating and Mummifying a Beetle article in the technical section.

Winterizing my '57 isn't quite the same as putting a car away for years of storage. The fact is, most winters it will sit from Nov-Dec until around April or about 5 months. Here are the specific measures I have taken:

When the car is revived in the spring, the oil will be changed after a warm up, brake fluid will be flushed, transaxle fluid checked, etc. I prefer to to the preventive maintenance in the spring just before putting the car back on the road, rather than just before putting it away.