Morley's lockdown Volkswagen Beetle - Our Shed

By: Dave Morley

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Morley is back! And showing off his lockdown Beetle

Man, it’s good to be back. Thanks to everybody who offered their support when my workshop column took a dive a few months ago, mainly as a result of Covid 19 sticking a wooden stake through the heart of the publishing industry.

Unique Cars is the magazine I’m probably most fond of in the whole world and it was the one that I found most difficult to get over when I got THAT phone call one Thursday afternoon just after the first wave hit Victoria. Since then, of course, I’ve been – like a lot of folks – locked down at home; a house that, according to the dimwits who caused the second wave (Yeah, I’m talking to you, government hot-shots) had better be burning down before I left if for any reason short of saving an entire orphanage from a tsunami. Even then, the orphanage had better be within five kliks of me.


Anyway, the point is, I’m baaaaack. And it feels great. Now, like a lot of folks, I did manage to get around to a few home projects while locked-down and deprived of any actual bill-paying work. I’d hate to be sitting here now, regretting not building that car-port or rebuilding that back wall so the house now has four walls again (true!). Trouble was, as the lock-down wore on, restrictions got tighter, the fines started flying thick and fast and the retail sector closed up and went home. Which meant you couldn’t really buy the stuff you needed for those inevitable Covid projects.

| Read next: Glenn Torrens' superbug Beetle project

Oh sure, you could visit a timber yard if you were a tradie, but if not, it was click and collect. And the big hardware chains were quoting a two-day wait time for your order to be processed. That’s a hell of a long time to stand holding up a corner of a house while the people at Home Wrecker bag up your order and dump it in a corner of the car-park for you to collect. And even that wasn’t much good to me, because Struggle Street is not within five kays of a big hardware shop. And car parts? Same deal, although at least some of them were doing quick turnarounds. Then again, unless you knew the exact bit you needed, you were screwed, because wandering in and browsing for something that looked like it would do the job was a no-no. And online catalogues? Don’t make me larf.


So I channelled my grandmother. Yep, till the day she died (not, as you may expect in a bar-room brawl against a dozen murderous Filipino wharfies), Nan had a drawer in her kitchen full of neatly folded used brown paper bags, paper-clips, rubber-bands and thumb-tacks. Not that she ever used them, but Nan had lived through the war and never forgot how miserable life could be without these little necessities. By about week four of lock-down, I was starting to feel the same pain.

One of the tasks I set myself was to get my VW Beetle back on its wheels and back on the road. Torrens had already helped me fit the engine and get it running, but it still needed plenty of graft to prevent the roadworthy inspector splitting his sides and bleeding-out on the workshop floor. One of those jobs included getting the heating to work which, in an air-cooled Beetle is like chasing rainbows. But, finally, I had all the flaps unseized and the plumbing in place. All I needed was to attach the actuating cable to the flap and behold. Naturally, the little lock-screw fitting that locks to the cable and physically pulls the flap open was AWOL.


Ordinarily, I’d have rocked down to my nearest air-coolie shop (there’s a very good one out my way) and bought the bit. But, of course, they were shut for Covid and besides, they weren’t within five kliks of me anyway. Time to get creative.

Luckily for me, the lock-screw gizmo for the other side of the heater-box was there, so at least I knew what I had to copy. I found a piece of circular bar, cut the right length, drilled it radially for the cable to pass through and then axially for the lock-screw to insert. Drag out the tap-and-die set (whaddayamean you don’t have one?) tap a thread for the screw and voila; one cable-lock (that’s what I’m calling it anyway). And here’s a picture. I’m not saying it’s as pretty as the VW one, but it does just as good a job.


Beyond anything else, it gave me a little buzz to think that I’d stuck it to Covid. And believe me, at that point in time, even the smallest buzz was welcome. It also spurred me on to greater things.

One of the other glitches my RWC inspector spotted was that the wee electric motor for the windscreen washers, while working as it should, wasn’t secured. And I don’t mean not secured properly; I mean not secured. To anything. Now, a lot of blokes would have gone for the zip-tie option which would have worked, but this car is actually a bit too nice for that level of butchery. Ordinarily, that would have meant buying a horseshoe-shaped curtain bracket or some-such that would snug down on the motor and screw to the inner-guard. But again, Covid had closed all the curtain-bracket shops near me.


The solution was to raid the scrap-metal bin and find a length of mild steel the right width, locate a piece of pipe the same diameter as the motor to use as a form to bend the steel to the right shape, bend the ends and drill holes and bingo, one washer-motor bracket. Hell, I even found a length of rubber to use as a gasket to stop the motor rattling in its new home. And then, of course, I did the mechanic’s victory dance one more time.

So, yeah, if nothing else, Covid has made me a bit more resourceful and imaginative at problem solving. And the next thing I’m going to do is visit a swap meet (when we’re allowed to) and spend a couple of hungee on a big selection of washers, cable-ties, battery terminals, grinding discs, split-pins, welsh-plugs and all the other shit I ran out of or couldn’t get during three months of lock-down. Might even throw in some rubber-bands and brown paper bags. For Nan, y’know.


From Unique Cars #447, December 2020


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