Saturday, November 22, 2008

VW 1500s I have known, part 1

My first VW Type 3 was a 1963 1500 Ghia I found in the Recycler free classifieds, Southern California's print equivalent of Craigslist back in the pre-Internet days of 1987. The previous owner had it set up in road-racer style with Western wheels, a Hurst trigger shifter, a cheesy small-diameter foam-rim steering wheel, and, wonder of wonders, an early Abarth exhaust. It was barely roadworthy, but I happily drove it the 70 freeway miles home with my hand on the shifter to keep it from popping out of 4th. Love is blind that way. I took it to all the shows of the day, and it even managed to turn up in Hot VWs magazine's coverage of Type 3 Day in 1988 (in the photo at the top left, being swallowed by a notchback):

I drove it as it was for a few years while slowly reworking it mechanically. As I learned more about what I had bought I gradually started undoing the previous owner's modifications and returning it to stock condition. Unfortunately that eventually included trading away the Abarth exhaust too, but at the time it was the right thing to do. The car was my daily driver and the Abarth would scrape the ground every time I entered a driveway or parking lot. Ouch. I knew it was rare and that I was ruining it, so off it went to a good home in exchange for a few hundred dollars worth of much-needed stock parts. Here it is at a couple of Type 34 Registry events in the early '90s (you can see the road rash on the exhaust tips):

As the Ghia returned to stock form, though, it became more and more apparent that it was never going to be a good candidate for a real restoration. It turns out that underneath some creative bondo artistry there was hidden accident damage and an alarming amount of rust. At about that time my current '62 1500 Ghia came up for sale at a price I couldn't refuse. I drove the '63 daily for another four years and finally sold it, coincidentally ten years to the day after I bought it.

About five years later I heard my old Ghia was on eBay, and sure enough there it was, but it was no longer the car I remembered. A subsequent owner had completed about 90% of a retro-style makeover. Certainly not what I would have done, but I have to admit it did look great in the photos. The auction ended at an astronomical $12,000 if I remember correctly, selling to someone in New Orleans. I haven't heard anything about it since, so I may never know if it survived Katrina or not. Good night 0 122 700, wherever you are.

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