Saturday, January 30, 2010
Lost restorers keep a small stock of project cars which they will have invariably have bought in at low prices and may be persuaded to sell at a small profit.
If you seek a Beetle to be the basis of a restoration (or to re-shell or build up into a Buggy or other kit) then it will pay you to look for a particular type of car. This will be one with a predominance of excellent (recently replaced) mechanical components and good trim but with a shell/chassis which will be in need of some welding. Such cars usually come onto the UK market when they fail the MOT test on bodywork grounds, and they
Usually come very cheaply, even if the hapless vendor has recently spent much money renewing mechanical and electrical components. If the engine or gearbox is claimed to have been replaced recently, ask to see the invoice/receipt, to ensure that the reconditioning was carried out by a reputable company. The price paid for such a car should be a fraction of the sum of the costs of the new and usable components. The advertisements for these cars usually include the pitiful words 'some
Welding needed for MOT'.
If you intend to find a restoration car and repair its rotten body shell then be very careful when checking for previous collision damage. Restoring a straight hodyshell is usually within the capabilities of the enthusiastic amateur, but straightening out a bent one is most certainly the province of the professional. The Beetle spine chassis is particularly strong, although certain heavy collisions could cause mounting points for elements of the steering and suspension to be out of a ignment – a front-end collision, for instance, can move t he frame head and hence the majority of the suspension mounting points. This will make the handling and road holding of the car unpredictable and in most cases will render the car unsafe and certainly unfit for use on theroad. The costs of straightening out such a car would probably prove prohibitive, and a new chassis (floors and spine) might be the only option.
Whilst it is true to say that any car – no matter how badly the body has rotted – can be rebuilt, there is a degree of body and chassis rot which makes body restoration both uneconomic and so difficult that it is inadvisable to attempt a rebuild unless you have access to jigs to help align panels, a deep enough pocket to buy in a lot of quite expensive body repair and replacement panels. Such cars are best considered candidates for either re-shelling or conversion into one of the kit cars which come complete with their own chassis.
Check that the car has been maintained properly by examining the state of the oil, and checking whether the engine bay and engine ancillaries (especially the distributor cap and other elements of the ignition system) are covered in dirt or oil. A car on which maintenance has been skimped will furnish mainly dubious spares, and the last thing you want is a freshlyrestored car which keeps breaking down whenever another component decides to fail. Engine oil plays an important role in preventing the engine from overheating. If a car has poor oil pressure or low oil level and has been run in that condition, then it will have run far too hot, and component wear will have been high.
If you want a quick and easy re-shell or kit car buildup, avoid cars which have been standing idle for any length of time. Many mechanical components appear to deteriorate more quickly when the car is left standing than they do if the car is kept in regular use. Another point against cars which have not run for some time is the likelihood that many of the nuts and bolts will have seized solid, making the initial strip-down far more difficult and frustrating than it need be and giving you no option but to cut, drill or grind away seized fittings, which must of course be replaced with new ones at mounting cost. Even worse, there is always the danger that whilst dealing with a recalcitrant fitting you will damage the associated component.It is a good idea to seek a car which, although in poor bodily condition, is sound enough be used on the road for however short a period before the test certificate expires. Using the car on the road will help to highlight any looming mechanical problems which can then be dealt with at leisure during the restoration.
The very best Beetle for a restoration is one which, although it may have some body rot, has not previously been bodged. When the author asked the Beetle Specialist Workshop to keep an eye open for a Beetle forhimself, they managed to find a 1970 1500 (RVJ 403H – soon given the name 'Project') which had failed the MOT on bodywork but which had no previous evidence of bodywork repair excepting some body filler on external panels – a car which, in BSW workshop manager Terry Ball's own terminology, had 'not been got at'.
The rot on Project included the heater channel rear ends, sections of the floor pans, the rear body mounting points within the wheel arches and the rear bumper
21month. Plenty of rot – but honest rot. If you can find much a car then the restoration will be so much the tier.
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