‘Gracie’ is a 1965 Beetle, perhaps one of the first with a ‘hard’ retractable sunroof. This feature was introduced in 1964 I believe. Prior to that Beetles could come with a retractable canvas top or the much more common hard-top. Interesting, some elements of Gracie appear to be more typical of the 1964 model year. The heater controls were located on a knurled knob (1964) near the shifter versus the two levers (1965 and onward) located near the parking handbrake. Perhaps VW kept the 1964 with sunroof going into model year 1965 until they could catch up with demand? Not sure.
Normally all VW Beetles prior to 1967 had 6 volt electrical systems. This rather anemic system made highway driving rather difficult. My friend Bob Messineo had a 1966 Beetle (6 volts) and would occasionally be pulled over on the NYS Thruway for not having his lights on!
I purchased Gracie from a Norwalk neighbor, ‘Mickey,’ who had purchased the car in 1989 for his wife. Mickey had done some nice work on Gracie, putting in new heater channels and floor pans. Mickey is a very good welder, and Gracie’s undercarriage is a thing of beauty. However not much else had been done to the car. The electrical system was shot, the engine, a 1600 cc more typical of the mid-70’s Beetles, turned over but not much more than that.
Over the summer of 2016 I rebuilt the engine, completely redid the interior (new seat cushions and covers; new headliner; new carpets). I also rewired the whole car and rebuilt the sunroof, which had more or less fused to the roof. The VW sunroof design was not one of their better engineered ideas. Rather than stop water at the surface, the sunroof makes little effort at being water-tight. Rather at each corner there are plastic hoses, that attempt to drain the water either to the front or back quarter panels, from there holes would allow it to drain. Unfortunately, after forty years these hoses would become clogged with whatever, and the plastic hardened and brittle. Finally the drain holes almost always became blocked so that water would simply be deposited inside the body panels.
One morning I notice chunks of red plastic in the rear under the engine. I could not figure out what they were. Finally Conley Myers, who I had worked with on the 1971 Westfalia figure out that the motor mounts (where the transmission attached to the chassis and thus where the engine bolts on) had rotted out. These were replaced at the same time as the brake lines as it became clear from the puddles of brake fluid on the floor that the brake lines were rotten through. Doing the brakes on a VW is not hard, if you follow good resources like the Bentley manual or John Muir’s iconic ‘Volkswagen Repair for the Compleat Idiot’.
Gracie also received some new glass and an entirely new set of rubber seals. Finally she was painted by a technique I had come across on the web: Rustoleum paint laid down with a foam roller. This has the advantage of minimal fumes, which was a concern as most of this restoration was done in my home garage. However Rustoleum is a ‘soft’ paint an takes upwards of 2-3 months to cure and dry. The paint laid fairly well, and with enough sanding and buffing actually turned out pretty good. Finally, there was the economics. At the time I was not shooting paint, so having a garage do it would have cost several thousand dollars, far beyond the ability to recoup my investment. The ‘Rustoleum/Roller’ probably cost about $200.
Gracie is a fun car to drive. She starts and idles beautifully and runs reliably. People seem to punch themselves when I drive by. I guess there is some sort of game where you punch someone on the arm when you see an old VW Beetle.
STATUS: In my collection
AVAILABILITY: Not for sale