|The Beetle prepares to be transported to the farm/work space|
|The pan/truck of the Beetle in its received condition - certainly not nearly as bad as some I've seen, but not great|
Sheesh! I'm not completely incompetent. I don't know anything about putting a car together (nor taking it apart for that matter), but I can follow simple instructions (sometimes). After a day to think it over, Sam decided that there may be a "few things" I could do to help out, so we went for our first visit to "the farm" (our name for Sam's fathers' place as it's on 40 acres in the middle of nowhere - though there's actually no farm on the property) to assess the damage. Ah, the damage. I'd already had the opportunity to view a few photos Sam had shot of the car being transported to the farm. I believe my comment at first view was something like, "Hmm... rusty, isn't it." It was a statement - not a question. I'm sure my nose wrinkled up and I likely made some sort of face at the sight of something so unfinished. I do love rust (not when it comes to keeping things in one piece, but I simply find something fascinating about the rusting process itself), but was not thrilled with the idea of something I'd be working on having so much of it. I was assured that it was all "surface rust" and that the body was actually in "good shape." I would soon learn otherwise.
|Look, "surface" rust|
|Sam's dad "supervising" my sanding off the hood paint - Yes, I'm wearing an Oscar the Grouch shirt - believe me, it was appropriate (as well as 5 layers of clothing because it was freakin' freezing!).|
|Beetle pieces sanded - sort of|
|One of many, many rounds of bondo and sanding|
|Yep, this is the paint color - though it's not even the same here as it is on the Beetle|
|The start of the paint job (though I didn't see this photo until later)|
|The fuzzy photo I received to indicate the color of the Beetle|
After the excitement of seeing the color with my own eyes had worn off, it was time to get to work on the rest of the car. I was less involved with this portion (at least for a time) because a lot of it required mechanical aptitude, and as most are aware (and as pointed out earlier), this is not my forte. Instead, I worked on grinding rust off of wheels, hammering and buffing bumpers and other such tasks. Sam was feverishly working to get the engine in the car (which ended up taking longer than expected) and getting all the wiring in place for both the front and rear items (such as lights/turn signals, etc).
|The pieces were all getting painted - now it had to be put together|
The frustration level for Sam had increased tremendously as well. His dad wasn't helping matters by continuously telling him to just give it up. "Why are you in such a hurry to get this done?" was a regular question he was plagued with responding to from both his father and his dad's friends. The truth is, neither one of us are good with super long-term projects, and getting this wrapped up soon was a necessity or it wasn't ever going to be finished. It would end up like most long projects we start: in a pile somewhere that gets forgotten until years later, and then eventually gets sold or donated to someone else.
The outside of the car still wasn't completed yet either (despite what I had believed). I had gone over the entire car buffing out the paint, but there were a lot of bumps and spots that just didn't look right, so it was determined that I would need to wet-sand the entire car and then buff it again to get the paint job to the best it could be for a home-done project. I had accepted that the car wouldn't be perfect, but I still wanted it to be its best.
When I arrived one Saturday morning to set to work on this task, I discovered a few decent sized scratches over one of the rear fenders. "What the &$@# happened?!" came screeching out of my mouth. I couldn't help myself. All of this work, and it already had scratches. It hadn't even been on the road yet. Sam shared that while attaching the fender he'd scratched the side of the car, but that it wasn't down to the metal. Trying to calm myself down, I repeated silently that in the grand scheme of things, it really wasn't a big deal. Again, this is a 40+ year old vehicle, and it isn't going to be perfect, but I was so beside myself seeing what had happened that I couldn't control my annoyance. I was assured that touch up paint could be used, and that there were other spots that needed to be fixed anyway.
|Beetle bumpers had to be replaced - these aren't perfect, but I cleaned them up as best I could for now|
Now, at 12 weeks into the project, I was told that there was one week left. Of course, I no longer believed Sam's timelines, so I presumed we had at least another month left to work on the Beetle. Sam feverishly worked on installing the carpet and getting interior pieces put in to the dash. He even bought the roof rack I'd been wanting; I'm sure, in an attempt to keep me motivated about the project. It wasn't that I had lost faith in him, but I was mentally and physically done with the constant trips to the farm and the seemingly never-changing outcome of this car. It had to be finished at some point, right?
|The Beetle interior, slowly coming together. Getting that steering wheel to fit was like magic, too. It wasn't supposed to fit this year of Beetle (and didn't, as I can attest), but the wonder of Sam made it happen.|
By the middle of the following week, a video had arrived to help us understand what we'd been doing wrong with the headliner, and because I was in freak-out mode, Sam said he would go up that weekend alone to work on the headliner and to get the windows put in. The headliner was still quite a difficult task and still isn't quite right (we've discussed possibly having a professional redo this at some point in the future, or possibly if/when a ragtop is installed later). It doesn't look too horrible, and for people who don't do this sort of thing on a regular basis, it is satisfactory for the time being.
|Most of the windows had been installed at this point... very exciting... and a bit of the insulation work is visible too!|
Hey wait, no A/C?! I don't remember agreeing to that.
At this point, we knew that the end was in sight, but of course, there were small things discovered that were missing. Items such as a missing taillight lens, and a screw for the front turn signal were becoming a nuisance. They were items we couldn't find locally, so the internet was the only resource that made sense. This, of course, created some additional delays (although we became experts at ordering on Sunday evening in order to receive parts on Friday, so as to not delay the process further). On the up side, the engine had turned over at this point - and from the actual ignition switch, rather than needing to be jumped - so we were excited that things were finally starting to come together. "One more weekend" became a regular saying in our house, but every weekend it really did feel as though we only needed one more.
Eventually, that one more weekend would have to be a reality, but it wasn't time for that just yet. As the project moved toward an end point, Sam became frustrated with wiring the turn signals. When the Beetle had been disassembled by its prior owner, he had removed all the wiring, so it was incredibly frustrating attempting to understand where everything was supposed to go. With our wish to finish this project sooner than later, Sam was beyond annoyed that he'd spent endless hours attempting to decipher a "mapping" of the wiring he'd found online. In the end, it made more sense to spend our time elsewhere on other items, and Sam asked his dad for help with this piece, since this is what he does for a living after all.
|Sam got the headlights to work, and fashioned a system to utilize these older style bumpers... he's a handy fella!|
The "final" weekend (otherwise known as week 19), I was not present at the farm. Sam decided to take a long weekend and just get everything wrapped up. I had work to do at home, and he does better without distractions, so he went to town attempting to get everything completed on his own (I think he secretly wanted the pleasure of proving he could finish the car, and being able to drive it home to "officially" give it to me). There was quite a list of items to be done though, even if they were seemingly small things. I had high hopes that this was the final push and the project would come to an end, so I held on, waiting to hear how all was going. The emails were few and short, but I received the photo below with a note that the car is "a trip to drive."
|Finally, in the outdoors, she is starting to seem like a "real" car.|
|Kind of strange to see the same car in a different state of existence|
|The dash isn't quite wrapped up, but certainly better than it was prior|
While Sam quite frequently gives in to my requests, I am thankful he didn't let me give up on this car. Yes, it's just a vehicle and a means of transportation, and it is certainly replaceable (though the exact car is not, as it contains quite a mix of parts throughout the Beetle decades of manufacture), I don't think the experience of this project is something that could be duplicated. I believe we both learned that we can motivate each other when we don't necessarily want to continue on, just as we can be each others' doom when in the wrong frame of mind; but in the end, we can depend on each other when it's really needed...and who doesn't want to know that in a relationship?
Gidget reference, and Francis to stick with the "Frankenbeetle" idea). My thanks to Sam for his patience with me and this project, as well as kudos to his mighty talents, which never cease to amaze me. Now, I just have to test out a theory - am I actually faster on my bike than in this VW? :O)
**Note: If like me you just can't get enough of the photos, there are a few more to be seen here of the project through various stages of progress.