Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Return of BUG - Done!

Well, close enough anyway.  A vintage VW is never really finished...

But, like everything else: nothing comes easy, and the devil is in the dee-tails.  There were a few loose ends that needed tidying up before Bug was a real car again.
For example: the windshield.
   Bug had suffered the indignity of a cracked and clouded windshield for years, and it was time to clear her vision.
 Just a blur most of the time, the illustrious Gypsie (Ray) stops by to lend a much needed hand
A Chinese windshield, an American rubber seal, on a German car.  Yet somehow it fits, sometimes.
Installed!  It can be tricky getting the seal to do what you want, but with patience and a little help it can be done.  And it does look quite a bit better.  How nice that the wipers work again too.
And then:
 A new hood seal
 New door seals
 And new rear defroster vents.  That old plastic can get as brittle as powder after the first 40 years.
 Running out of bits to install, it is time to make sure Bug is still running right.  She has sat for a good 4 months, and Volkwagens get cranky if they don't get driven.  They really do, I'm not just being quaint.
When I parked her, Bug was fully dialed in and running like a top.  I didn't worry too much.
Meanwhile, a few hours later, Bug has her timing reset, a starter connection fixed, and the carburetor re-adjusted.  What the hell, these were all fine just a few months before.  I'm tellin ya they really do get cranky.

But eventually
Bug is running like a top again.  We zip around the neighborhood and get a tankful of new gas.
Check out that fancy accessory rain gutter!  Comes in handy in the flooded Northwest.

Of course this means Bug needs her first real bath after the rebirth.  It is as classic a custom as roller derby and Coke.

I enlist cute help to wash the old webs and crumbs already forming on Bug's new shine.  Spiders never sleep either, just like rust.

Thank you, cutie!

Bug is back!

And what an experience this has been, it really has shown me that a functional restoration can be completed within a reasonable amount of time, assuming one has a ton of help and buckets of tenacity.  There are so many unknowns into the depths of a project like this, but one must plow on.  "Perseverance Furthers" reminds old John Muir from those old greasy pages.  There is no telling what the future holds for this pretty yellow gal, but I sure hope it's as sunny as her glowing face.  "May the rest of your days be collision free!", is all I can ask.
Bug is now for sale, and it's now time to move on to other things.  
Thank you for reading!  Please contact me if you'd like to give faithful Bug a good home.

Until then:
Happy trails!  

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Return of BUG - Paint!

It has been a busy, messy, productive, and insanely frustrating few weeks.  Bug is almost done!  And I'm now 1/2 crazy.

Paint, you see, is the goal all along.  All of that meticulous sanding, bodywork, rust prep - it is all just a base for that shiny Texas Yellow.  And each step has to be absolutely perfect, or it's time to start all over.

In my years, I have sanded enough rust to be King (of rust).  I have pounded bodywork and finished body filler, rebuilt engines and changed windows.  But, aside from spray can touchups I have never painted an entire car.  Always willing to try something new, and especially if I can learn something, I ask myself: the eternal five words:
"How hard can it be?"

First Bug needs a bath to get rid of all that old dusty crap.  And what a day for a bath, under the first hot blue skies of the year.  Oregon's liquid sunshine is over-rated...
Bug enjoying the outdoors for the first time in months

Friends Kirk and Don have loaned me a compressor and a very good quality German paint gun.  After hanging new light fixtures and wrapping the walls and ceiling with thin plastic dropcloths, I am anxious to get to work.  It is weird and womb-like in there, and the plastic moves about like rustling ghosts under the slightest breeze.  I clean the shop spotlessly, for the first time since 1947 apparently.  New paint from the extremely helpful guys at Industrial Finishes sits in its new box, along with hardener and reducer.  It is time to mask like a madman, and get to work making Bug shine again.  Oh man.

The fumes.  I'm not sure what chemical reaction takes place when you mix this toxic cocktail, but I have never experienced such vapors.  Even with a high quality respirator, I can still sense this chemical cloud hanging heavy in the air.  But at this point I am (or should be) committed...

Painting with a spray gun is very different than any other painting process, and especially with automotive paint.  I quickly learn that this toxic soup is very thin, and wants desperately to drip and run.  It must be applied in very thin coats left to dry for a good long while before the next.  All of the variables must be EXACT - air pressure, distance from the surface, drying time, or the paint won't come out right.  
I quickly find out that this is a lot harder than it looks, especially since the cold rain has returned, and I must seal up the garage like a cocoon, enveloping the place in a thin cloud of Texas Yellow death that lingers in the air.  But I stick to my guns, and after the air clears Bug is pretty and shiny again.

There are a few drips and runs, but otherwise the paint is acceptable.  I panicked a bit, until I discovered the joys of wet sanding - where blemishes can be removed by very fine sandpaper and water.  It is tedious, but it gives surprisingly good results.  Afterwards, the luster of the paint can be brought back with a liquid rubbing compound.

A few days later, the paint is looking pretty good.  But I see that I must repaint the passenger side, so I mask all over again, and dive back into the chemical air.  And after a few days of drying, and a little more wet sanding, Bug is truly done.  It is impossible being a perfectionist!  And I tip my hat to the real automotive painters out there, it is a difficult skill to master.  I don't think I'd attempt this again without a proper paint shop with better lighting and adequate ventilation.  

License light and decklid script installed, fenders lying about like appendages

With the paint now done, it is time for the (finally) clean job of assembly!  As each part is attached to her sparkling carcass, Bug is ever-closer to completion, maybe in this lifetime if I'm lucky...but it sure is nice to attach parts shiny in their newness into clean threads with new fasteners.  Almost soothing.

It is now time to install the fenders, and avoid scratching that shiny new paint.  Luckily patient Stephan stops by to lend a hand.  It's a good thing too, as this would be a difficult task to do by yourself.  It is also a good thing that I re-tapped all the mounting threads ahead of time - this made the job a hell of a lot easier.

new fender beading

Before you know it, Bug has all four of her fenders installed, and looking pretty good too.

A rare photo of me

cute kid and shiny Bug

It is interesting to see a project ebb and flow, where a dusty tabletop of accessories await cleaning and installation.  Before you know it, the table is empty and all the parts have been installed.  It's a weird feeling looking at that empty table afterwards, after taking up so much space for months.  But all the hard work is already done.

 This original (1972!) front turn signal seal is still good after a cleaning.  Just imagine.

The rear gets new seals, but the original lenses are still perfect.  What a world...

Original anodized aluminum "chrome" trim is still in excellent condition, but a few dents need to get hammered out.  It is very soft and fragile material so careful care must be used.

 before the hood trim

 Little white plastic clips retain the trim.  They fit into small holes in the body.

Now it's time to install Bug's eyes.  Labeling all the wiring ahead of time makes assembly so much easier. 
It's such a delight when all the lights work again.
Almost a Volkswagen again

The tail lights are installed just as easily, and happily they work too.

After a bit of a fight with alignment, the new running boards are installed.  They fit pretty well, but took some bending to match the unique contours of this particular car.  No two are identical, making finish assembly somewhat of a crude task.  

Then it becomes time to install the bumpers.  The original German VW bumpers are still in great shape, so after cleaning and restoration they are ready for assembly.  

Help arrives again from the illustrious Gypsie

 Thanks to this glowing Buddha full of beer
and this ancient drill
we get the job done
thanks Gypsie!  I couldn't have done it without you.

With a similar fight, but solo this time, Bug's rear bumper is installed too.  What is this, a car again?!?!!

Bug sure has come a long way.

It is a good feeling knowing that another one has survived.  It's really not about the car itself - it's more important to remind our culture of simple quality, as our society is flooded with flimsy junk.  The air cooled Volkswagen remains strong, durable, and very useful, even 40 years later.  That pretty much says it all.