Original Wheel Restoration

’67 Volkswagen Beetle — Original Wheel Restoration

This article was submitted by good friend and ’67 enthusiast Tom Griffin. Thank you very much for your contributions to 1967beetle.com.

Restoring wheels to have the distinctive cumulus white band adds to the ’67 Volkswagen Beetle’s distinctive look. There are a few small details to keep in mind, and also the opportunity to incorporate some modern-day technology into the vintage look.

My wheels were showing their age and I wanted to restore them. Because of its durability, I decided to powder coat the wheels black, and then paint the white band on top of the powder coating. Talking to guys in the paint industry allayed my concerns with adhesion of the paint to the powder coat. I chose a color that was as close as I could get to L43 Grey-Black. After looking through color samples as Maas Brothers in Livermore, CA, I decided on RAL9004 in satin finish. Maas Brothers bead-blasted the wheels to remove paint, rust, bugs, and dirt, so that only the pristine metal remained. Then they applied the powder coating, which is a process of electrostatically attracting the paint to the metal, and then baking it on at around 300 degrees. The all-black wheels were ready for painting.


Thin Rim Boundary Taping_800x600

The first detail of note is that that white band does not go to the very edge of the wheel. It stops about 1/8” (3 mm) short of the edge. You can see this in the picture of the old wheels. Consequently, I needed to tape a small margin near the rim edge. Finish Masters in Dublin, CA had some 1/8” wide green tape, which they use for pin-striping, that fit the need. I applied the thin tape running it to the top of the curvature of the rim’s edge. From there, my daughter, Rebecca, and I taped over the top of the rim’s edge with blue tape.

Inner Rim Taped_800x600

Rim Boundary Overlap Taping_800x600

Spraying has Begun_800x600

We taped the inner hub, sliding the tape on its non-sticky side, into the valley between the outer rim and inner hub. We covered the center portion with a cardboard circle (patterned after tracing a hubcap) and added a layer of plastic wrap for the rest of the wheel. A strip of tape to cover the valve stem opening completed the taping
The cumulus white paint I used was in a rattle-can – but not just any rattle can! It came from APS Tower Paint Company and is a “2K” product. This product has two components: paint and hardener, and the results were way better than I have ever achieved with a spray can. I bought three cans, but only needed one (they’re pricey, so please note!).

Taped and Ready to Spray_800x600

Now I need to get some of those classic tires to mount on these wheels!

All the best!
Tom G

Posted by Eric Shoemaker

Hello, I'm Eric. I started Air-Cooled Artifacts (previously, 1967beetle.com and Lane Russell). I drive a '67 Beetle daily and love to share vintage Volkswagen stories with the world.

  1. Tom,
    Great article!

  2. Nice job Tom! These look great. Most don’t take that time for the 1/8″ rim edge detail. Perfect!

  3. Be sure to remove the powdercoat from the lug nut seating surfaces before using the rims. There have been many cases of users rims coming loose attributed to the powdercoat breaking loose. I know of at least one guy that lost a really nice bus to this.

    1. srfndoc, thank-you so much for this bit of wisdom! I would never have thunk it, but it makes sense. Do you know of a good tool for removing the powder coating from the lug nut seat? I’m thinking maybe a fine grit conical grinding wheel (drill-mounted).

      It’s pretty rare for a piece of advice to potentially save one’s life, so thank-you very much!

    2. Having powder coated wheels on a half dozen cars I’ve owned over the last three decades, I’ve never had an issue with wheels ever coming loose. However, as with any job I do where I remove the wheels, I always test drive the car and re-tighten the wheels after returning. Personally I think this is a myth, wheels come loose all the time but it’s usually due to the fact that they weren’t properly tightened and later checked to begin with.

      Another issue with removing the coating around the seating surfaces, you expose bare metal and you create an area when moisture can seep behind the powder coating and potentially cause the area around the hole to be compromised. Covering the area with some other coating kinda defeats the purpose of removing the powder coating in the first place. Done properly, powder coat is not that thick. It’s similar to regular paint.

      So basically, after you install your freshly powder coated wheels, drive around the block a couple of times, re-tighten your wheels, and you’ll most likely will never have an issue. This is good practice anytime you need to remove and reinstall a wheel.

  4. This is awesome. How does the powder coating hold up to clicking the hubcaps on/off? I’d be concerned about the powder coating chipping away under that tension.

    1. I expect the powder coat to hold up much better than paint under similar circumstances. It’s a much more durable coating

  5. Stephen L. Murray February 13, 2014 at 10:55 am

    Just Curious – Where did you find the information about leaving the 1/8″ Edge “Rim Detail”? Is there something in the Owner’s Manual? I have owned my car for 36 1/2 Years, and I do not recall ever seeing this? Please Advise.

    1. Stephen, my rims were old and the paint was original (maybe Eric or I can post a picture of the rims before they were blasted and powder coated). I noticed, on those rims, the edge detail. Actually, I wanted to ignore it because it seemed like replicating it would be a lot of work and I’d probably mess it up because paint and I are not the best of friends. However, after looking at old pictures, as well as the Bentley manual (ch.13 p49, ch 4 p43), I started to see that not only was the black band really there, but also that I needed to try to replicate it

      1. Stephen L. Murray February 13, 2014 at 2:46 pm

        Hi Tom –
        Thank you for the response.
        Unfortunately for me, I already painted ALL of my Original Wheels – years ago. However, I do have an “Original Paint” Spare (Wheel) at home in my Home Office that I will take a picture of and Post.
        My curiosity is peaked!
        I’ll be in touch to report my findings to all.

  6. Looks great Tom. I’ve been meaning to do this on my bug for quite some time now. How did the tape line in the inner crease turn out? That spot can be tricky…

    1. I’m sure Tom will chime in soon!

    2. Becca and I spent quite a bit of time trying to get the edge of the tape down into that little valley between the hub and outer rim! Because of the curvature, we could only use pieces of tape about 2 or 3 inches long. We also found that, when removing the tape after painting, we needed to pull the tape straight up off the hub, rather than pulling sideways

      1. Great to hear that this is sparking interest. I’ll be happy to help keep the thread going.

  7. Those rims have the good job that they deserve! I’m waiting to see the tires and wheel covers mounted and the car sitting proudly! jay

  8. Tom – Nice job! Would you, please, explain what prep you did to the powder coated rims before applying the spray paint.

    1. Donna,
      Embarrassed to say that the honest answer is “precious little” By the time I thought to sand the surface with 220 like all the really good and smart paint pros advise, the taping was all done. I was sure that trying to sand it would ruin that top tape line and I would have to re-do the green line and, consequently, the over-the-edge blue. The green line, by itself, is really not that difficult, but the over-the-edge blue was time intensive. Hindsight being 20-20, I should have taped the thin green line and the hub, then sanded the paint area with 220, removed the green tape and re-applied that top 1/8″ green taping, then finished the over the top blue tape, all before I started to paint.

      That would be a better process, and I’m sure that you will be smart enough to do it that way.

  9. Great Job Tom – As usual 1967beetle.com posts a just in time great article. Were just about to perform the same task on our car – was planning on paint but like the powder coat as you say it is much more durable. Thank You for sharing the information.

  10. Fantastic article and comments.
    Now remember to balance each tire and torque correctly when you put on the lug nuts.

    1. Thanks, Mike, I certainly will! When I was in high school I had a ’67 Bug that lost the rear driver’s side wheel while we were traveling at 65 mph on Highway 580 East near Pleasanton. That was one of those experiences that makes you take torquing lug nuts, and removing powder coating from the lug nut seats, very seriously!

      The Big O tire shop in Dublin balanced my other Bug’s tires and they made sure to put the weights on the back side of the wheel, so as not to ugly-up the wheels — very considerate of them.

  11. This is so neat. Eric, if you could go back to one of my first emails to you , this was a question I asked you. I wanted to paint my wheels, but could not figure out “how” to paint the black & white… the right way. Thanks Tom… & 1967beetle.com!

    1. Sam,
      Thanks for reading!

  12. The stripe around the edge of the rim must be a year specific detail. I restored the rims on my ’65 last year and they didn’t have this detail before I started. Because of this I chose to powder coat the entire rim the light color and paint the center. That way any tools used in mounting tires will only be in contact with the powder coat. I wasn’t to worried about the hub cap clips getting scratched and even if they do, there is powder coat under them.

    Nice job on the wheels. I’m sure they will look great in service.

    1. Yes, I believe that’s a ’67 specific thing. Tom might know more.

      1. I purchased my 67 in December 1966 in UK-US Specs, birth month of September 66. It came with black and white rims, no black circle on outer edges. To paint rims with black outer ring in production would have most likely presented a complex situation. J. T. Garwood’s “The Car of the Century” volume 2, considered by many the bible of everything added/subtracted/changed/modified/deleted as well as myriad colors and combinations etc states for the 1967 sedan outer rims are either lotus white L282 or Cumulus white L680 depending on the vehicle color-all Inner rims/hubs are all Gray Black LD43. The exception being Convertibles-rim is all black LD43. Nothing about having the paint as black/white/black. On Samba “Technical” the “Type 1 Color Combinations” mirrors Garwood. In Volkswagen of America “Official Service Manual” 1966-1969 printed for Volkswagen by Bentley in 1972 Chapter 4 Front Axle page 15 shows all white outer rims in two images-the black rubber when viewed carefully can be seen as it disappears from view beneath the rim-same in image on page 43. From Instruction and Maintenance Manual (owner’s manual for 1967) printed in Germany December 1966-page 28 shows three images of white outer rims, no black rings.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: