Volkswagen Beetle: Our Shed

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Reviving the Beetle Reviving the Beetle Reviving the Beetle
Reviving the Beetle Reviving the Beetle Reviving the Beetle
Reviving the Beetle Reviving the Beetle Reviving the Beetle
Reviving the Beetle Reviving the Beetle Reviving the Beetle
Reviving the Beetle Reviving the Beetle Reviving the Beetle

Our shed: Ponch gives his much-loved (and sometimes neglected!) Beetle some TLC.

Volkswagen Beetle: Our Shed
Our cars: Reviving the Beetle


Volkswagen Beetle

Looking at the shots of my dearly beloved Beetle - named 'Helmet' because he's an underdog and a fighter, and because not every car's a woman - I just want to give him a cuddle. For all his visual flaws (and there are many), I love my Beetle with a passion. Like you would a homely child. Or an ugly dog. It brings out the protective instinct in you.

Besides the '63-model narrow-beak bootlid pinched from an ex-girlfriend's cactus 1200 (which, not surprisingly, was a white car), and new Vic' plates, Helmet has looked the same for 13 years. But what his rather shabby exterior conceals is a very low-mile car (59,259 miles at the time of writing) with an incredibly strong heart.

It had been two years and about 1500 miles since my Beetle was last serviced - in the vast shed rented by good mate Glenn Torrens, up near Newcastle. The Volksy had arrived at GT's pad on a flat-bed from Gosford and had its brakes fail just as it was driving off the truck. Several months of elbow grease later, my Beetle emerged with a new brake master cylinder, new wheel cylinders, new lines, new drum shoes, a full engine service with new plugs, fuel lines and clamps, and the rectification of something that had caused so much trouble over the years - a bad earth!

Given the Beetle was overdue for a service, I'd tried not to drive it much for the last six months. But a long-overdue break for yours truly presented a chance to head over to fellow VW-tragic Dave Morley's 'Melbourne Bloke Centre' (it's what he calls his workshop), complete with hoist and tools. And I was dead-set keen to do (some of) the work myself!

Morley jumped in first and drained the oil, which was plentiful and still in pretty good nick. Up on the hoist, popping off the flat-four's weathered rocker covers revealed no major surprises. The heads were beautiful and clean, with zero sludge or gunk, but the rocket-cover gaskets had been silasticked in place by the last VW specialist that serviced the car - very naughty.

The VW 1300 owner's manual said 0.004" valve clearance, but we chose to follow the John Muir book How To Keep Your Volkswagen Alive: A Manual of Step-by-Step Procedures for the Compleat Idiot and its 0.006" recommendation. Of the eight valves, only five needed adjustment, and even then, not by a whole lot. And I did most of it myself, even though there's no photo evidence! Then we pumped some lube into the front grease nipples and done-ski - one freshly serviced Volksy.

We'd intended to change the fan belt but it was tight and pretty much new anyway. More concerning, though, were the shocks - original items front and back - which, as Morley put it, "seem to have more oil on the outside than the inside". An upcoming suspension feature - working title: 'How to Make Your Old Shitter Corner' - will cover that department. But it's the before-and-after cornering shots I'm worried about. What if Helmet goes tits-up?

Job done, I cranked the engine over and you could instantly hear the difference - smoother, but with a little more bass. I let Morley have a drive and he reckoned it felt as strong as his 1600 Superbug L … until he shoved a 2.6-litre Type 4 donk into it, but more about that another time.

My blast home down the motorway was the real test though. Previously, Helmet had purred up to about 63mph before easing off, but now he could manage a 70mph cruise with alarming ease. Alarming for other motorists, that is. No-one expects to be overtaken by a tri-colour, air-cooled Volkswagen with rust rash.


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