The BugShop: Project '57, pg 9

This page last modified- 11/3/01


Well, when I drove up to "Prep Rite's" shop on Thursday Nov. 12, 1998, this is what I saw. It laid to rest all of my fears that the car had been stolen from their yard, damaged, stipped improperly, etc. You have those bad dreams when a car you have worked on for 7 years is all of a sudden in someone else's possession for a few days. 

Ready to Roll

This is the body on the trailer (duh!), you can see just how thoroughly they sandblasted everything. The back of the dash was a bit surface rusty. And suddenly the nose, patched and clipped together from parts brought together from 5 different sources (and parts of the country), looks "factory".

Classic Oval Dash

I know this pic is big, but it looses detail when I reduce it. It was kind of hard to have the dash sandblasted as the original paint on it was pristine. Several of my friends suggested that I leave it for originality's sake. But Tom said there would be no way to "mesh" new paint from the door pillars without without it looking bad. I told the sandblasting shop not to bother blasting where the carpet would cover, so you can see a bit of the original paint on the firewall. Notice that the whole underside of the dash has been blasted and will be re-painted.

 The guy who runs the sandblasting shop couldn't believe how solid the heater channels were. He said that they have done 70's Beetle bodies with channels that are gone. You can see that the carpet retainer strips are missing along the sill. 

I can't beleive how clean those rear quarters came out. You can see how the far side of the rear apron is rolled under just a bit, Tom will work it out straight. 


Ok, here's where all these pieces came from:

"org" is orignal metal; note that the panel behind the spare tire is original, it was grafted in there as it has the body serial number on it

"NE" is the clip that came to me in a washing machine box from another enthusiast in Lincoln Nebraska

"JCW" is JC Whitney. Yep, when the only panel avaialble is cheap Brazilian, you buy it from the cheapest place

"PA" is from Bill Bower's stuff in West Chester Pennsylvannia

"WW" is the whole left quarter I got from Wolfsburg West

Sandblast it all and you'd never know it was pieced together!!! 

This is the "box o' parts" that I had sandblasted, all of the small "paintables". Except the ashtray, I haven't been able to find that yet. But I can sandblast that myself with my little "bucket" setup. I'll be making a list of these parts somewhere on this site soon (I'm thinking about a "painting plan" page), but you can see hinge arms, decklid hinge brackets, taillight housings, bumper brackets, the steering column tube and that thin pipe is the speedo cable tube (for you guys who don't know the old VWs well, lots of stuff was metal and bolted together). And you can see one of my best silver, 14 spoke GTi style rims on my Cabrio. These are hard to find rims, and for that reason, get put away when the first snow flies and replaced with steel Passat rims...ooops, sorry, I guess that isn't Beetle stuff. 


All About Sandblasting

I am convinced that sandblasting is the best way to go when it comes to preparing a car for paint. This is especially true when you have unknown layers of paint, primers, fillers, rust, undercoatings, etc. on yur project. Sandblasting leaves the metal in a clean, uniform condition. Is is pitted very finely, but this gives an etching primer excellent adhesion to the metal (but the bare metal needs to be lightly sanded before primer). Oddly, it will not remove bondo (using the methods that the shop I used did), but will strip the paint from the top of it.

 And if you think you have uncovered all of your car's cancers and holes and fillers, you will be surprised what you see when the blasting is done. Sandblasting will uncover everything, you will find surprises. But since bare metal is very vulnerable, it is best to do the major panel/bodywork before you get the body sandblasted. Once the blasting is done, the body must not get wet and should be primered very soon (urgency depending on climate/humidity levels).

 Yes it is expensive, but if you are going to spent a couple thousand or more on paint, it is easily justifed. And consider sandblasting for smaller parts like rims and beams and stuff if you are doing a resto too. Smaller parts can be done pretty inexpensively.

Tech Stuff

I asked Dave, the shop manager, about the air that was needed to run their equipment and the abrasive they used. The air supply is 25psi and 300cfm. No, I didn't mix up those numbers, it is only 25 psi and a whopping 300 cubic feet per minute. My 3.5hp Sears compressor, at 25psi is good for about 9cfm. Dave explained that using the low pressure insures that there is no heat build up or metal warpage, and using a a massive airflow gets the most blasting media against the metal. The nozzle shown is 3/4" and the whole gun/assembly costs $300. The abrasive used is Aluminum Oxide. This is a serious sandblasting operation.

How much does it cost?

Prep Rite charges $75 and hour for the blasting services. My first "job" with them cost $350. That was all four fenders, the hood, and two "W" decklids, front and back of each piece; the two doors, everything but the "inside" metal; the gas tank and the louvered panel that I removed from under the slots under the back window. At first, I wondered just how much the body was going to cost given the cost of blasting just those "parts". But then I thought about the square inch area of the lids, doors, fenders, etc. and realized that it was probably more than the shell area that would need to be done, and it was.

The body shell, and the box of small "paintables" (they needed to be done in a different setup, a blasting cabinet) cost $330. If you subtract the $35 cost of doing that extra deck lid, I spent $645 on blasting of the whole car. And as you can see by these pictures, I mean the whole car.

How to find a sandblasting shop

I learned about this place after talking to a fella at work who had his Mustang done here. I stopped by, checked out the shop and showed the manager some pics of my car. At that time, he gave me rough quote of $500 for the whole car, but I'm sure he didn't think I was going to want as much of it done as I did. Prior to finding them, I had looked in phone books, searched in internet "yellow pages" but had a tough time locating anyone. But now "reverse searching" the business that I used, I have found that for example, catagorizes Prep Rite in a "sandblasting" category. Other listings listed them in "Metal Stripping" or "Metal Preparation".

Prep Rite is in Tewksbury, MA (about 25 mi NW of Boston). They are at 464 Woburn Street, Tewksbury, MA 01876. Their phone number is (978) 453-0006. 

Needless to say, the car made it safely to Tom's shop. That ride was the one I was the most paraniod about, trailering a bare metal shell 30-some miles. We put it in "Bay #1", the one that has the side lift. In the picture on the right, you can see some bondo on the front quarter, just in front of the A-pillar. Also notice that even though I only minimally dressed up the butt seam on that front right quarter, you can't even tell it was "clipped' in this picture. 

Here's a view of a Beetle body that you don't often see. 

So here are the surprises, fortunately none of them too bad. On the left, above, is the right forward inner wheel arch, you can see some rust-through the outermost layer, but it has not eaten into the panel behind it. Given it's location, some filler will be used here, covered with seam sealer, then undercoating. I will only do this because I know this car will only see the nicest and driest of drivng conditions. In the center, you can see the inside of the right wheel arch, as seen from where the tranny would be. While that "bulge" panel may look like the later '67 and '68 equalizer bar mounts, it is not. It is to allow clearance to the top of the shock tower and the hole allows access to the upper shock bolt. The perforation to the left of the piece has gone through the near panel, but not through the whole arch. Here, only some seam sealer will be brushed on and then undercoated.

On the right is what was the biggest surprise, a bonafide "hole". It is in the forwardmost section of the right, lower inner wheel arch, just behind it is the front firewall, below it the very front of the heater channel. Oddly, it looks more like it was "made" by a sharp tool than by rust. Here, we will cut it out and MIG-patch a small peice of donor metal in. For a 41 year old Beetle, this ain't too bad.... 

I know this picture is big too, but it shows some excellent detail. This is the inside of the upper right front quarter, as seen from the gas tank cavity. First, you can really see what the sandblasted surface is like. Tom actually sands the bare metal first before applying the etching primer. You can also see the box section that I MIG'ed in as the nose was being re-assembled. The seam where is is joined to the remaining section is just visible on the far left in this photo.

The area below this box section, is virtually "un-viewable" when the car is assembled, so dressing of the welds wasn't important (it does need another tack on the far right where it meets the firewall, no weld there now). Above the box channel, you can see the butt-weld seam on the back of the quarter panel. This is very visible when the hood is open and will be dressed up and smoothed out. And lastly, you can see result of the "MIG pool" spot welds along the underside of the upper lip of the quarter, evidence that the welds holding the seal retainer strip on are sound.

How do you put 2 cars in one bay? The car below is an Infinity (aka; "Datsun") J30 that sustained $18,000 of damage after being hit by a truck in the rear and being pushed into another car in front. It is all done except for the back window (thus not a good idea to leave it "out")