Words by Francis G. Pallarco Photos by Mariony Dela Cruz
1960 Volkswagen Beetle: Family Affair
Few cars have lasted being in production virtually unchanged and continue to maintain a loyal following as the Volkswagen Beetle. Since its worldwide release, the Beetle Type-1, or Bug as it is commonly known, has literally been all over the world. This includes the Philippines where DMG Inc. used to be the exclusive importer distributor and assembler of Beetle’s, Kombi’s, Sakbayan’s and more. This began during the late 50’s until its sad demise in the early 80’s. This best explains why nearly everyone of a certain age has at least one Beetle story or fond memory. My take on this is that people just don’t just own a Beetle; it earns a special place in their heart. It’s even more than just a car because, for many, it strongly represents a part of them.
Aside from the memories, the Beetle also makes a great project car with lots of themes to draw inspiration from. There’s the popular all-original resto-job, the raked and de-chromed “Cal-Look” with BRM’s, the drag strip warrior with a full-race mill and a stinger pipe out back, and the rusty or primered Rat-rod look. Whether its restoring an early model Beetle or degreeing a full race Gene Berg camshaft, it really doesn’t matter as tinkering around with a Bug is something most gear heads can relate to and appreciate. For the VW purists, it doesn’t matter if it only has a 28mm, single barrel, Solex carburetor, or the lack of an air conditioning system to beat the summer heat. Its quirky design and the simplicity of every mechanical component means that one can easily take it apart with basic tools and lots of elbow grease. So here’s not one, but two examples of well-restored and getting very hard to find early model Beetle’s done by the same shop whose owner/s obviously got bitten by the bug.
Based on how well it looks, it’s hard to believe that this is Mr. Edgar “Egai” Ortiz Luis’ first crack at owning and restoring an early model Beetle. Having been into slalom racing and rallying, he certainly knows his way around cars as well as having his own car shop. But when asked about how he got into restoring early model Beetle’s, he explains, “My father used to own a 1960 Volkswagen before. So it would be like continuing the legacy of owning one too. My kids also wanted to have a Volkswagen Beetle, so it also served as a perfect family bonding activity during the whole restoration process and now whenever we take it to car shows.”
Just like most builds, this one also started out as a rust bucket where Egai reckons 50% of the body had rust problem areas. While they were able to source a few original body panels, Egai notes that the entire flooring, running boards, and H-frame were custom fabricated by his shop tinsmith. Since he had every intention of doing a correct restoration job, Egai points out that special attention was given to critical repair areas like the flooring, the alignment of all body panels, and seeing to it that the bodylines remained crisp and smooth. As for the simple flat-four engine, it got a complete rebuild and was then fitted with new main and connecting rod bearings along with a new fuel pump and a correct Solex single barrel carb including the oil bath air cleaner. The notorious VW electrical system was also refurbished as it used to have a retrofitted 12-volt generator. The sourcing of an original 6-volt generator and the addition of a 010 Bosch distributor put back everything just as the way it would be during its era.
Equally impressive on the inside as it is outside, this Beetle features a very well detailed interior with correct period pieces and accessories such as the Sapphire radio, the lap belts, knobs and even an owner’s manual. While all the upholstery work was locally done, all the fabric used was ordered from the States, which shows just how much dedication went into this restoration job just to get everything right. Typical of most classic cars from the 50’s and 60’s is the amount of chrome trim pieces, which can be found on the inside and the outside. Thankfully, there are aftermarket reproduction chrome trim pieces in the States. Egai enumerates that only the chrome body strips were repro pieces and the rest of the chrome found inside and out are original pieces. Restoring a classic Beetle is not easy. This entails research and planning to pull off something of this level, as Egai explains, “The L434 Kalahari Beige color came from the 1960’s paint reference of VW color codes that we researched to ensure it was period correct ” and adds, “Aside from the internet and various VW catalogs, we also had a lot of help from our VW guru, Romy Samson, from Angeles in Pampanga. The entire restoration took us 2 years, including the tedious body and paint process along with all the waiting for the parts to arrive from the States.” With over 20 car show trophies (and counting) that it has currently won on different car shows, this restored ’60 Beetle strongly reflects the craftsmanship that went into it.
1955 Volkswagen Beetle: 100% Nostalgia
A certified VW enthusiast, as evidenced by the number of classic examples that he owns, a chance encounter with the other featured Beetle in a car show swiftly convinced Mr. Alex Manio Agapito to have his ’55 “oval window” Beetle restored. When speaking about classic Beetle’s, very early models had what is known as the “Split Window” (’38 to ’53) or the “Oval Window” (’53 to ’57), which refers to the rear window treatment that only lasted during their particular production era. This explains their desirability and collectability as examples of such beetles are slowly decreasing in numbers. While very minor details differentiate Beetle’s from different eras, one particular detail that I find interesting is what’s called as Semaphores. These are non-flashing turn signals found on Beetle’s from ’40 to the 50’s. Looking like a finger shaped object with a lighted amber/yellow colored lens, it pops out from the “B” pillar (either the left or right side of the car) and operated on a 6-volt electrical system.
Our featured Beetle does not just have the coveted Semaphores, but it also happens to be an oval window and a ragtop making it quite a candidate for restoration. But before the restoration began, Mr. Ortiz Luis, from Shelby Auto Station, reviewed the scope of work to be done and was surprised to find that only 20% of the whole body needed to be repaired. But that didn’t make their work easy as they only had 2 months to finish everything in time for an upcoming car show, The bodywork composed of ensuring that all body panels were rid of all dents and the panel gaps were perfect. Special attention was given to the repair done on the flooring and H-frame. This is to show how well the ground up restoration was done. As can be expected with a car of such age, it also required reproduction weather strips on the door and panels and most rubber parts that were all sourced from the States.
The 36-horsepower, flat-four engine was taken all apart and detailed including painting the various components such as the engine block, the K-manifold, etc. The electrical system was also reverted to its original 6-volt system along with a new generator and period correct reproduction Bosch distributor and ignition coil. The Solex carb was also refurbished and mated to an “oil bath” style air cleaner. For me, it’s these small details and properly painted parts that are equally important to make the engine bay achieve that restored look and not just detail painted.
As for the exterior, it still uses the original chrome trim that was only re chromed with the exception of the bumpers. Equally nice on the inside, the seat was locally upholstered while the dash features a radio delete block off plate and bud vase that lends that classic look along with an aftermarket repro parcel tray for early Beetle’s originally made by Ra-Bambus in Germany. Obviously there’s a lot of detail to look and take in this particular Beetle, but rest assured that it’s certainly one nostalgic ride that’s sure to spark valuable memories down the road. Further down the road that is.