My name is Peter D’Adamo, and I am an inveterate tinkerer and knob twiddler. I especially love to work on Volkswagens. In the real world I am a naturopathic physician, doing research in genetics and bioinformatics. I also teach at the University of Bridgeport where I direct the Center of Excellence in Generative Medicine. To the general public I’m perhaps best known for writing the New York Time bestseller Eat Right For Your Type, which launched what came to be known as the ‘blood type diet’.
My first Beetle was a semi-automatic 1972 Beetle handed down to me by my parents. Although you did not have to shift as with a clutch car, you paid the price with acceleration, of which there was none.
After returning from an aborted schooling attempt in London in 1977 I received my second VW, a 1974 Orange Super Beetle, which I drove cross country to begin my schooling in naturopathic medicine in Seattle Washington. This car not only kept me sane in a new environment, it also allowed me to make a bit of income doing home visit insurance exams.
Not having a whole lot of money I purchased (or was given; hard to remember after all these years) a copy of John Muir’s book ‘How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive’. It must have been an early copy as it was crudely printed and spiral bound. Muir’s reassuring tone and the simplicity of his explanations, combined with the superb, elegant engineering of the car itself, soon had me lying under the car curbside, fixing this and that.
Upon graduation, it was time to head back east. Somewhere outside of Sioux City, South Dakota, the engine seized. Due to the kindness of strangers, we were soon on the road with our new purchase, a huge American station wagon, towing the beetle behind it. Somehow we made it home, and a rebuilt engine soon had my beetle back on the road.
I drove that car throughout my first years in practice as a doctor, until at some point I replaced it with a new Japanese car, a Toyota Corolla, if I remember. A nice car, but lacking in soul; none of that classic VW muffler sound, and perhaps more significantly none of that VW smell, a mix of oil, naugahyde, and the coconut matting stuffed inside the seats.
Decades later, after hearing endless stories about working on my VW back in Seattle, The Girlfriend found a 1974 Super Beetle and gave it to me as a 50th birthday gift. It was even in orange, as was my original! I was back and hooked good this time. After primping the Beetle, I then purchased a Karmann Ghia, then a Camper. The rest, as they say, is history.
I’ve worked with a few knowledgable people over the years, but virtually everything I’ve done and written about represent a process of working out things on my own. Sure I wish I had a kindly, bottle-brush mustached old German dude to show me how to really do things, but one has not yet materialized. On the other hand resources such as youtube and the phenomenal Samba Forums have been invaluable. The Samba Forums are so extensive, and the people so helpful that I’ve almost never had to pose a direct question. Somewhere, somebody, sometime previously had that same problem.
If you think you’d like to get involved in VW ratcheting, go for it. There are still a large number of VWs out there (after all they made something like 23 million of them). And they can be had for a reasonable price, especially the mid-late ’70s models. There is an enormous after market parts universe out there. The car was designed for the average man to repair and take apart, so most of the time you need not purchase expensive one-of-a-kind tools, and even if every once in a while something comes along that would make life easier, you can pick them up as needed. Most of the time I just used metric socket wrenches, screwdrivers, and vice grips.
NB: This site is not affiliated in any way with Volkswagen. It is a place where I hope to collect my experiences working on these amazing mechanical devices. Do not take any of my observations as professional advice; all my VW knowledge is self-taught. In the real world I’m a physician and university professor.