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  • Writer's pictureFrank Oles

1964 VW Beetle

I found this car for my Dad while on a work trip in LA around 2004. In those days, when a commercial package required lots of CG (in this case JCP Holiday Package), it was not uncommon to spend 3+ weeks in LA. On the weekend and during free time, I was scouting clean, rust-free Beetles. I even ventured out to Compton. Saw lots of scary cars.

This particular 1964 Beetle caught my eye. It was owned by a teenager whose father was a VW mechanic and racer. He even had a drag Beetle and vintage race photos up on the wall in his garage. I looked at the car on a Sunday and agreed to purchase the car after a brief test drive. The car was missing a running board, and did not have turn signals or working headlights (or as I would find out, windshield wipers). There was also some body damage just in front of the driver\'s door, and a few spare fenders. But it wasn't rusty. Or so I thought.

The car was located in Downey. The plan was to drive it from Downey to Santa Monica where a transporter would pick up the car at a friend's house. The seller agreed to make the necessary repairs to have the car roadworthy later in the week. Wednesday came, and the car wasn't touched. Thursday, nothing. Finally Friday rolled around and I needed to take delivery of the car. Of course it was raining. One very dim headlight, no wipers, and a prayer - that's all I had, along with my work partner who agreed to drive ahead of me in the rental car. He of course disappeared the moment we got on the highway. There's me, gripping my cell phone, hastily wiping the windshield to keep if from fogging up. It was one scary ride, but the car made it to the Viceroy Hotel, and actually looked pretty cool sitting there in the car park. The next day, I had to drive approximately 5 miles to my friend's house. The car wouldn't start. We jumped it, and started driving. The car ran fine... until it died on the side of the road half a mile from my friend's house. Luckily the transporter was able to get it there on the street.

The car was driveable, but needed some immediate attention. It had a bad oil leak, and my Dad thought it best to drop the engine and attend to a few other things. I was afraid to take a step this big that would take the car off the road. Unfortunately the story got bad after that. The motor ended up being cobbled together from lots of different parts, including two different cylinder heads. The front suspension had NO SPRINGS (torsion rods), which meant it was basically metal on metal. The passenger floorboard had a few rust holes that were not visible without pulling up the carpet. And the front suspension, which the seller swore had been recently rebuilt, still had 40 yr. old grease in it. Yes, this was going to be a project...

The biggest hurdle is this sheet metal distortion on the driver’s side. We plan to straighten the door and weld in a new section in front of the door, which is currently bondo-ed over.

The rest of the car is remarkably rust-free. The front pan section is clean and ready for paint.

Rear apron suffered a minor bump at some point. We have already sourced this bent piece of metal.

Previous owner also saw fit to cut an access hole in the center tunnel. This will need to be patched and welded as well.

The holes in the passenger side floorpan have been patched with fiberglass. Most likely, due to wet carpets on the inside.

Rear view, awaiting its new engine. The new motor will be 1776cc in displacement.

My Dad cut the front axle and narrowed 1.5 inches so that we can lower the suspension without the tires rubbing on the fender. He also added torsion bar adjusters so that we can set the ride height.

Here is the finished axle. New end plates were fabricated and reinforced, so the axle can be narrowed as much as possible without cutting the body. This is the correct way to lower a Beetle.

Maybe it'll look something like this when it is done!

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