1976 VW Beetle Cabrio: our shed
When it comes to classic cars, Glenn Torrens reckons it's better to wear out than rust away
1976 VW Beetle Cabrio
Long-term readers may recall my concern with damp carpets in my 1976 VW Beetle Karmann Cabriolet. After last year’s soggy summer, I’d lifted the carpets to reveal more than a smudge of surface rust on the Beetle’s floor pan. In fact, the more I looked, the more I found, with the creeping corrosion cloaked by the factory-applied anti-drumming material trapping and hiding moisture.
After nine years’ regular use, my classic Karmann showed a growing number of dents and blemishes over its bright-red body and a few embarrassing tears in the upholstery, too. All in all, it was time for a cosmetic restoration.
I decided that by working on the car over winter weekends, I could make the car look beautiful again for summer.
Yeah, suuure! Last year’s winter came and went, as did spring, and before I knew it, I was hearing Christmas carols in the shops. My self-imposed deadline to have the Karmann looking its best again was getting painfully close. D’Oh! I decided that by working diligently, I could have the Beetle painted and trimmed within four weeks. Charged with enthusiasm, I stripped the Beetle to a rolling shell over several evenings to repair the floors and prep the body for fresh paint by Christmas.
I began the task thinking the driver’s side floor under the battery – a common rust spot on a Beetle – showed the worst of the rust. However, scraping away the layer of tar-board over the whole floorpan revealed the passenger floor to be worse than the driver’s side under-battery area. What looked to be a few hours’ work soon blew out to a whole weekend of cutting, grinding and welding.
Using sections cut from a chassis repair panel, I replaced a large chunk of my Beetle’s passenger side floor and repaired the smaller hole on the driver’s side. There were also a few pinholes elsewhere that were filled with a blast from my welder. Naturally, I was keen to prevent any rust re-appearing so I decided to not replace the factory-laid bitumen anti-drum material.
But what about paint? I’d heard good things about KBS Coatings’ Australian-made products so after I’d completed the welding and grinding work on the floor I bought one of KBS’s boxed Chassis Coater kits (around $100) and over a few evenings, followed KBS’s instructions to protect the Beetle’s freshly-fixed floors.
The KBS product is applied in three steps. First, AquaKlean is scrubbed onto the steel (by now my Beetle’s floor was a mosaic of original, painted and new metal) to clean and degrease. After allowing it to dry overnight, I applied the RustBlast metal conditioner. The final step was to hand paint the satin-black Rust Seal top-coat. After drying, the result is an attractive finish akin to the Beetle’s original look but with far more durability built in.
Hopefully that should be the end of any rust concerns with this classic Karmann!
Sign up to our free weekly newsletter for more unique car reviews and features plus see the latest unique and classic cars for sale.