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The Journey

My love for air cooled VWs started at a young age, maybe 10 years old, at a Cruizin' Weekend in Ocean City, MD. My parents took us nearly every year to the classic car/hot rod event. Of course, I was enthralled by all the blown big blocks with huge tubbed out rears with more rubber than I'd ever seen before, after all that's the highlight of the event. But one year, a group of ratty old slammed Bugs came down the road, and the image stuck with me for a long time. Longer than I myself even anticipated. By the time I was 16, with my driver's license, I was hugely interested in cars and began modifying every car I got my hands on. I did not however begin with a love for VW. I experienced Ford, Nissan, Lexus, and a few others before finding my home. At around 20 years old, the crappy rusted out Beetle that sat in my dad's backyard since I was a kid (approximately 17 years) took my interest. So, my journey in the air cooled world began. Being young and naïve I didn't know the first thing about air cooled, much less beetles, so little did that it was in fact a Super Beetle, a 1974 curved windshield super at that. I put fresh gas, some plugs/wires and a battery and amazingly it started up! I had to buy a new carburetor, however, and it was driveable. I immediately began searching for lowering parts, and I ended up on the phone with a really knowledgeable guy, who talked me through everything, and what I needed. This was Jon Chabot at Top Line Parts, and I recommend them to this day. So I ordered my parts and went to town. The excitement I had working on this car and driving it was unlike any other car I'd had. I threw it together, painted it flat black with heavy machinery paint, and drove her 150 miles to Ocean City for a show that isn't around anymore. Needless to say, without proper going through of the motor and mechanics, it blew up on the way home, spewing oil all over the road. I towed it home, pulled the motor and it never ran again.

So here is where the story of the orange Super starts. I left the '74 in my backyard for maybe 2 years, until I got the itch and the funds to start again. So in December 2010 right before Christmas, after a long search on Craigslist, deciding to stick with a Super so I could swap all my basically new suspension over, I found this 72 Bug up in Pennsylvania by Ski Liberty. I drove up to check it out and discovered it was a high school students shop project car that was not by any means completed. I also was told it was originally an Arizona car, and the almost rust free body made me believe it. The middle aged man who bought it, had plans for his daughter to drive it, but she ended up not wanting it. So without even hearing it run, it was on my tow dolly headed home with me. It started off rough, not gonna lie. It barely ran, and it had pieces and parts missing all over. But I tagged it and drove it to my work, only a few miles away. Within a few weeks, I had swapped over the essentially new suspension, and had the new carb rebuilt, because after sitting for years, it was not working. At this time, I was so very new to it all, I paid to have the carb rebuilt. I also got smart car tires to be able to drive it safely, i.e. turning. The feeling of driving around a slammed Bug was something that excited me like nothing else, and that feeling is still there almost 10 years later.

The process and journey of modifications started small. I sandblasted and repainted the steel wheels, put a horrid homemade roof rack, I used a painting I did on a used decklid for a little extra flare, and headlight eyelids. Being the only guy around with an old Bug, and the only member in my car club with air cooled was fun. I always enjoyed being the different one.

I decided to do a two tone using black vinyl, and learned how to do that. At this time I also painted the bumpers black. I quickly got the urge for a wheel change, which will later become a common occurrence. I jumped on Craigslist and The Samba and found some OG Sprint Stars, in…yes…Smurf Blue. They were 15x4.5 and 15x5.5 so the rear was a littler wider and I dug the wider lips. Of course, I painted them black before mounting tires. At this stage it was starting to take shape and get interesting. In December 2012, 2 years after purchasing, I removed all the chrome trim and painted everything black, to bring the blacked out look full circle. The orange deck lid went back on and the tacky roof rack came off, making for a much cleaner look. I was maturing after all.

In 2014 I got the itch for different wheels once again, and I always loved Porsche phone dials. So I found a set in Pa in the rarer 16" that were in bad shape. I sandblasted every bit of paint off the wheels and repainted them in a Saab silver, that had a good bit of white in it, just to be slightly different than a standard silver. The problem was, these were 5x130 and not 4x130. So I learned how to get creative and the final product was a 10mm spacer inside 20mm adapter. Today, I would never drive on such a platform and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone let me just say.

But it worked, and I ran that setup for a while. This wheel combo was also not just a bolt up and roll either. I had to remove the front fenders, roll them and then widen them a ½" even further, which required a substantial amount of bodywork and then I repainted them. I had ran a junkyard find front visor a few years before, which was when I had to find a color to match the random orange that was on the car. It was originally Baby Blue, repainted poorly by I assume the high school kid. The color I found to match the closest was actually a Kia color called "Sunset Orange." That is the color I used from that day on to paint ever other part of the car and components.

It was during this stage of the car that my dreams came true. I finally had the opportunity to have a garage put up at my house. This changed everything. Having a place to keep all my tools, to work on smooth concrete, out of the elements, made so much possible. Without my garage, I don't know if the car would be what it is today.

Soon after getting in the garage, I was hanging out with some friends, randomly searching Craigslist, and stumbled on some 4x130 wheels I'd never seen before. They were definitely different, so I decided to go check them out. I didn't know what they were or where they came from, but I knew they were 4x130 and I was going to try. Worst case, I could sell them. After some more research and stumbling upon a couple other guys on Instagram with the same wheels, I discovered they were off an 80's Porsche kit car. They are 15x7 square et0. I messed up the factory brushed gold finish trying to clean the horrible plastidip off, so I sprayed them the same gold I was using throughout the car, and later changed it to pearl white. Upon first fitment, the massive tires that were mounted on them stuck out past the already widened fenders by at least an inch, leaving the fenders sitting on top of them without even letting the jack down. There was only one thing to try, so I ordered the smallest tires I could to stretch over the 15x7 wheels. In glorious fashion, it worked, and they looked amazing. I was in love. But with the new wheels, came bigger problems.

In the first test drive, I scraped the underside at least 15 times going around the block. It was simply undriveable from being too low now. Of course I didn't even consider raising it up on the Top Line Parts adjustable struts that were on the lowest setting. I had a crazy idea to do my own air ride No one made a "kit" for a Super Beetle, naturally, and I only found one old post about one, but it didn't look finished and never saw anything else. So I set off to discover and learn everything I could about air ride, after all I knew absolutely nothing about it. I again went to Craigslist and found a used compressor, tank, and electric valves from an old mini trucking guy. I had the components, but still had to figure out how they worked, as well as designing a air strut. After lots of Google and YouTube videos I had a basic understanding of how it was worked. I found a universal slipover airbag that would work for size with the Top Line Parts struts and figured out a way to mate the two. I didn't have a working radio anyway, so the space got filled with a custom wood panel, with air gauges and switches neatly placed. It wasn't pretty at first, but it worked! I removed everything, cleaned up, painted, made a mount for the components out of ¾ ply and the final product turned out pretty presentable. For the rear, which wasn't so much a clearance issue, I found air shocks, and ran lines and that's pretty straight forward.

A few months later, my long time acting up, slipping first gear badly, tans went up, and I sourced a used one, which forced me to remove the motor. I was a very apprehensive about this, because of the trauma of the first Bug never working again, but I set out and got it done. Small complication arose with the trans, and I had to swap nose cones, but no biggie. It all went back together and now I had that learning experience under my belt.

Because of the small tires in the rear, highway speed was crippled, maxed out at less than 60 mph. So, naturally, when I tried the stock size tires, they weren't even close to fitting. This meant reworking the rear fenders, which was even more extensive work than the front. I also ended up having to space the fenders away from the body to make room for clearance. To do this, I used two fender welts, and cut rubber floor mats up to size to fill the gap, all panel bonded together neatly, utilizing cut to size copper pipe to keep it all tight, with longer bolts.

Somewhere in this time frame, I had been playing with the idea of a lace painted roof, inspired from fellow air cooled VW gear heads on Instagram from Canada. The roofs clear coat was failing, so it was time to respray anyway, so I went for it. This is probably the biggest conversation piece besides the turbo and bags. It was done by masking off the general area, spraying it black, and laying the lace fabric across the roof. The funniest part when I tell people how I did it is the fact that the fabric is my grandmother's old curtains. I then sprayed the same gold as the wheels and trim accents through the fabric, leaving the pattern to show underneath. After removing the fabric "stencil" I went back with black to darken the edges, and cleared it. I also sanded it back down after curing and re-cleared the whole roof again to remove any hard lines from masking.

In 2015 the biggest and most exciting chapter began. Years before, I ran into an internet friend in Ocean City, MD at H2oi who had a turbo on his bug. It was so amazingly awesome and sounded even better. I had dreams of doing this, but never had to confidence to pursue it. So when I saw he had his turbo components up for sale, of course I jumped on it. What I received from him was the welded header, custom up pipe, some plumbing (literally plumbing parts), blow off valve, oil return tapped generator stand, custom tapped mechanical fuel pump, and re-jetted for turbo stock carb. I had to source a turbo, oil to line, and a few other small items. I got a rebuilt K03 from an Audi from a friend, which ended up presenting issues, because of it being an Audi turbo. It was a longitudinal and not transverse style, which meant no one made flanges for it. I had 42 Draft Designs custom make flanges for both the exhaust in, and out. I fabbed up a little exhaust turn away, and eventually fabbed up a custom intake pipe. Since the day I got it together, it ran like a champ, better than before the turbo even. I feel this was the Bug's height of awesomeness. It was clean, sitting proper, on rare wheels, and turbo.

At this time, I picked up a project 1961 Beetle from a work friend. He was in his mid 40's and had the car since his teens. It was rotting away in his backyard, and he deemed it fit to allow me to take it over. I could write up a whole story on that build alone. The work on the '61 took up a lot of real estate and time in my garage, and I just enjoyed driving the Super for a while.

Me being the wheel whore I am, I had the itch once more. In 2016 I finally decided to trade my "mystery wheels" to a friend who had been asking for a while. I had always wanted widened steelies and I committed to an even trade. I custom painted them two tone from the cream color they were, and for the next 3 years, they stayed on the car. I didn't get my mystery wheels back from my buddy, after bugging him for almost all of those three years to trade back, until summer 2019. I'm confident in saying their forever home is with me now.

In April 2017 my wife/partner of 10 years separated, and basically all work halted on the '61 I was furiously working on. A month later, my super motor blew up, finally after 2 years of being boosted. Great timing, I know. It was was tough show season not having my baby on the road to enjoy. I dropped the motor off to my builder within a month or two, and he had it until just after show season ended. Because the case was already worked on, and beyond repairing, I had to find another. I had a fuel injected block at my parents from years before, so I dropped that to him, and basically everything else internally was replaced with new or like new parts, he added a more aggressive cam, and kept compression low for boost again, because of course I was keeping it turbo! The problem with the fuel injected block was that the custom boost line tapped mechanical pump could not be utilized. So I had to use a fuel pump. But not just any fuel pump, it had to be a much more capable one for higher fuel pressure. Also I had to get a boost sensitive fuel regulator, and run a return line back to the tank. So after more Google and YouTube, it was running, and I was back on the road. It wasn't until just before H2oi in September 2018 I decided to crank up the boost from the mild 4-5 PSI of the past few years. I got a manual boost controller, and left it wide open, being careful not to get too crazy. It was like a whole different monster boosting up to 15 PSI. It was exhilarating. I ran it like that until recently in January 2020. I finally dialed it in for max boost at 8-10 PSI to keep things safe.

There are many other numerous details I didn't mention like the 1967 era low back seats, I cut the frames off of and welded the Super frames onto. Also is an early steering wheel, painted to match the car, early Wolfsburg shift knob, boost gauge, oil temp gauge, tach, train horns ran off the air tank, yellow laminex film headlights, the list goes on. This car has become a part of me. It means more than I ever anticipated. I take her to numerous car shows every season, including the infamous H2oi, Dubs at the Gap, Simple Transport, June Bug, Vag Fair, local cars and coffees, and so many more. I've met so many people because of this car and formed so many friendships. I've had it through thick and thin, good times and bad. Through having two children (who adore it now) a divorce, financial struggles, moving out of the house (but keeping the garage), a new relationship, getting remarried and now four kids that love it... it's been there for me all the way!

John Kaufman

Laptop/Tablet Wallpaper

Mobile Phone Wallpaper

Apple Instructions:

1. Touch one of the pictures above and "Save Image".

2. Go to "Photos" and select the picture.

3. Tap the box with the up arrow at the right top corner.

4. Tap "Use as Wallpaper" pinch to size and "Set Both"

5. You're done!

Windows Instructions:

1. Right click on one of the pictures above and select "Set as background"

2. You're done!

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