From: "Peter Dixon"
Date: 11/9/97 12:57AM Subject: What should we look out for? Address: To: FreeAdvice@acvwjyro.com Greetings!
My partner is looking for a VW beetle (you know... childhood fantasy thing), and we would love some advice of what things to look out for when veiwing said cars. Where do they rust...which parts can show if the car had a shonky owner etc etc...?
Any advice will be welcome.
Ta Peter and Megan firstname.lastname@example.org
If you cast back 100 years or so, you'd be buying a horse and maybe carriage instead of a car. Pretty straight forward, not a terrible lot of things to examine with either, although even then unscupulous persons could hide defects and bad horseflesh. "Horse traders" is what they were called and it still carries a negative connotation.
Well, those guys - or at least their ideological descendents - are still with us in the guise of used car salesmen, politicians, and television anchors. A few years back, Dale from southern Ohio, stopped by the Junkyard with a primo 64 bug - freshly painted and gleaming in the sunlight. Just bought it, but wanted to sell it. Needed the money for something.
After Kevin looked it over and crawled underneath, you should have seen Dale's face when the high offer was $500. He's just spent $2000 on it. But then, he'd never been underneath, where the floor and rocker panels had been fabricated out of a myriad collection of small scraps of metal pop-riveted together. He'd bought it from a horse trader.
But if Dale hadn't been trying to recoup his money, he never would have known about the floor, and chances are to this day he'd still be happy with that car, waxing it on Sundays and driving it all Summer long.
As with any project, the chances of success are enhanced by carefully considering the goals. Why do you want to acquire an old bug? Some possible reasons:
AJ says that his favorite beetle was Suzy, a 74 super beetle named after its original owner, with rust holes and dents on every fender and surface. He drove it all Winter to work up in Willoughby - a good 50 miles from Richfield - hitting the road at 4 in the morning when all of the other traffic had 4 wheel drive. The driver's side rocker panel had disappeared long before, but that gap was stuffed with cardboard and carpet remnants, the front hood was held closed with a bunji cord, and he ran a flexible hose from under the rear seat to heat the windshield.
And the reason he liked the car so much was because on those frigid Ohio mornings when the Canadian north wind off Lake Erie was piling snow on I-271 and all the plow drivers were still huddled around the coffee urn at Gastown, Suzy would cruise on up the interstate with AJ in his snowmobile suit and boots, driver's side window wide open, and have no trouble at all getting through. 12 inches of snow - freezing rain - none of it mattered.
"Function is beauty." John Dewey said that, and it's still true.
The Hoopster, on the other hand, wouldn't have been happy with Suzy. He and his daughter Jer travel to VW shows around the Midwest in Josephine, a 72 super beetle. Josephine has accumulated a collection of plaques and trophies.
The Hoopster's criteria for buying an old bug would probably preclude missing rocker panels, rusted fenders, and headlights that point like searchlights into the air. Much more important to the Hoopster would be OEM parts and equipment - a car that is still pristine. Maybe not original paint, but then again - that could be points at a show. Otherwise, might be the modified class.
These examples would seem to be opposite ends of the scale, but the fact of the matter is that there are a lot of other ends to this scale as well.
I'm not sure, for example, why Pam originally bought Sunny (68 type II), but my guess is that it had something to do with being a vegetarian and going to Grateful Dead concerts. As with most VW owners, it did not take her long to discover that an old bus can be an expensive thing to maintain if someone is charging you to do the work. The $750 clutch job taught her that lesson.
Pam first came down to the Junkyard looking for the hinge arrangement for her pop-top, but she hung around and that Winter she laid Sunny up and rebuilt her engine at the Junkyard - splitting the case and replacing everything that looked worn or suspicious.
Pam had never done this sort of thing before, and aside from learning the basic knowledge of how to work on an engine, she gained a lot confidence as well. So much so, that the following year she was a mainstay of the Junkyard staff, anxious to assemble and disassemble new things, anxious to learn how they worked. AJ says: "Life was comfortable in those days. 'Hey Pam, we're ready to take out the trans', and she'd be sliding under the vehicle, wrenches in hand."
When she roached her engine down in Tennessee Pam set to building a new one with her old heads and parts garnished from new friends in the region. And it worked just fine. In the space of 5 days she had put together an engine and was back on the road.
When Pam got the chance during Spring break, she brought the engine to the Junkyard and rebuilt it one more time. Just to be sure.
But later Sunny had some bad luck and the steering pivot on the axle beam rotted loose - a hard thing to fix and especially hard to fix well - so Pam let Sunny sit in the Hocking College parking lot and in the late Spring she was up to Canada on a school expedition where she met Dave, a bush pilot, they got married and moved into a cabin up in the northern Canadian wilderness and just recently had a baby, Jade Alexandra. Not a timid one, she.
Pam donated Sunny to the Junkyard, and one clear Autumn day, AJ and Mario drove down to Nelsonville and recovered the engine and trans and swapped wheels and rims, then towed the remnants over to Gumby's shop.
Pam's engine, rebuilt less than 300 miles ago, sat in Mario's garage for about a year, getting moved over by the compressor or moved over by the stove, depending upon the changing projects. When this Spring came, and Mario turned his attention to the dune buggy, he decided that the old engine would have to be replaced. And what better candidate than that shiny green engine that had just been rebuilt?
And here's the skinny of it. Mario took that engine which Pam had so meticulously built time after time down to Mr Appleby's for Memorial Day in the dune buggy. Actually, he wasn't driving - Madame had the wheel, trying to climb the vertical side of the Dirt Knob with the dune buggy at roughly 80 degrees from horizonal, churning and churning with the wheels spitting an el niño of dirt, all of the oil in the crankcase sitting at the rear of the engine well away from the oil sump, when it started making that terrible squeeeeeeeeling sound.
But Madame didn't notice, and after a minute or two, Pam's engine just plain locked up, the dune buggy flopped end over end down the knob, and Madame had his first indication that something was wrong. Oil light? On a dune buggy?
So Pam and Madame are two different opposite ends of the scale.
And then there's the investors. These are the guys who buy a bug in the hopes that it's value will increase faster than inflation. But is it prudent to drive an investment on the street? Or should it live under a tarp in a dusty garage?
And it doesn't really matter which end of which VW scale you think you fit. Once you own a bug, you'll find your own ecological niche, subject to change at any time. Just like Dale changed from happy waxer to disgrundled investor in a single moment.
Here's the advice on buying a bug. Look out for everything.
Drive it around the block. Crawl underneath. Use a magnet in search of body work. Open the door and lift it, like you were trying to turn the car over - looking at the base of the door pillar for movement. Poke around under the fenders where the wheels throw all the water and slush and road salt. STOMP on the brake pedal to see what bursts. But most of all, if you are going to buy it, buy it because you like it.
Whatever's wrong with it is probably fixable. If you are not going to work on it yourself, put aside a small pile of money, but in either case, be prepared for constant maintenance and repairs. They are part of owning a beetle.
So, even if it's got more rust holes than Suzy, if you like it, buy it. If you change your mind later on, you can always get rid of it, eh?
Some links to other pages dealing with the subject:
c 1997 Air Cooled Volkswagen Junkyard of Richfield, Ohio http://www.acvwjyro.com "Where Advice Is Always Free"(216)659-3638 This story may be distributed only if it is not altered in any way and is distributed freely without charge.