‘Syd’ is a 1979 Karmann Super Beetle convertible. She is also by far the worst car I’ve yet attempted to work on. For many years we would pass Syd on our way from out home to the shops in South Norwalk. A cute white convertible with a navy convertible, what was there not to love?
A few months ago Martha (‘The Girlfriend’) came home and mentioned that the car had appeared to have suffered an engine fire, as the paint on the rear engine hood had blistered and the fenders were covered in black soot. Engine fires are all too common in old Beetles; often they stem from having placed a plastic in-line gas filter next to the carburetor. These sometimes will leak and the gas can hit the hot muffler and set things off.
A few weeks later we saw a for sale sign on the car with a phone number, so we called. Martha had always wanted a Beetle ragtop, and it looked like a fun project. VW engines are remarkably resilient. You might lose the coil, the distributor cap, the fresh air hoses, and other plastic parts, but usually the engine block survives just fine. Most everything else can be cleaned, wire-brushed and repainted.
We called and went over to check out the car. We met the PO (prior owner), an interesting fellow named Chuck, who had owned the car for quite a while. Chuck was quite entertaining; regaling us with a variety of life stories. Finally, we walked over to look at the car, me mentioning that the fire was not something that I was intimidated by. Opening the passenger door, Chuck responded by saying that the engine fire was not to major problem…
Peering into the cabin, I was amazed to be looking at a car whose top half (the body) almost seemed completely disconnected from the bottom half (the chassis). Rust was everywhere. Syd was a rust-bucket.
A sane person would have ended the negotiations right then and there. Beetle convertibles are cool and cute, but this one was pretty far gone and the cost of the restoration would (even excluding the labor, which in fact was my therapy) be unlikely to be gotten back in resale value. However Syd provides many opportunities to refine my techniques (a sort of university of all possible mishaps) that will provide useful experience when the time comes to work on Wolfgang, the 1957 Beetle.
STATUS: Undergoing restoration