The bane of VW restoration.
I checked out a convertible bug for sale a while ago, not a bad price it had a new engine and floor pans thrown into the deal, as they were there, just not installed yet.
Simply for the price of the new engine I heavily considered this as my first restoration project. The body was a little rough, especially as I saw daylight steaming through the passenger footwell. Underneath was just as disappointing. The running boards were very loose and rust fell as I moved them. And then the heater channels were covered with rust and full of holes.
Now, this was a ’74 bug, so the cost of a full restoration, especially considering the body panels and heating channels were going to exceed the value of the bug. But then, when doesn’t it? I found a few resources that were very helpful with my questions and offered some guidance.
The first were the fine people at Volkswebbin Forums. Run as a Q&A forum for bug owners/restoration types, there is a wealth of experience available for anyone who has a basic question to specific engine, brake or electrical system questions. They helped me think through the purchase and weigh the problems v. the value.
Another great resource was John Henry’s helpful Beetle restoration site www.thebugshop.org. Written with a good sense of humor, it offers a helpful look at all of the major things that need to be considered when purchasing, restoring and maintaining a classic beetle. Especially helpful were his 8 Reasons why Heater Channel replacement might not be as easy as you think?:
8 Reasons Why Heater Channel Replacement May Not be as Easy as You Might Think:
- It takes a very long time. To do it properly, it requires you to drill out literally hundreds of spot welds which connect the channel to the other panels of the car.
- You run the risk of messing up the door opening dimensions and having doors that never close right again, especially if you try to replace the channels while the body is off the pan.
- If the channels are badly rotted, chances are good that some of the panels that attach to the channels are rotted in those locations too (most notably, the lower A-pillars)
- The generally available replacement heater channels are not correct for many of the older model VWs. While the vendor may say they “fit” (and they do) the heater outlet is in the wrong place.
- Eventually, new heater channels will rust out again, especially if the car is driven in harsh conditions. The inside of the replacement channel is usually not coated with anything more than primer and welding them in will make them even more prone to rusting (hot metal burns paint off)
- With every day that passes, there are fewer shops/mechanics/bodymen who can do this and do it right.
- The heater channel is not a simply body “panel”, it is an important structural component that provides longitudinal rigidity to the body and floor pans.
- It is not trivial, in fact is in not even just “difficult”.
Again, it’s not what you know, but who you know (or where to find what to know). There is a wealth of information on the web for Classic VW aficionados and amateur restoration projects like mine.