James Mitchell’s L456 Ruby Red ’67 Beetle

My first experience with 1967 Volkswagens was as a kid in the early ‘70s. My Dad got a Navy-colored Sunroof ‘67 Beetle from a friend. It had been rolled down a mountain, but it still ran and drove, even though every panel on it was in ruin.

Dad then picked up a Sunroof ‘64 that had experienced an engine fire. His plan was to swap the ‘67 motor into the ‘64, but he never got around to it. Me and my siblings played in those cars for years until some neighborhood teenager bought them for parts. My 1967 VW brings back many fond memories—I still remember that cool wooden Formula Vee shift knob Dad’s Bug had.

I had been looking for an older Bug for a while when this one came up for sale about 75 miles away. Rust-free Bugs are hard to come by on the East Coast but supposedly this was a West Coast car. The original Owner’s Manual showed service stamps from VW dealers in CA and OR, and there was a CA college parking sticker on the rear window, which helped to confirm her origin.

She was super solid underneath, and although shabby, she did run, drove well, and was fairly complete. The previous owner (PO) had just replaced the transaxle with one out of a ‘67 Ghia, and mentioned that the clutch was sloppy and needed adjustment. When I got it home it turned out the real problem was the clutch cable tube which had broken free inside of the tunnel at all three welds. But with a bit of careful welding and fabrication of new mounts, I was able to fix it, and she now shifts as good as new. I asked the PO to include the original transaxle in the sale. I now suspect that nothing was wrong with it as the clutch cable tube may have been the root of the problem Maybe one day I’ll get it back in.

The engine ran “ok” when I bought it, and the heads under the valve covers were very clean (which indicated a low mileage motor), but she really lacked power. I found that her distributor was allowing only 12 degrees of maximum advance, so I swapped it for a new one with electronic ignition that gave 25 degrees advance, all before 2700 rpm. I also found that the throttle cable was allowing only 2/3 of the required travel, so that was adjusted too. The carb jetting also was very lean, especially for having a header, so I rejetted the carb with fatter jets, performed a complete tune up and adjusted the valves.

Rosie runs really great now, and pulls 18″ of vacuum at idle, which is a sign of a very tight motor. I think she may have been rebuilt as a 1600cc single-port since 1600 and 8/31/07 is stamped on the bottom of the case. The motor case and car VIN match within 3 months of manufacture, so I believe it may be the original motor. I’m sending away for the Certificate of Authenticity to confirm.

I’ve refurbished the exterior the best I could by doing some careful touch up and paint blending. The paint on it looked to be about 25 years old, judging from the fading and all the dings and wear it had, but it was a good, solid paint job. I used Griot’s Correcting Cream to buff it out (it’s amazing stuff), and pulled the bumpers and running boards and refurbished them as well.

I’m slowly replacing all her seals. The doors, pop-outs, hood and trunk seal have been replaced. Next, I’ll do the windows and sunroof seals. The interior needs some work too. The seats have been recovered, but there is no headliner or carpet. In the Spring, when the weather is better, I will address those needs.

I have the original wheels and hubcaps, and plan to refurbish them as well. I was able to get a nice set of NOS beauty rings from Lane Russell, which will add some original bling to the wheels. The car came with a vintage German Kamei package shelf that was date-stamped 1967, so it’s possible it was sold with the car.

Rosie still is a work in progress, but at this point she really is a fun car to drive. She keeps up well with modern traffic and I use her for errands all the time. She is my “weekend” car when the weather is dry. She has great heat too, I drove her one night when it was 17 degrees here and she warmed up faster than my 2009 Mazda. I’ve had several mid-‘60s sedans in my day–comparing them to her, I can’t help but think that the 1967 VW Beetle must have been a stellar little car in its day when it was new.

Posted by Jay Salser

My wife, Neva, and I have been driving and working on VWs since 1976. In fact, we raised our family in these cars. Now, we are retired and enjoy VWs as a hobby. The ’67 Beetle always has been our favorite year. We own a '67 Beetle and a '68 Karmann Ghia.

  1. She’s a sharp looking example of bug’s most stellar year of production, Jim! The sunroof option on these makes it extra special! And great to see Old Dominion antique plates on her. Maybe some day mine and yours can get together at a bug activity somewhere. Great to read your story. Happy bugging!

    1. Thanks Don. I take it your in the NOVA area too? I sure wish Bug-in was still in Manassas and not in Richmond.

      1. Hi Jim
        Is NOVA Northern area? I am in Charlottesville, but moving to Mechanicsville. Mid VA I guess. So, I need to look up Bug-in in Richmond. I am a newcomer so not aware. But, maybe we will me one another somewhere down the road.
        You get Rosie all fixed up, and then get her out and about.

  2. Richard A. (Dick) Diaz February 24, 2018 at 4:30 pm

    Nice cars James! It does appear that you have some excellent plans for Rosie and I look forward to seeing her return to her glory days in future updates!

  3. Really nice looking ride, gives me motivation! Thanks

  4. Frank Connolly, Jr. February 25, 2018 at 7:38 pm

    James , what a wonderful car! Rosie sure is getting the T L C she deserves . The paint looks fantastic. Hope you show her to us when she’s finished.

    1. Thanks Frank. Half the fun is in the journey of fixing her up, I can’t wait to start on the interior. The paint was pretty tired, but it clean up really well. Griots Correcting cream is the best stuff I’ve used to bring back old paint.

  5. Thanks for the thoughtful comments everyone! Still a lot of work to do, but that’s the fun of it. At least I’m at the point where I can enjoy her now. Maybe when i’m further along I’ll provide some updated pics.

    1. Hi, Jim—Good to hear from you! Yes…let’s get an update on your car after you’ve completed
      your planned renovations. There’s nothing like a really nice car that’s gotten only nicer! jay

  6. Beautiful beetle, James, definitely a head turner! The paint looks really nice in pictures! What you described with the distributor is something I’ve gone through with my bus. Doesn’t it feel great when they start purring like a kitten? Can’t do that too much these days. My wife’s ’67 has the correct single port block but has been bumped to 1600 as well and its a beautiful driver that looks correct. We found the same thing with the heat, although I did have to source a connector tube that was missing. 67 is such a nice year! More modern but still classic at the same time. Thanks for sharing it!

  7. Oh, and she even found herself a formula vee shift knob that was in good shape! Nice touch and very comfortable in the hand.

  8. Thanks Greg. 67 is a watermark year; old , but new too! I had a few issues initially with the heat as well. The PO had replaced the battery tray, and had removed both heat ducts under the seat, but when he installed them again, he transposed them, so the slot to hook in the control cables was on the wrong side! I had to swap them back, and fab a new cable guide out of some 3/8″ brake line. The good heat it has now was well worth the effort. The dual port motor my 72 Ghia has doesn’t seem to heat near as well as my 67.

    I was able to find a nice Formula Vee shift knob just last week too (like my dads car had). It does lend a sporty, vintage look, and feels great in your hand.

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