Tell us about the history of your ’67 Beetle.
My great-grandfather purchased a used 1967 Volkswagen Beetle, painted Volkswagen Blue, in November of 1967 (it was built in August of ’66 so I’m assuming that the previous owner had it for about a year). He drove it a fair amount until his death, when my grandfather inherited the car. It ended up at my grandparents’ house, and when my dad was in high school it was really never used (although it still wears the dents he made with a golf ball). When my dad went to college, however, he ended up driving it sometimes, because it was economical and he wasn’t too concerned about anyone breaking into it. Although my dad never hated the car, it just really wasn’t for him. As a result, in late 1986, it was put into the garage at my grandparents’ house. Aside from being rolled from one garage stall to another in the late 1990s, it was absolutely untouched, complete with a half tank of gas (yikes!) and the battery still connected. Over time, it was filled and covered with all sorts of things—used as an impromptu rack and an occasional cat toy.
Growing up I always knew about the car (we live next door to my grandparents), but I never really thought much about it. Around the time I was a junior in high school, however, I started to see dollar signs as I thought that maybe I could sell it and make a little money. I knew zero about cars so that began to fizzle. Right before senior year, a friend who likes cars started asking about it. We decided to start working on it, working sometimes only once or twice a month. Our goal was to get it started, because we knew that a running car is worth a little extra. We replaced fuel lines, got a new fuel pump, replaced spark plugs and the ignition coil, among other things, experiencing our fair share of misadventure along the way. I remember that every time we made a little change, we would sit there cranking it, praying that it might cough to life. Finally, in November, we had just replaced the ignition coil and I popped into the driver’s seat and turned the key. Instantly, it roared to life. Although there was still a lot of work to be done to make it road worthy, I knew at that moment that I could never sell the car. That day we made it up to a roaring 5 mph (the carburetor was in desperate need of a rebuild). In the months that followed, we got new tires, replaced the master cylinder and each wheel cylinder, rebuilt the carburetor, and performed other minor maintenance. Now I’m a freshman in college and the ‘67 has become my daily driver. It’s so cool to think that 30 years ago my dad was on this same campus with this very car. For the most part everything is completely original (and rust free!), aside from slightly larger tailpipes, a new radio (that was built to look like a period correct Volkswagen radio), speakers, and other very small items. Paint and interior, while not perfect, are 100% original.
When did you start the restoration?
I started the process in August, 2011, as a busy high school senior with zero mechanical experience.
How long did the restoration take?
Because of commitments to school, sports, etc., it was a slow process that wrapped up in May, 2012. We would sometimes be able to work only one weekend a month, so we made them count. It wasn’t a full restoration, either. The car was in good enough shape that it was more a process of making it totally roadworthy, able to be enjoyed daily both in town and on the highway. My hope is to perform a full restoration when I am out of college and on my own.
What were some of the challenges you faced during the process?
Not knowing anything about how cars work was a massive setback. Not only did it impact my understanding of what could be causing the car not to run, but it also made me worried that I might do too much to the car and accidently mess something up. I had to use a lot of resources and look to people who had worked with Beetles, in order to make sure that everything was tip top. A local shop that specializes in vintage Volkswagens was my biggest ally. Since I was without a car lift or many automotive tools, they were a great place that could do those few things not possible in my garage. They also were helpful in talking me through more challenging processes and helping to find parts.
It was not necessarily planned that the car would sit for a quarter of a century, and as a result it wasn’t prepped in any way. The fuel tank was nearly half full of ‘80s gas, and that had not been kind to most of the fuel system. We actually had an incident where the rubber fuel line that runs from the tank to the metal fuel line cracked open while we were working. Oblivious to this, we rolled it inside and called it a night. Soon, the garage floor was covered with a black mess. I’m just thankful that the car was garaged as long as it was. I have been told multiple times that my Bug has one of the most solid original frames/pans anyone has ever seen, and I plan to do everything I can to keep it that way.
Another large challenge was that mice had made the car their home. I found large nests in both the engine compartment and the front trunk area, and the headliner had been chewed through in a few places. I was very concerned about how the electrical components/wiring had fared, but in the end we lucked-out. I have yet to find any sign of rodent damage to these important components, and everything on the car works as it should.
Besides these things, we never were blindsided. Sure there were nuts and bolts that seemed impossible to loosen, but that’s all in the fun of the process. When we first had it running, we had one of the brake cylinders apart because it was locked up. I couldn’t stand waiting until I had the time to replace it, so we spent a lot of time slowly and carefully trekking up and down the driveway, allowing it to slow to a stop or augmenting it carefully with the emergency brake (we were very careful not to damage or over work the e-brake). This was my first manual shift car (I’ll never go back to automatic!), and because I learned how to drive it without working brakes, it was weird to drive when first we had those repaired.
In your opinion, what makes the ’67 Beetle so unique?
I have never driven a Beetle with the 6 volt system, but it’s clear what an impact the 12 volts really has. This thing is so reliable. I have had zero issues getting it started. Everyone mentions this but it’s so true– you have the “classic” styling with more power and generally improved technology. I am able to easily and safely keep up with traffic, and I still turn heads everywhere. I also simply like the fact that there were so many “one-year-only” parts on this car. It’s easy for the many model-years to blur together, but the 1967 year stands out. It’s all in the little details. I love the things such as the little reverse lights on the back bumper.
What parts were the hardest to find?
Thankfully, almost everything was in great or at least completely useable condition. For the small things that needed to be replaced, there were plenty of WebSites with what I needed. The hardest part was that there are so many 1967 specific parts that it can be difficult to find exact replacements. For example, the tank that holds washer fluid on my Bug has a tiny hairline crack that leaks only when the tank is pressurized. I tried the ugly epoxy fix, but even that couldn’t contain the pressurized stream. Unfortunately, no one manufactures the tank anymore. There are usually a few on eBay, but not all are in good condition. It’s one of those things where you have to keep an eye out for the right item at the right price.
What is your take on doing a 100% stock restoration vs non-stock?
I really like to keep things as close to original as possible, if the car is in decent shape; or at least only make changes that don’t detract from the originality. For me, a decent sound system was important, but I used components that fit with the car and retained the vintage look. I also needed to replace my tailpipes. I opted for slightly larger ones that have an angled tip. They add a slightly deepened tone and look sharp, but don’t take away from the vintage appearance. Plus, things like tailpipes are very easy to swap out, so it really doesn’t bother me. The thing that I am generally not a fan of is altering the car permanently. These already are unique vehicles, and you can never go back from a permanent change. If you are adding a huge engine to a Bug, it seems to me that you would be better off spending your money on a muscle car or something like that. It’s that little putt-putt that gives these ’67 Beetles character, in my opinion. With that said, if the car is so far gone that restoring it to originality will require using more new parts than old, then I’m totally for having fun with it. No matter how nice reproduction parts are, they simply aren’t the “real deal.” It’s just getting harder to find these in good stock condition, so I prefer to keep them like that as long as possible.
Any ’67 Beetle specific tips or words of wisdom you would like to offer?
Take pride in your car! If you have to do a full restoration, or your car is in pretty rough shape, save as much (of its originality) as you possibly can. No reproduction part can perfectly replicate the original. When I first started getting into this, I was thinking of replacing everything I could with a new part just to make sure it was nice and shiny and perfect. I quickly realized, however, that it’s better to keep as much that was built onto the car as possible. Also, if you do need to find a new part, make sure that if it’s a ’67 specific piece that you find the ’67 style. A lot of these are harder to find. It would be easy to settle for a generic Bug piece, when the 1967 had some cool features that make it unique. Also, be willing to talk to others. I have a lot of people start conversations with me in parking lots, and it’s always really fun. You don’t have to talk for a long time or anything like that, but it is cool to be able to share the awesome thing that you have. These ‘67s are getting more and more rare on the roads anymore. Most importantly, have some fun! Cars are made to be driven, so be sure to drive yours.