Franken Fritz lives. On a Saturday morning a couple of years back, my daughter and I rigged up some chains and pulleys in the garage and safely lowered the newly rebuilt, 220 pound, engine from its stand onto a furniture dolly. After another 8 hours of banging and swearing, those four lugs found their place and the engine was installed. Unbelievably, after just four cranks of the starter, he fired up and Fritz was reborn!
It took a year and half of painstakingly rebuilding the engine to bring him back to life and even longer to make him the VW Beetle he wants to be. But now FF is ready for his debut. Over the last four years I have painstakingly followed directions and advice from books, the Internet, YouTube videos, The Samba and, most importantly all the VW “nutcases” out there – especially Jay Salser and Eric Shoemaker – who have graciously shared their wisdom.
I’m not sure how much of FF was original – probably just the body and chassis – but I have endeavored to try and restore him to his original stock glory.
There was much to do:
- I rebuilt the wiper motor. Twice. It works. And yes, even the pneumatic window washer works!
- I refurbished and repainted an original oil-bath air cleaner.
- I secured heater boxes and a proper muffler. I can now get heat in the morning…after about a 30 minute drive!
- I puttied, sanded, puttied, sanded, and painted a stock steering wheel back to health.
- I installed a nicely refurbished bellow-type thermostat and fan vane controls.
- I put in a proper glove box, passengers straps, rear seatbelts, and three point seatbelts in front. (Many thanks to Joy, Gary, and “Monica” for their visit and installation advice.)
- I installed new carpet.
- I bought an original Sapphire V radio courtesy of Eric Shoemaker. I now have all the baseball games and talk radio that the AM band provides.
- I replaced rubber in numerous places. Too much to count. (If anyone wants to know how to really put in those new door window seals, I know the installation secrets earned through many hours of banged knuckles, scratched paint, and filthy language.)
- I restored and repainted the Z bar system.
- I rebuilt the door handles. (Yeah, that pesky pin was gone.)
- I rustled up the proper backup lights.
It has been difficult to find parts sometimes. I scoured the Internet before I finally found two beat up vent plates for the front footwell registers. They weren’t cheap. It was the same for the light and wiper dash switches (1967 only parts.) I am still on the lookout for the two metal pipes that the pre-heat hoses connect with. And I need to put in a proper metal vacuum line (a coiled vacuum hose fills in for now).
My last big purchase, indeed the most expensive, was two brand new chrome bumpers from Wolfsburg West. I had gone down to Corona California to see them in person for myself. And I was sold. Being able to replace the thin cheap Brazilian things with triple-chrome, period-correct, bumpers was well worth it.
Fritz can be seen cruising around the Stanford University campus on most weekends, and I occasionally drive him up to San Francisco for work. I always get a wave from someone or the stare down from kids who can’t remember a time when VW beetles were just part of the scenery. On rare occasions I pass a fellow enthusiast on the road – a chance for of both of us to lay-on that distinctive “beeeeeep” that only a vintage Volkswagen horn can deliver.
Fahrvergnügen from Franken Fritz.