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August 67 Karmann cabrio beetle.
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've owned this one for 23 years now. We've been through a lot together. It's been a daily driver, taken me around 8 countries and been a good friend. Unfortunately, not being child seat friendly, it got neglected a little once the twins came along and ended up looking a little tired in places.

This is how it was around 10 years ago. Mostly 68 spec (including the one year only twin filament front indicators/sidelights, high back seats, etc.), but a few 67 spec carry overs (doors, handles, winder mechanisms). Discs all round, genuine fuchs (5 1/2j and deep 6), and phat boy muffler that hung just a little too low.






Anyway, I decided it was time to give it some much needed love. The cabrio reinforcing rails and channels were showing signs of needing replacement, wings were rough, and the passenger door gap had closed up due to a bit of body sag. The roof was showing its age, and various bits of the body needed rust repair.

The decision was made. If I'm going to do it, might as well do it properly. This wasn't going to be a patch up, so I needed to know just how bad it was.
Time to strip it.








 

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August 67 Karmann cabrio beetle.
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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
When it came back from soda blasting it was a mix of good and bad news.

Some areas weren't as bad as expected, while others (the front end) were much, much worse. The car had clearly been in an accident in its past and the front end was a mess. If it wasn't for the sentimental value this could have been the point to cut my losses. It was considered, but I also knew finding another cabrio that didn't need work (and was built as I wanted) was a tall order. Knowing the mechanicals were good, and pretty much anything else would need work, the decision was made to carry on.



It was etch primed to protect it from flash rusting.





... and the body separated from the pan. If you're wondering why it wasn't braced 1st, remember it wasn't straight anyway (door gap issues) - and we had another plan.



 

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August 67 Karmann cabrio beetle.
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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
A lot of consideration went into how we could try straightening the shell and correcting the door gaps before bracing the body and separating it from the pan, only to then cut out the heater channels and rely on that bracing 100%. To be happy everything was still straight, we would have to hang the doors and set it back on the pan before committing to joining everything back together.
As this was the case, we instead decided we would skip the bracing and just build up from the reinforced channels and bulkheads on the pan when the time comes. Time saved now would add more measuring later, but we could set things exactly where needed without a fight. That being the case, the front and back end were separated into more manageable sized chunks and the cabrio specific panels and stiffeners carefully removed and set aside for later. Luckily, all the cabrio specific panels were actually in great condition with the exception of the lip on the rear for the roof - and I already had a body cut set aside for that bit.










 

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August 67 Karmann cabrio beetle.
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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
To be able to build the entire car up from the pan, we needed the pan to be straight and solid. Upon closer inspection, it was neither.

The pan halves and rear crossmembers were being replaced anyway, and some less than ideal "access panel" patches would be properly repaired with donor metal to keep the spine as strong as possible.



Why do these have to be so big? Worse still, using thinner sheet steel and not fully welded.




Examination of the frame head showed it was misaligned and had signs of a dodgy looking patch, so it too was removed. Closer examination upon its removal showed it was an accident waiting to happen, with large cracks emanating from the fuel pipe hole. All the thousands of miles I'd driven with this covered by a tacked-on patch don't bear thinking about.

SCARY!!!


So, with all that removed, this is what we were left with...




At least that was solid and rust free.
 

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August 67 Karmann cabrio beetle.
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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
The rear torsion tubes were taken as the starting point. Straight, stiff, and big enough to take plenty of measurements from.

1st job was new heavy gauge crossmembers (held in place here with a handy jig).



Then, using cuts from a donor pan, the holes in the spine were repaired to a standard we were happier with.










 

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August 67 Karmann cabrio beetle.
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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
A new frame head was bought, but frankly, we were not too impressed with the quality of the pressings. It was decided to pull apart the new one and the original (the beam mount itself was much, much better on the original) to use the best of both to make something straight, solid, rust (and crack!) free.





Again, plenty of measuring, checking and lasers (woo hoo!) the frame head was attached, constructing it as we went to ensure maximum weld area and strength.





Then the floor pans, Napoleons hat, and remainder of the frame head were fitted with factory specific welds or better where possible.






At this point we bolted the beam back on, partly just to triple check everything was aligned spot on (it was!), but mainly just because this felt like a bit of a milestone.
Progress was being made, and we just wanted the beam back on so we could see it like this again.


 

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August 67 Karmann cabrio beetle.
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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
And so the rebuild of the body begins.....

Heater channels, reinforcing rails, and rear crossmembers bolted in place. Front bulkhead clamped into position.




This next bit took a while.

LOTS of measuring, adjusting, re-measuring, more adjusting, you get the idea.

But we got there. Everything aligned, straight, equal each side, and no gaps or issues where we were going to be joining metal. Our gamble to cut everything up and align at this stage seemed to be paying off.






A lot of marking, and a few small holes drilled for locating pins later, it was all torn apart again for metal prep. While the channels, rails, etc all got sanded, cleaned, weld through primer, etc. the floorpan was re-blasted and given a protective coat of etch primer.
 

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August 67 Karmann cabrio beetle.
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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
As with the floor pan, trying to stick to "factory" welding methods where possible.
The front bulkhead is still only lightly tacked at this point (hence clamps) until the front end is a bit more "together".







Meanwhile, one of the smaller bits being sorted....

Needs a little tidying, but this will make a nice addition to the car.




Panel is being prepped for paint, hence paint rub through.
 

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August 67 Karmann cabrio beetle.
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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Next, the more exciting bits. We started placing the layers of good original metal again. As with the pan, the more solid back end seemed the best place to make a start with repairs, so onto the luggage tray. Thankfully the rear bulkhead section with all its cabrio specific unobtanium was pretty good, with only a few drilled holes that needed welding up. The luggage floor had previous patches and fresher rust repairs required, so we'd already removed that section to avoid unnecessary seams come repair time.
Happy that the rear shell was straight and sitting nicely in position again, the replacement floor was trimmed and tacked/clamped in place.


 

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August 67 Karmann cabrio beetle.
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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
The dash required a few repairs, and we had by now decided to replace the bent and rusted front hood with one without the vent intake. This was partly to remove the potential rust/leak issues caused by the bonnet vent, and partly to tidy up the dash. Lets face it, it's not like a cabrio lacks ventilation and needs it.
As the vent controls and extra screen outlets were being eliminated, the simplest here was to replace the dash as one panel, and do this before welding this big section of the body into its final position.

Ready for surgery



The "new" metal getting tacked in.



And looking much better, back on the pan with the reinforcing panels clamped in position to aid alignment and stability.

 

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August 67 Karmann cabrio beetle.
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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
1st big mistake - buying repro wings
Lucky escape - The courier totally trashed them.

Where possible, the best quality panels have been sourced. I've found in the past, cheap panels often cost far more in fitting hassle, and the thinner steel does no favours for longevity.
Unfortunately, there's not much choice with front wings for 1968-70, and what there is, is pretty poor it seems. Even without the couriers handywork, what arrived seemed poorly pressed, flimsy, and would have needed a fair bit of work to even be considered satisfactory. Thankfully, a full refund was received.





Rears, in comparison, were no problem, I had access to good used genuine ones (double the weight/thickness of repros, and the right shape/fit).

It took A LOT of searching, but I eventually found a very good left front wing that was pretty much rust free, with just a couple of small dings that needed sorting.




Better still (for the car, but not my wallet) I found a NOS right front wing. It was instantly snapped up (I would forget the cost later).




 

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August 67 Karmann cabrio beetle.
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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Panels at the ready, time to start on the worst rear quarter.



The eagle eyed will spot this has wrong bumper bracket. Comparing panels available, we found this had the best quality and fit for rest of the panel, so that will be addressed later. 68 on panels just didn't seem as well made. Also, cabrio rear quarters aren't available, so we'll use what we can of the sedan panel.

Marking the rear quarter area being replaced, more to get rid of previous accident damage, dings, and dent pulling holes than rust, as this part of the car was pretty solid.



Inner structure is thankfully all good, as that's cabrio specific too.



Although the general rule is "one panel at a time" the inner arch and wing mounting were also removed to avoid the risk of prior damage pulling things out of shape. Instead, form jigs and plenty of measurements taken from other cars will be used as required.

Trimming complete, a good coat of epoxy went on now as this will be hard to reach later.

 
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