W hen out daughter started driving, I gave her my 1975 Fiat 124 Sport Coupe and she drove it for about a year. By that time, Fiat had pulled out of the North American market and parts were getting very hard to find, quality parts, that is. Everything was coming from Asia instead and the quality was definately subpar. After it wore out the second set of replacement ball joints within that year, I decided it was time for another car.

We spent the next few weeks looking at cars. She really loved that Fiat so we did look at a couple of Spyders but it was clear we would just get back into the same set of problems with parts. there was a fairly clean Datsun 240Z but I was afraid it was too much power for a beginning driver. We looked at a Volkswagen Thing that was tempting but decided it was just impractical for a daily driver. On hindsight, I should have bought it for a toy myself.

We finally spotted this 1970 Volkswagen Beetle. It had just been painted. It was a 30 footer but that seemed acceptable for a teenage driver. She was a good driver and treated the Fiat well but stuff does happen, especially in a highschool parking lot. The car ran pretty well and looked decent except for the interior which was pretty tired. All considered, it seemed like a reasonable buy at $800 and decent parts were known to be readily available.

It did not take long for me to discover some of the flaws that escaped my initial scrutiny. First, the passenger floor was all but gone, sacrificed to the tin worms. Next, after a few weeks, the paint problems began to surface. The previous owner apparently had covered it in lacquer primer then immediately oversprayed with enamel. By this time, the primer had shrunk to the point it looked like the car had been sanded with 36 grit then shot with spray cans. It had to be repainted.

Front Quarter I bought an air compressor and DA sander and tackled stripping in the driveway, a big and messy job. It did not take long to understand why the paint failed so quickly. In place of metal work, he had just filled any flaws with the primer. Something large had fallen on the top, leaving some pretty serious dents and a panel that would easily "oilcan" with just a little effort. There was primer actually close to half an inch thick, not bondo but just primer. After removing all that, I worked the metal until there was just a patch about the size of a silver dollar that I could not shrink. I punched it below the surface and filled it. There was no other filler needed on the entire top. Also, the oilcanning was solved. The top was stout enough to walk on but I didn't try that.

Profile As I got a panel stripped and straightened, I shot primer on it to prevent rust. Just about the time it was ready for paint, an Oklahoma hail storm came along and beat it up pretty bad. Fortunately I had insured the car and got a sympathetic adjuster. He commented, "It's a total loss but I can see you are carefully restoring it" and allowed $2,500 for it. After buying it back for $500, we already had $1,200 built-in profit. I had a friend with a place where we could paint the car. I used DuPont self-etching primer and catalyzed acrylic enamel. I tried to talk her out of the metalic paint but she insisted on a deep metalic blue. I believe it was a Ford truck color. This was my first paint job in many years and it turned out to be a fairly nice 10 footer.

Front Seats Back Seat
Head Liner
Head Liner Soon after the paint, we bought a new off-white interior for it. That is yours truly leaning over the windshield and reflected in it while taking the photo. This was more than seat covers actually. We also replaced the headliner and interior panels. I wish I had taken more pictures as it really did end up looking nice. Unfortunately, this is all I have.

Then one day driving home from school, she phoned and said the oil light came on and it looked like it had dropped all its oil on the street. If you have been around Volkswagens, you have a pretty good guess what to that probably means. The thrust bearings had worn and let the crankshaft destroy the main seal. This was my first time to remove a VW engine. It had to be line-bored and oversize bearings installed. That was really the last significant problem whe had with the car. Well, there was one more final problem. She drove it through school, got married and had a son while still driving it. One day, A Dodge pickup rearended it at about 30 mph. This time it truly was a total loss. We got another $2,500 from his insurance that time. This was the only car that I have ever actually made money on, even including a reasonable amount for my labor.