When I found this car, he looked a sad thing that had great potential. Gunter had been a daily driver to the previous owner, who'd sold it to the body shop guy from whom I'd bought it. Originally, the owner had wanted him to paint psychedelic "70's Hippie" designs on the car, but opted instead to sell it to him. The car was listed as a "drivable project" when I found it in "The Samba" for sale. Not many cars in Michigan of this type that I could afford. This one was only $1,500, so I was intrigued.
It was raining when I drove the hour-and-fifteen-minute schlep out to Michigan's "Thumb" area to view the Volkswagen in question. I brought my other half to balance me out, for I was afraid that I might fall for the car too easily, and I needed a skeptic with me. If my sweetie, not necessarily a VW fan by far, could be impressed by the car, then I knew that I might have something!
The body shop guy drove the VW into his shop so that I could check the car out at me leisure, indoors, where it was dry. I looked the car all over, took my time, ran the engine, poked around every where, and asked a million questions about the car's history. One peculiarity that had struck me was the installation of a volt-ohm-meter mounted to the top of the generator.
I reefed on the wheels, pulled, pushed and turned on the steering wheel, climbed under the chassis and poked under the back seat. Though I noted a hole in the battery tray and also the driver's side rear pan (so far very normal stuff), I was not yet deterred. Not for $1,500 I wasn't, any hoo.
Finally, I did the John Muir "Zen" thing... I just scrunched my butt in the driver's seat, feeling the car out to see if we could "be friends". I deeply inhaled the aroma that is unique to old German cars and in particular to old Volkswagens. I felt the rough, dry-rotted leather covering on the steering wheel, ran my fingers across the dusty padded dash, fiddled with the radio knobs (it didn't work, quel grand surprise!) and felt the cool interior metal exposed everywhere inside the cabin.
The sun visors and the rear view mirror were filthy beyond belief. I could clean them. The head liner was a little worn, had a couple of tears and was also some what discolored. I could replace that. Beyond the little things, the engine was strong, the clutch in good condition. The car was a little loud, I noted, even for an air-cooler. Looking I noticed a fisher starting along the pinch weld of the muffler. Replaceable, plus it really wasn't that loud. Just a little. All relatively minor stuff. The suspension was in good shape, the strut towers seemed unmolested and the car as a whole sat up very well on an even keel. As I sat, and I sat, and I sat in that little car, I began to feel the real and attainable potential it had. We could be friends after all, I thought... provided I get a "yes" vote from the other half as well.
The sad, but still well intact, little orange car got the, surprisingly, enthusiastic thumbs up from the other half. A week later, I rode out (this time with my mom, because she too loves these old things) to purchase the car. While the body shop guy made double sure for me that the tires were pumped, I had oil, etc, his son drove us to their house, near by, in his 1980-something Citroen 2CV. The day was nicer than the previous time I'd been over, so we had the windows flapped down and the rag top sun roof rolled back! Mom had a blast driving in that little French cousin to the Beetle, rocking and rolling on the grooved dirt and mud roads of this rural location. At his house, the kid showed us his Beetle, a 1974 Super that had been re-worked to like new! He then showed us some other cars in his family's collection before trundling us back to the shop in the 2CV. I had never ridden in a Citroen, so it was a real treat! This, believe it or not, was largely the kid's daily driver around his own neck of the woods, dispite the '74 Super and a New Beetle as well!
In the week before purchasing the car, I had come up with, what I felt, was a good, solid, German name for the little 1302..."Gunter".
Gunter was sitting in a low field at the bottom of a hill behind a line of some other "project" cars of the guy's, including an old Porsche 944. The guys son, also a bug nut like myself, drove the little car up out of the gully to the hill where we all waited for it. I swore, as the thing puttered up obediently, I detected a bit of relief and happiness on its otherwise tired, worn "face". Despite appearances, Gunter seemed ready to go back into regular service, as he'd been so long used to. He would not, after all, wind up fodder for a scrap machine, nor be cut up into parts for other "more deserving" machines. He was again going to belong to someone, and to be driven!
Since then, Gunter has under-gone several repairs and improvements. Though he's no show car, he has proved to be a solid, stalwart little daily driver, faithful to the last. The only things that have held him back have been the very normal things that time and use will wear on any car. Also, who is to know what indignities the little orange car has undergone within the past 30-plus years?
1. New weather seals around the doors, the inside of the lip of the trunk and beneath the rear deck lid. Also new rubber seals around whole body (tail lenses, license plate light, front hood handle, deck lid latch etc).
2. Replaced driver's side door handle when original handle was broken, this past winter.
3. Installed wire cover under hood, behind dash.
4. Painted side view mirror silver as temporary aesthetic fix until will replace with a good one. Had been rusted horribly.
5. New steel in rear pans.
6. Some re-done wiring in harness.
7. Installed intact glove box liner, complete with attached remote trunk release cable (previously, cable had been fed through hole where gas flap handle is supposed to be).
8. Original "Sapphire XI" radio works (AM).
9. New tires.
10. New hub caps
11. Sanded, primed and painted only surviving original hub cap that was not utterly pitted and dented. Painted similar orange as car and mounted to spare tire.
12. Did first oil change on my own. Noticed that mechanic had been doing it wrong all of this time. As a result, I fixed horrible oil leak Gunter had suffered from (note pic of clean underside of engine, two weeks after oil change by Yours Truly).
13. Did valves on my own. Need three hands, but not very hard.
14. Replaced plugs.
15. Fixed loose door panel.
16. Replaced inner and outer wheel bearings for front, right side wheel.
17. Bled and adjusted breaks on all four corners on my own.
18. Made hood handle guard out of mylar auto exterior chrome trim to cover up mistake made when had to cut off original hood handle to get into trunk.
19. Replaced hood handle.
20. Replaced non-retractable, "lobster claw" seat belts with retractable, more "modern" type VW Beetle seat belts.
Lots to do yet, but I think Gunter is well on the way!