Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Return of BUG - Back to the Rear

Well, it's safe to say Bug's front is pretty much done.  What a relief!  And she's looking good too.
Time to get those front wheels repainted and back on so I can tackle those rear fenders...
"Extend" catalyzing primer, then Rustoleum primer, and finally aluminum enamel
Better, yes?  And it will really stand up to the elements.
So, Bug is back on her own two feet again.  She seems relieved.
Off to the back end.  
And guess what?  Only 1 fender bolt stripped out.  Both rear fenders are off!
It was certainly all those prayers to Nordhoff that did it.  Thank you all.

Lookin' weird without her hips
Both wheel wells are flawless and completely rust-free!   How the hell did that happen?  Somehow, Bug managed to lose ALL of her original fenders along the way, yet the body beneath is pristine.
   Most of the battering she received was purely cosmetic.  Still, it must have hurt.
The absence of road salt in the Pacific Northwest is really what has saved these old cars.  20 years ago, I worked with rusted out Midwest wrecks - including my faithful '73 Super Beetle.  And yet, here I am many years later taking apart a relatively rust-free, daily driver Beetle.  It's a strange set of circumstances. 
 Long live the Volks!

Oop gotta fix those charcoal canister connections

New paint is not far off.  But the next couple of days will be crazy so Bug will have to sit.  
It is a good feeling making such dramatic progress.  And soon enough she will fly the nest.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Return of BUG - Dust in the Wind

It has been a busy, productive, dusty, toxic few days.
Unfortunately, this is no time nor place for photography.  There is thick dust in the air, and my gloved hands are coated with globs of Bondo.  With so much work to be done, and dusty yellow fingerprints, I gave up taking photos to dive into the task at hand, MINDLESS as it is...
 Various deadly dusts
Slowly, oh-so-slowly, Bug is regaining her contours.  It is Bondo time.
Ready for an eternity of sandpaper
Bondo, like most automotive chemicals, is toxic as hell, with fumes that would melt a mule's sensibility.  Properly used and applied, it will last years, despite the ton of work required getting the stuff to resemble the curves of your car.  This is one of the downfalls of auto restoration: the toxic soup of very useful chemicals that one must endure and attempt to filter from lungs and skin with respirators and gloves.
Bondo hardens via a chemical reaction.  Mix the proper amount of hardener, and you have about 10 minutes to work before it solidifies from a sticky goop.  Working quickly with plastic spatulas, one must aggressively smear the stuff onto properly prepared metal, trying like hell to keep to the contours as close as possible.  Once hardened, it is a lot of work to remove material, but remove material you will certainly do, slowly, maddeningly slowly - first with files, then with sandpaper.  A palm sander will help, but can also remove the Bondo too quickly.  It is also important to not apply the Bondo too thickly.  Subsequent hardened layers of about 1/2 inch are best.  It is quite common to have to add more layers after sanding down high spots.  
Be prepared for countless hours of sanding, sanding, sannnnnnddding until your hands vibrate.  As you sand, feel the shape of the area with your fingers, they will tell you where the high spots are.  Really, this is something you just need to practice and experience for yourself.  But don't forget that respirator!  The fumes are very intense, and you sure don't want to be breathing that nasty dust.
 Finally!  Ready for primer.  Beetle curves are a challenge to replicate but it can be done.  

Peaceful Repose
Fixed that hood too.

Another fender all ready to bolt on.
The yin-yang of Volkwagen.  I wonder how it feels having your appendages stacked sideways?

And finally, it is primer time.

A little closer to 1972.  You can almost smell the Agnew...
Holes no more.
 One more fender done!  3/4 there.

A lovely portrait of the antenna opening thru the body.  There was rust lurking, good thing I checked.
Sanding Bug's top is easy going.  There is little damage and the paint is old and chalky.  I can't help feel like I'm grooming an elephant, geez what a mess.
1/2 way there (and will soon be done!)
Bug's face is pretty much done, what a relief to have that behind me.
 Painting the front wheels
And dealing with that tookus

It is a great feeling making progress!  Next, to get the wheels back on the front, and tackle that old yellow ass.  I hope you have been saying your prayers to Nordhoff for me, those rear fenders will surely come off like butter ("buttah").
Well?  HAVE you?????

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Return of BUG - Sanding, and a POR-Party

 Spring is springing like mad, and I have Bug to contend with, like an old elephant with a skin condition.
There are periods into the depth of a project when life turns into a series of mind numbing repetitive motions, like sanding, for example.  For days palm sanding is abuzz, dusting the air with a confection of old yellow paint.  It is nasty work, and it's a good thing the garage door is open.
Bug progresses, becoming less anemic with each pass of the sandpaper.
Ready for POR-15
After a few hours, the front end is done, ready for rustproofing, and eventually finishing bodywork.
What next?  Sanding fenders.  Using a palm sander is so much faster than doing it by hand, and gives great results.  Back in the old days, I did everything by hand, working in the alleyway.  What a way to work...
1996, something like that.  Some things never change.
A fender in the same predicament

After a tiring and dusty day, it is time to call it quits.  But, I am happy to see (yes, happy) that my can of POR-15 rustproofing has arrived.  

POR Party
Yes, it is quite a party when the POR-15 comes out.  Imagine a fumy drunken dance with a thin, tarlike substance, seeping into every crack and pore.  It is always a party, a sloppy horrible mess of one, but the stuff sure gets the job done.  It has saved more than it's share of Volkswagens, including my own.
It is nasty and somewhat expensive but it really does last a very long time, even exposed to the elements.
The key to POR-15 is proper application.  The surface must be rusty or very rough.  There mustn't be any loose material or dusty stuff.  For the chemical bond to take place, there must be some rust involved.
When used with fiberglass mat, POR-15 bonds with the matting and creates a solid rustproof surface that bonds with the surrounding steel.  I have saved quite a few rusted out battery trays using this method, it is quite permanent.
 Cut the mat to shape with scissors, and the POR-15 will "glue" it in place.
A few thin layers of matting cut to shape can be added during the POR Party for a stronger surface.
POR-15 does have its drawbacks.  It is pretty hard to get off, so make damn sure you want it where you paint it.  It does not like to be painted over once it's dry - imagine trying to get paint to stick to your bathroom ceramic sink.  The finished coating is very hard and smooth and extremely durable, resisting even rock chips, but paint will flake off.  It is very well suited for these undercover areas of your car.
It is advised to use 2 coats of POR-15, applied when the first is tacky.
 Rust no more, forever

No more rust, no more holes
There is a clever workaround for topcoating paint over POR-15.  However, the paint must be GLOSS; flat primers will cause alligator skin crackling of the paint.
Here's the trick: when the final coat of POR is just slightly tacky to the touch, apply your favorite color of rattlecan spray paint directly onto the POR-15 surface.  It will bond forever ("forever") with your paint.

If you plan to primer over POR-15 for later painting, here is what you do:
Wait for the POR to dry slightly tacky.  Spray your primer as a fine dusting over the surface.  You do not want the paint to go on thick or it will crackle.  When the dusting and POR are dry and fused with each other, you can then primer completely.
  After the POR-Party and subsequent primer dusting
Maybe it was the fumes, or madness, or senility, but after all that hard work, Bug turned into a Christine-like alligator car and tried to bite my head off.  Well thanks a lot, but she couldn't do a damn thing on jack stands so I just stood and laughed.
 The END?!?!?!??!
No, I still have a ton of work to do.  But I need a couple days off to sit in the rain in the woods, thank God for the Cascades or I really would go nuts.

"Gone Fishin' Be Back Monday"

Maybe Elves will finish Bug for me when I'm gone.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Return of Bug - The Old Schnozola

My goodness, Super Beetles have a hell of a nose.  Another product of the era, and they sure do take a beating over the years.  Let's try to set things straight again.  I think Bug would like that.

1/2 way done
Due to old drips, rock chips, rust and creases, you have to go down pretty deep into the old surface.
Luckily a palm sander with 150 grit paper works wonders, but makes a lot of dust.
Always wear a respirator!
Almost ready for paint
The herd looks on

 And of course I notice the "teeth" have ugly layers of old paint.  Patient work with Old Scrapey gets it down to bare metal.  1/2 way done...can you even tell?
I was also able to hammer the hood dents pretty darn close to their original shape, and grind away more crap from the front apron.  It is certainly getting there.
More weird patterns, I feel like they're trying to tell me something, like tea leaves...

Work, though slow, repetitive, and monotonous is beginning to bear fruits.  Is anyone even reading this anymore?  Oh man it's just me on the shop floor, grinding into eternity.
Tomorrow: more grinding.  And SANDING!