Saturday, September 5, 2009
VW 1500s I have known, part 3
In the early 1990s, after a few years of owning my first 1500 Ghia, I was becoming increasingly aware of that car's shortcomings. At the same time I began developing an interest in the earliest 1500 Ghias — the 1962 models, with their unique badging, cat-eye mirrors and other one-year-only quirks. It was around then that an early Ghia from Santa Barbara, California began showing up at Type 34 Registry events. It was the first '62 that many Registry members had seen up close, and it provided a crash course in early 1500 Ghia for us all.
Here's a photo from a Registry cruise along the Southern California coast in 1990. That's me standing next my '63 looking back at this '62. Little did I know that I was actually looking into the future.
In 1994 the owner of the car decided it was time to sell, so I thought it would be worth taking a closer look. The car was a little rough around the edges and had apparently never been cleaned inside or out in the time she had it, but it had all the hard-to-find early parts. It had been in the U.S. since nearly new and in Santa Barbara since at least the mid-1970s. Sometime in the '70s a previous owner had unfortunately treated the car to the cheapest and ugliest Tijuana upholstery job ever, and had painted the exterior pale yellow but left the interior metal the original pacific blue. Funky, to say the least.
It had some rust in the usual spots and had been hit hard just behind the right door at one point. The repair was presentable but would have to be redone properly. The car looked straight, though, and seemed fundamentally solid and true in a way that my '63 didn't. The front brakes had been replaced with later disks — a common solution to the scarcity of early brake parts — but luckily the owner had kept all the original parts. It had its original engine and transmission and it ran and drove well, and she had kept detailed service records in the 13 years she owned it. I made an offer that was probably a little too high but would be considered a steal today, and she accepted it. A week later I caught a ride up to Santa Barbara with a friend and drove the Ghia home solo without incident. It felt very solid and comfortable at 75 m.p.h. on the freeway.
Amazing the difference some minor repair and detailing can make.
I kept the car in storage in San Diego for a few years and then brought it up to Los Angeles in 1997 after we bought our house. It got occasional use in the late '90s, and it became my daily driver from 1999-2000 while I restored our Squareback, until the engine died. It then sat until 2006, when I decided to get started on the restoration with an engine teardown. The rest is documented in this blog.
Some shots from when it was briefly back on the road in 2007:
In the 15 years that I've owned the Ghia I've collected almost all the parts I'll need to restore it. All it really needs at this point is time and money. My plan is to get it mechanically sound and roadworthy again and then to shop around for body and paint. Plans are for a stock restoration with a few vintage performance-oriented accessories — nothing that couldn't have been installed by the original owner within a few years of when the car was built. The car's original pacific blue color isn't for me, so it will be either black or anthracite (monochrome, not two-tone) with a red cloth interior.
No forecast yet of when the car will be finished. For me it's more about the journey than the destination, so I'm not in any hurry.