Sunday, September 20, 2009

Coachbuilts at the 2009 Treffen

Better late than never, here are some of the coachbuilts at the 2nd International Southern California Vintage VW Treffen last Sunday at the Phoenix Club in Anaheim, California. Some nice coachbuilt VWs and Porsches turned out, among them Jesse James' newly restored '50 convertible, a nice unrestored '52 Porsche convertible, a pair of '57 Rometsch Beeskows, and a '58 Binz double cab.

One of the highlights of the day was caravaning behind Ivan Pang's nice unrestored '53 sedan. Great to see such a well-preserved piece of history holding its own on the Los Angeles freeways.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

New Type 3 floor pans

After much discussion and debate it looks like Gerson of Klassic Fab is getting started on making dies for reproduction Type 3 floor pans. They should be available for purchase by the beginning of next year—$500 + shipping for a pair of complete pan halves. This is great news for Type 3 restorers. Until now our options have been to track down a donor pan or pan sections that are hopefully less rusty than what we already have, to adapt sections of Type 1 Karmann-Ghia pan sheet metal, or to use pan repair stampings of somewhat questionable quality that are sporadically available. Labor-intensive and/or costly endeavors all.

Gerson's shop hand-fabricated the pan half pictured above for his own notchback project.

Klassic Fab has become famous for producing high-quality sheet metal stampings for VW Buses. The quality and accuracy of their products are regarded as second to none. I'll be buying a set of these pan halves for the Ghia as soon as they're ready. If we're lucky these will be the first of many Type 3 stampings to come from Klassic Fab.

Read the Samba forums discussion of reproduction Type 3 pans here, and Greg Skinner's impassioned Type 3 Floor Pan Manifesto here.

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.