Jay Salser’s been mentioned at 1967beetle.com a few times before. He’s become a huge asset in helping us grow; reviewing and submitting articles, and lending advice. His knowledge of the ’67 Beetle goes back a long way. It’s a pleasure collaborating with you Jay. — Eric, 1967beetle.com.
My history with this car extends over many years. In the beginning, a neighbor expressed an interest in VW’s and asked me to be watching for one for him. Not long afterwards, my VW mechanic called to tell me that a ’67 Beetle had come up for sale. I recalled having seen this car at his shop. He gave me the information and I called my neighbor.
I arranged a meeting with the seller and my neighbor, and we hopped into my very nice ’67 Zenith Blue Beetle. I always liked to have an excellent example handy when speaking with a seller. The contrast between my very nice car and, usually, the seller’s car was dramatic!
The seller was the second owner. He had obtained the vehicle from his father, the original owner. It was a low-mileage car but had dents and dings to the exterior and some hard wear to the interior.
While walking around the car, I made notes on my clipboard. Then, it was time to test it out.My neighbor wanted me to drive. We put the car through its paces and returned it. I thanked the owner and we were on our way home. My neighbor turned to me and said, “why didn’t we buy the car? I have the money right here in my pocket?!” I told him that the seller wasn’t ready yet; I knew that his wife was pushing him to get rid of the car by any means.
In about a week, I called the seller and talked about the car. I named my price and the seller accepted. I remember the price as being $500.
The neighbor took possession and I put that car out of my mind. About 3 months later, he drove into my driveway and announced that he was “finished” with the car. I asked what he meant. He told me that he was done “playing with it” and now wanted to sell it. He named $1200 as the price. I told him that I would handle the sale for him.
Within a week, I had sold the car for $1600 and had pocketed $400 for myself. I helped my friend with the paper work and, again, put the car out of mind. The new owner gave me his business card and I filed it.
About two years later, as I was rebuilding yet another ’67 Bug, a man stopped by the house. He told me that he had been wanting a ’67 Bug and that the one which I was rebuilding was “it”! I had to explain that it was already sold. He offered me $500 more. I had to refuse, I had given my word. Instead, I gave him the business card from that other ’67 Beetle.
In short order, he stopped at the house, driving that very Beetle! Thus began a nice friendship, until my friend passed away.
As I helped his daughters to settle his estate, I saw that little Beetle sitting forlornly in their driveway. The daughters told me that it would be fine to make an offer on it. I became the 6th owner. Eventually, I would contact the original owner. Thus, I knew all previous 5 owners!
The Bug sat in my driveway for some time. In ’96, I did brake work and installed new outer tie rod ends and dropped spindles. I decided to do what I had never done to a VW; lower that high ’67 front end a bit.
When did you start the restoration?
In ’97, we moved. I towed the car to a nearby shop and had the front end aligned, then towed it to the new house where it sat until 2000. That’s when I did a top end on the engine and began in earnest to do a body-on reconditioning to the vehicle. I towed it to a body and paint shop where the body was gone over, sanded, filled as necessary, primed, base-coated, then clear-coated using PPG urethane, matching the original color as closely as possible.
That next few months, I spent every free moment with the car, prompting my wife to call it “his mistress”. I wasn’t getting any younger. I needed to get that car finished!
I cleaned every part. I kept a careful list of new and reconditioned parts and costs associated with every aspect of the reconditioning. By the time I had completed the car, I had spent about $4500. Aside from the painting and the parts and materials, I had done almost all of the labor, saving myself a great deal of money.
It was a pleasure to drive my car; everywhere I went, it elicited many favorable comments. That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?
One of the challenges which I faced was the changes I wanted to effect on the front suspension. For a year, I researched information on how to do this. I settled on the dropped spindles, since that seemed to do the least to change the “geometry”.
Also, it was difficult to find a shop that would do a good paint job for a “poor mans” budget. Most shops these days do insurance work and wouldn’t talk to me. Other shops wanted to do a bare-metal restoration that would run into the thousands. The paint job which I chose was based on a careful conversation with a shop owner. He understood my expectation and I knew what he was capable of doing. I got what I wanted at my kind of price. The job continues to look good with reasonable care.
The ’67 Beetle is unique, in my opinion, due, especially, to the advent of the 12V electrical system. 6V parts were beginning to be scarce and expensive and not to give quite as good performance in the long haul. The body and bumper style lend themselves to the “old style”, leaving one with that classical appearance with some timely updates.
My knowledge of the ’67 Beetle, from years of having owned and driven them, saved me from a lot of confusion about parts. I still had some parts on hand. What I needed, I knew about and how to obtain. I can say that the securing slotted bolt for the air breather bracket is probably the most difficult part to locate. I finally have been able to obtain one. The passenger’s side pre-heat metal tube that directs heated air to the air breather is another very rare part. My car came to me without it. It was some years before I located one. Also, since my car originally came with the knobs-on-the-front-seat-backs, I wanted my radio also to sport those same black rubber knobs. Eventually, I found a complete radio, with these knobs, on eBay and purchased it solely for the knobs. The rubber radio knobs are difficult to find.
You ask my opinion about a 100% stock restoration as opposed to a less-than-stock restoration. Hands down, the 100% stock car is more valuable out of the gate! Anything done to customize a ’67 lessens its value immediately. My 36+ years of VW experience has taught me this. An owner may spend much more money to customize (less-than-stock) a car but he will not realize as much from its sale as he will from the sale of a car restored to purely stock condition (classical restoration). I have done some things to my car that lessen its value. However, everything which I have done easily can be reversed, thankfully.
Of course, the very best option is to find a car that is in good enough condition so that by simply refurbishing worn or bad parts and cleaning, the car can be safely driven. This is called in today’s jargon, a “survival car”.
I have realized in the past couple of years that parts for ‘67s (or for any VW, for that matter) are becoming more difficult to locate. I have begun an aggressive effort to find, clean and store essential parts for my cars. I began a computerized inventory of my storage area so that I know in a moment what I have and where it is located. I tell my VW friends to do likewise. It is wise management of our classic cars.
Another piece of advice, which I freely give, is “learn about your car”. Become “intimate” with it. By so doing, you will become aware of its “feelings” and can take action when the car isn’t “feeling just right”. Hey—these are our “children”, you know! We can’t let them get sick and go neglected!
Thank you, Jay for sharing your story with 1967beetle.com.