Like most British youth growing up in the 70s my earliest driving experiences were with Minis. But I always had my eye on the 1303 so that when I had the chance I jumped on it and was the owner of a red 1303, GNP 186N in the early eighties. That car stayed with me for years being raced around the UK and even went to Portugal and back. In 1988 I packed my bags and left home to join the Royal Hong Kong Police Force and within 4 years had my his and hers Beetles, a 1302LS and a 1303S in blue and red respectively. If only I had kept them as they were both one owner pristine cars! In the intervening years I kept my air cooled faith keeping a late Type 3 Notchback as my weekend run about. Fast forward to 2017 when I decided to buy a 1303 S Big in Moss Green, the car I had always wanted back in 70s. After lots of late night trawling on eBay I bought my late 1973 1303 S Big with Lemmerz wheels and bamboo upholstery. I knew it needed a good revamp so I entrusted it to Spikes Vintage Restorations and Marco Supplies. They were given a free hand to do whatever they needed to make this car better than new. So in early 2018 the work started and the whole body was stripped from top to bottom, pan separated and media blasted. It was then the subject of considerable metal work from the inner wings to the bonnet which resembled a Swiss cheese in places. Two NOS front wings were sourced to replace the rusted originals and the front apron valance was also replaced with the vented style to force air in to the newly added air conditioning ancillaries.
Thereafter the following long list was needed:
Trim and align the n/s/f bumper mount fit front wing, align, check, fit front panel. Panel beat all edges of the spare wheel well to a better standard than the previous repair pull the front flanges forward the correct amount to optimize the fit gap from spare wheel well and back side of front panel. Seam-weld in the bumper mount on the outside and then re bend the bumper mount strengthener to the correct angle for welding to the chassis section underneath. Re-curve the front of the panel to allow the front panel to follow the curvature of the front wing. Trim the flanges of the front panel to epitomes the fit. Clean up and reshape all the flanges for the o/s/f ¼ panel trial fit the ¼ panel and check all connecting flanges and take measurements between the top strut housings for correct width, and check for correct front panel alignment and trim to suit. Remove o/s/f ¼ panel and cut the front rust from outside of the heater channel and inspect from the inside and then to fit another heater channel to that side as well due to rust. Drill out spot welds and grind off seam welds remove rusty heater channel, remove the rear lateral body mount as per the n/s/r.
The front body mounting in the front bulkhead was excessively corroded on the inside where the main body mountings are. This panel is not available so Spikes sectioned the new panel, spliced it in and used the original top inner section to keep the correct profile inside the car. Prepare the new heater channel by sanding and shaping the edges to the correct profile and putting the correct amount of spot welds into the structure again having to add approx. 120 extra spot welds to make it correct.
Fit the new lateral rear body mount plug weld into position. · Position the new heater channel into position bolt it to the extra jig flanges align and check fit, bolt the door on check the door gap and adjust the rear section of body down 5 mm to correctly align the door gap ready for welding the heater channel into place. Place the new o/s/r ¼ panel into position and adjust all mounting flanges on the floor, 'A' pillar, scuttle, front panel, inner wheel arch, lateral cross members at the front under the fuel tank area, reshape the lower section of the ¼ panel to follow the correct profile down on the outside of the heater channel.
Massage gently into the correct position taking time to minimize all mating flanges and then finally drilling a series of hole along the flange mating area ready for the plug welding where spot welding was not possible. Spot weld 'A' pillar area then copper spray remake 'A' pillar folded flange and where the flange was rusted cut off, make a new section and weld in then shape to suit. Powder coat floor plan and 60 separate car parts.
Drill out all the spot welds and grind all the braze from the side scuttle joins cut across the 'A' pillars and remove the rusty scuttle. Prepare the replacement scuttle section, remake the r/h/d wiper holes and welding up the l/h/d holes. Trim the panel to suit and check fit then braze the side flanges as per the factory and spot weld the windscreen flange into place and seam weld the side joints. · Thereafter reassemble epoxy primer and repaint. Widen Lemmerz wheels x4, blast and paint. Fit Vredstein tyres. Fit a new Headliner including underfelt and bows. Fit NOS front and rear heated windows.
Design and fit a custom made
AC system using Suzuki Alto parts. Complete interior refurbishment including
all leather/Alcantara door cards, Tombstone seats, fit NOS rear overhead
The above work was completed between UK and Holland with trips across the channel with one trip to Volksworld 2019 where it was in receipt of the Top 20 Cars in Show Award. I have no doubt that this must be one of the best 1303 S Big out there and is better than new with a few additions to make modern day driving more comfortable especially as the car is now bound for my home in Hong Kong. But what I really like more than anything is the fact that this car shows what great people are involved with air-cooled VWs between the UK and Europe.
That said to many air-cooled enthusiasts the Super Beetle are not the ultimate evocation of the breed. They might not deserve this kind of first class treatment but as with everything with classic cars it is about feelings, sentiments, memories and nostalgia - I love its Moss green colour, its bulbous looks, tombstone seats, Lemmerz GT wheels and 70s plastic.
What else is in the garage?
Notchback Type 3 FI, Auto with A/C (Japan market car)
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