My 1972 Ghia convertible

Through the years, as I purchased and sold different air-cooled VW’s, I always wanted to own a Karmann Ghia. I thought that they were by far the classiest VW, with the smoothest lines. The pinnacle of this dream would be to own a convertible Ghia, which was finally realized in 2006. This dream, however, soon turned into a nightmare.

I had a real nice 1966 Ghia coupe that was in very nice, rust free condition that I decided to sell and use the proceeds to fund what was likely to be a project convertible. I understood this, but was willing to do what I needed to finally have my convertible Ghia.

Ghia front right

After selling my 66, I began searching on the internet for the right project. I found what I thought to be, and what I was told was a completely rust free 72 convertible Ghia.

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I impulsively believed the photos and the word of the seller and bought the car sight unseen from across the country and had it shipped to my home. I was so excited. Rather than a project, this had the potential of being a beautiful driver from day 1. After making arrangements and waiting a few weeks, it finally arrived.

Well, it was a nice 15 footer. But, upon closer inspection, the car had some…many flaws, and lots of rust. So much so, that I wasn’t even comfortable driving it. I want to be proud of the car I drive, and it had so many problems that it was embarrassing to me to drive it. The interior was trash, the floor was just many different pieces of sheet metal welded to the bottom, over the top of the rust. There was bondo, and the front firewall was just shot. I ended up just parking it in the garage and moved on to other projects, namely finishing my 69 Fasty.  I new that in order to someday make good on my investment, I was going to need to put a lot of work and money into the 72. I decided that a good step in the right direction was a parts car with a solid floor pan. After searching, I found a 71 coupe with new floor pans, a good motor, nice Porsche Fuch wheels and a lot of spare parts.

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I ended up driving the parts car for 2 years, because even in it’s rat rod style, It felt more solid.

Finally, in 2012, after the convertible sat in my garage for 6 years, I was getting ready to move and I knew that I had to either move on from my dream, or I had to get my butt in gear on my project. This began a stretch of 2 months were I spent nearly every waking moment working on this project.

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pan

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And finally, my dream convertible Ghia began shaping up.

interior

Dash

new top

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Ghia at Night

It was a labor of love, and of many years, but in the end, I had a car that was a dream to drive, and turned heads wherever it went.

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VW Camping

One of the truly fun VW’s to own is a Westfalia. For those of you not familiar with the term, Westfalia’s were camper conversions of VW buses. Westfalia conversions began in 1951, and continued with both the early and late model buses and then later were continued with the VW Vanagon.

In 2001 I traded my 1967 Karmann Ghia for a 1978 VW Westfalia. We took it on many family camping trips until I sold it a few years later.

Our Westy 2

The Westfalia camper included a sink, ice box, propane stove, and could sleep our family with a fold down bed in back, an upper bed in the pop top and a canvas “hammock” that hung over the front seats.

Westy Sink

Westy Z Bed

Westy Canopy

In the Pacific Northwest where we live, we hooked up for a few family camping trips with the “Wet Westies”, a group of VW camping enthusiasts who drive all variations of VW Campers including Westfalia’s, Riviera’s, campmobiles, etc. Their website is http://www.wetwesties.org. If you like VW’s, camping, or just getting wet in the northwest, I would recommend looking them up.

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1998 Beetle’s reunion

In 1998, a local Seattle radio station KJR, which was probably one of Seattle’s most popular through the 70’s, hosted a reunion event. The idea was to host a Beetles/Beatles gathering that featured a Beatles cover band, but was also a VW Beetle gathering. The goal was to see how many VW Beetles they could gather in one place. The gathering occurred in the Shoreline area of Seattle, and then we all convoyed to Marymoor Park in Kirkland for a car show and music festival. I don’t recall the specifics, but I know that there was a convoy of hundreds of VW’s along the highway. It was a lot of fun, and I have some great memories from that day. One of the big things at the show was the number of “New” Beetles that were there, as they were brand new from VW.

Eric's 1971 Bug

Here was my 1971 Beetle at the time. We squeezed the whole family in(6 of us) and went to the show.

Beetle Reunion Parking

There was quite a line to find parking.

Slug Bug...Slug Bug...Slug Bug...Slug Bug

If you were playing Slug Bug, it would have been CRAZY!! (I would have won.)

Nice Split Window Bug

There were a couple of split window bugs there.

Nice Oval Window Bug

And a nice oval window.

Nice early Ghia

And a nice lowlight Ghia.

The Band

And we finished off the day with some great music. This was an extremely fun day, that I am sure my family will remember for the rest of their lives, as will I.

 

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Chad’s 1970 Karmann Ghia

In spring of 2012, while I was in the process of finishing up my 72 convertible Karmann Ghia project, I decided to take on another project for my son Chad. He had recently been diagnosed with NF2 (Neurofibromatosis Type 2), had recently had his first brain surgery, and had some rough days ahead. He had always loved my first Ghia, a 1967, and it’s British Racing Green paint color. I started my search, and within a few days, I found a potential car in Seattle. I drove there, checked it out, and settled on a price of $1600.

ChadGhia

Over the next month and a half, I worked on the 70 Ghia for my son at the same time as finishing up my 72 vert.

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Prepping the body…

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Cleaned up and painted the pans….

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Replaced the transmission….

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Cleaned up the interior….

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Just about ready for paint….

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Chad admiring his freshly painted car….

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Chad’s finished 1970 Karmann Ghia. He loved this car!

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Chad’s inspiration for the look and color of his car was my 67 Ghia that I sold in 2001.

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VW’s horizontally opposed 4 cylinder engine.

Running VW Motor

Rear view of an air cooled VW engine.

Internal combustion motors are truly an amazing piece of machinery. The ingenuity that went into creating gas powered engines is impressive. However, one of the side effects of a running engine is HEAT. In order for the engine to keep running, you must find a way to displace the heat. In most modern day vehicles, this heat displacement is done with water. Appropriately, this type of engine is a water-cooled engine. Engines in today’s generation of VW’s are water-cooled. However, water was not always the coolant of choice for VW’s

When the first VW prototype came out in 1938, it featured an air-cooled engine. This basic air cooled engine remained mainly unchanged throughout the production run of the original Beetle, Bus, Karmann Ghia and Type III / IV.

One of the benefits of the air cooled engine, and the reason that it was chosen, is that unlike a water cooled engine, there is no threat of the coolant freezing in extremely cold weather. On the other hand, air is not nearly as efficient at displacing heat as water is. To illustrate this, if you had a hot pan fresh from off of the stove, which would cool the pan faster, putting it in front of a fan to cool it down, or dunking it in a sink of water?

However, in spite of this inefficiency, the air cooled engine was and is still to this day, a marvelous piece of engineering and an extremely simple engine to work on.

Running VW Motor Top View

Top view of an air cooled VW engine.

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Slug Bug

Slug Bug...Slug Bug...Slug Bug...Slug Bug

Slug Bug is another name for an Air cooled VW. At least, according to me. Slug Bug is also the name of a travel game typically played in your car while driving. I learned this game as a child from my friend Bret and his family who, unknown to me at the time, had a history of air-cooled VW’s dating back to the time when his father had been stationed in Germany.

The rules of the game are simple. While travelling, whoever spots an air-cooled VW, gets a point. Whoever has the most points when you are done travelling, or when you get tired of playing the game, is the winner. Air cooled VW’s are defined as the following: Beetle, Karmann Ghia, Type III, VW Bus, Thing and Type IV. If you are unfamiliar with what some of those are, I will elaborate on that topic in a separate blog in the future. What were not considered Slug Bug’s were any water-cooled VW’s such as Dasher, Rabbit, etc. This was always a fun game and helped to pass the time on a long trip. And since there were so many air-cooled VW’s, the game always kept us busy.

Later, I taught this game to my kids. However, at some point, we had a dilemma. VW had come out with the New Beetle, which was a water-cooled VW and this did not fit into the criteria of a Slug Bug. What to do about it? Well, like most games that people play, there are House Rules that have been adopted by the family that are in addition to or in contradiction to the Official Rules. Well, I had never read any Official Rules for Slug Bug, so far as I knew, there was only “House Rules” for everybody. So, we chose to alter our House Rules to include the New Beetle. So, to be clear, a Slug Bug, at least in my family, is any air-cooled VW or a New Beetle. No Jetta’s, no Cabriolet’s, no water-cooled outside of the New Beetle. These are the rules, and until I change them, they will not be changed.

However, I have been in situations while travelling with others and have found that they played a similar game with slightly different rules. This other game that I found out about is called Punch Buggy. The main difference with this game is that instead of calling out Slug Bug and getting a point, you call out Punch Buggy and then you punch the person sitting next to you in the arm. Well, I am not a fan of this game for a few reasons. First, I don’t like getting punched in the arm. Second, you don’t get any points, and if you don’t get points, how does anybody win the game. And last of all, it just feels like a cheap rip off from Slug Bug, which is a much better game.

In my family, I am the KING of Slug Bug. Not because I see better than everybody else, but because I just see Slug Bugs better than everybody else. I can spot them at night when it is dark, just by they way their headlights look. I can see them hidden under a tarp in somebodies driveway. I can see them stashed in somebodies backyard when all you get to see is the smallest corner. Because of this, I always win. And I am OK with that.

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My 69 Fasty

Over the years I have owned several VW type 3’s. A couple of fastbacks and a few squarebacks as well. My favorite of them all was the 69 fastback that I purchased in 2004. It was a project, but in extremely solid condition when I purchased it.

Red Squareback

As with many projects, once I got it home, it went into the garage where it sat for several years before I got around to focusing on it. This was going to be the first project that I took from the beginning to finishing stages by myself. It was  to be my introduction to bodywork and painting. I had the fenders, doors, food and rear hatch all sandblasted, while I sanded the body itself down to bare metal. I wanted to remove the metal trim, so I filled the trim holes.

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After completing all of the body work, applying primer and reassembling the body panels, it was time to get the stance just right. I lowered the front a couple of splines and I was real happy with the look.

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One thing I really liked, and the look that I was going for, was an earlier look than 69. To accomplish this, I replaced the front passenger fender with an early fender with no gas door. An early gas tank with the filler under the front hood completed this look. Another change I made was to modify the front seats and make them into low back seats. Once I found a good match to the original interior color, it was time to paint

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I was also able to find some mix and match interior seats, carpets and panels on clearance from an online VW store that when brought together, you would not know that they were not purchased as a set. This gave the car a real clean look. To finish of the interior, I added a nice wood steering wheel.

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Finally, to finish it off, I added a few personal touches that I liked, a roof rack and a front visor to give the car a vintage look. With a rebuilt automatic transmission, this car not only looked nice, but it was a very nice driver. In the end, I was very pleased with my first restoration project.

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I fell in love with air-cooled Volkswagens over 30 years ago. I want to keep the love and passion for vintage VW's alive and share my stories with others.