When we hear the term "Body off" restoration we think of a restoration job that has gone to the max. We also think $$$$. On most cars this is a project best left to the pros with restoration shops with lots of equipment. Fortunately for us VW enthusiast a beetle body can be removed in an afternoon with pretty basic equipment. The standard beetle body is bolted to the floor pan along each side with 9 13mm (head) bolts and two 17mm at the front.
Inside the car there are 4 more 13mm bolts under the backseat and sometime 2 more 17mm just behind these in the corners. I always remove all the seats first.
All this is the same on a super beetle since they are identical from the windshield back. On the standard beetle (we will come back to the super later) there are 2 more 17mm bolts under the gas tank, which is easily removed.
Unplug the stop light switch and remove the line from the brake fluid reservoir. Now remove the left front hubcap and remove the clip from the end of the speedo cable and pull it out the rear of the spindle. Let it hang.
I always pull the motor but if you want to leave it with the chassis you can disconnect the wiring. The cables are OK. You will have to remove the wires from the starter. You can leave the battery cable. There may be a couple of easily disconnected heater vent cables at the rear of the tunnel on the later bugs but that is about it on the standard. Four guys in pretty good shape can lift the body off. Here is a way one guy can do it alone. We have a couple of 8' wide saw horses we set the body on.
With the body lose you can jack up the front of the car from under the chassis and then set the saw horse under the bumper and bolt it with a safety chain. (We wiggled one off once so we always use them) Now let the chassis down and do the same in the rear. Now you can roll the chassis out from under if you like. (You may need to remove the gear shifter to clear the sawhorse.) On the super beetle there are 2 13mm bolts under some plugs in the bottom of the spare tire well. There is also a plug there covering a 15mm bolt in the steering damper that needs to be removed.
Now look under the front of the car and you will see a 17mm bolt on each side just behind the anti sway bar. Just loosen these a little for now.
We will let the body pivot on these as we lift the rear up first. Now unbolt the tie rod ends on both side and separate them either with a tool for this or a pickle fork if you are not worried about ruining the boot.
Remove the clip that holds the brake line to the body (you can leave the line connected). Disconnect the speedo cable. Now jack up the rear of the car and set it on the horses. Set the rear of the chassis back and move the jack to the front. Disconnect the fuel line and stop it up. Unplug the stop light switches and unplug the brake reservoir lines from the master cylinder. Now jack up the front of the car and set the body on the sawhorse and secure the safety chains.
Now remove the 3 14mm nuts on each side that hold the strut assembly to the body. Don't remove the nut from the middle of the strut.
With the jack still under the chassis remove the two 17mm bolts we loosened earlier at the front of the chassis. Lower the chassis. You will notice that the front wheels have folded under and are now very wobbly. You will have to pull the chassis out from under the body with it on the jack. Note* I'd suggest that anyone with a louvered front skirt check for a/c connections before lifting the body, they're pretty well hidden.
Once out you can fabricate 3 pieces of angle iron to support the struts. Run two back to the front bolt of the shifter and one between the struts. Another piece bolted to the spindles will keep the wheels going the same direction so you can easily push the chassis where you want it.
That's all there is to it so don't let the sound of "body off" intimidate you. Of course watching the video (Vol.6) will make even clearer. To let you know how easy this gets after you have done it a few times. As a demonstration at The Real Source 2001 Funfeast my two sons Chad and Wade pulled the motor and the body from a 62 bug in less than 30 minutes. You can do it! You can see this done in detail in our Vol.6 Floorpan repair video available from Bug Me Video.