On holiday in Zante I now have time to tell you about my 1963 ragtop Beetle. This is always last in the queue to be worked on as customers cars must come first. I brought it in January 2014 from Brighton as a none runner with lots of parts missing and in a very poor state. Just what I needed a massive project but then in February 2014 another 1963 sudan came up for sale local to me. This one was a superb runner in very good condition, original with matching numbers and lots of history with only 3 owners. One problem the last owner had just gone down a ditch the week before and now the shell was a right off. I Now have 2 Beetles and as the ragtop had a cal look and had been heavily modifed in the 80's with all the dash welded up and smoothed out I decided to make an original car out of the two. At this point I started to think back to when I was about 8 years old and how I just fell in love with the film Herbie and said to myself one day i will have one of my own. Perfect by luck the 1963 ragtop is the correct year and model to make a very good Herbie copy. This also means i do not need to think how to finish the car as everything is there in black and white, Watch the films again, see how others have done it and get stuck in.
The strip down on both cars was quite simple, the worst part was getting to bolts where others had welded and plated over the top of them. I did not label anything as I have quite a good memory and there is so much information on Beetles I should be Ok for the rebuild (hope I dont regret this decision). All parts where put into storage just leaving out the chassis and shell. I have also sold all the parts I will definitely not need. This is the first time I have used two cars to make one good one. If you have the space I think it's a good idea as you get two of everything and get to choose all the best bits. I have also more or less made my money back on the one beetle just in parts. I now have one chassis with matching engine and gearbox numbers, ragtop shell with the dash from the sudan shell and most parts to finish the project. The one part missing off the ragtop was the roof itself and after months of seaching the internet realised these are hard to find. You can find them in the USA but postage is high but eventually I found one for a good price in Romainia. The complete roof clip was delivered to me via passenger coach, luckily in one piece and in good working order even the handle has good chrome on it. The roof vinyl and headlinning will have to be replaced but these can be brought new. I know I will still need to spend more money on things like US spec towel rail bumpers, wider steel wheels and tyres, Herbie decals, buckets of paint and probably lots more. Projects like this are rarely profitable but once finished are justifiable.
I have left the sudan engine, gearbox, front and rear suspension in one piece for the moment as it will be a while before I get to play with these. I know all this works Ok as I had the chance to drive it around the yard prior to the strip down. The only mechanical part I have saved from the ragtop is the bare adjustable front beam and plan to fit into the sudans standard beam as it has nearly new king pins, brakes, ect fitted. The ragtop came with a nice 1300cc twinport engine and I was tempted to use this but thought it was better to keep matching numbers so it's a standard 1200cc single port for this project. As we all all know once the bigger engine goes in the gearbox, brakes, suspension, drivetrain and the list goes on will have to be upgraded. As Jeremy Clarkson once said if you want a fast car then buy a fast car in the first place. No this Herbie will be a slow crusier.
The sudan chassis was the one to use, still straight and could have just been patched but in the end decided to change both floor pans to get rid of all the rot. Next job was to bolt the new heater channels to the chassis. The old heater channels with all the rust that comes with and around them have been cut out with the shell well braced. This is now where im at with the project and eager to get back on it. The next job will be to marry the body and chassis back together again and fit all panels for alignment before finishing the welding. Once this is done I will be able to strip back down again for the last time and get chassis and body ready for paint. Hope to be writing again soon with new pictures and updates
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