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29/06/2010
I recieved two packages today. The first was a set of car speakers which were flat mount. I tested these outside the car and the sound quality was so awful I threw them immediately in the bin. That was a waste of 10! The second package proved more promising. The front lights on the Baja bug are currently 7" uprights, but unfortunately they are left hand drive beam units. When I opened the package I found a new shiny set of lights which are exactly the same make but the correct right hand drive parts. I dismantled one of the lights on the car and had a good look, the new items should fit in just right. I want to spray the rims black before reassembly, so this may be a job for tomorrow night when I have some paint. Other good news is that I seem to have found someone locally dismantling a 1303 beetle. I will try to give him a ring to see if I can salvage some parts. I'm looking for the heater channel vents, pedal foot plate, accelerator cable cover, possibly door handles and some wing mirrors for starters. I also removed the ammunition boxes from the side of the car. these were fun, but serve no useful purpose. Unfortunately this leaves 3 holes in each side panel. I'll probably just put a rubber grommet in them for now, but might get them welded up later.

28/06/2010
Removed all the back seat assembly today and had a good look around. The car is quite solid here with only a few rough bits. There also appears to have been a break in as there was glass fragments on the drivers side under the seat. I also had a good look at the engine and noticed that the sump vent pipe was missing. This is the pipe that comes off near the oil filler neck. This should be filter sealed or the engine will suck in dust, particularly when idling. With a few minutes work I fitted a pipe to take the open vent to the air filter. Another quick fix as I had all the pipes and clips to hand.


26/06/2010
Whilst waiting for other parts to arrive I decided to fit a new hifi to the bug. I have a decent Blaupunkt CD player going spare so installed this and tidied up the wiring in the bonnet. As the Beetle ignition switch has only two positions, I decided to connect the radio so it can be used even when parked. I must be careful not to leave the radio on when leaving the car though! The previous owner complained that the rear mounted aerial gave poor reception as its mounted close to the engine on the rear nudge bar. I removed all the wiring for this and ordered a standard front wing aerial off eBay. I was lucky to find a black one, so this should look good on the car. I removed the filler from the existing hole and cleaned it up for when the aerial arrives. The hifi speakers are also very poor. I think there is a set in my loft somewhere so I shall have to dig them out. Still no sign of the V5 document. Other good news is that I won the auction on ebay for some 1969 rear lights. I really want to get rid of the rear Land Rover items at the back and get it looking more like a beetle again.

25/06/2010
Today saw the installation of the adjustable rear spring plates. There were a few rusty bolts and one bolt sheared off which I was unable to remove. I was also unable to install the polyurethane inner bushes as the inner diameter was too small so I had to use the old ones. The outer ones fitted OK. Other than that the installation went without issue. The car now sits with the sill level to the floor and the negative rear wheel camber has been eliminated. This should help tyre wear and having the engine 2" closer to the floor can only improve handling. Ground clearance is still 13" at the sills.


24/06/2010
Parts are arriving thick and fast. I now have the adjustable rear swing arms, the Empi gearstick and the second hand internal door handles. Both the door handles and the Empi Hurst style gearstick are fitted. I had to fabricate a clip to mount one handle on the door as one of the doors is the wrong model for the type of handles I have. I also removed the skull and crossbone material from the door cards as this looked dirty and poor. I'm not sure what to replace it with, maybe black vinyl or urban cammo material. I put the door cards back anyhow and the car looked much better. This gives me the thought that a light colour inside would lift the interior of the car so maybe black would be the wrong way to go. I also learned that using second hand parts is a good move. Some wear on the handles seems to fit the car just right and gives the car a more authentic look. The new gearstick feels really nice. I'll probably have to adjust it when I get the car on the road. I also put a bid on ebay for some 1969 rear lights, they are quite expensive new, so maybe I will get lucky.


22/06/2010
Finally got to jack the Baja up, remove the rear wheels and dismantle the rear swing arms. The suspension was raised by 1 spline as I can see from the marks made by the previous owner. I have ordered some adjustable plates and new bolts all round. On the left side there is a sheared bolt, so this will need to be removed. I have some stud extractors, so with some drilling, tapping and a can of brute force I hope to have this out soon. There was also a missing nut on the top of the shock absorber, which isn't too safe. I must give this car another good looking over before I do any long journeys.
I had a few "tried to deliver" tickets from the postal companies today, unfortunately I was out, so I expect to have some new shiny parts redelivered tomorrow! I'm looking forward to the weekend so I can finally begin improving the car.


19/06/2010
No progress on the Baja again today, but I took delivery of the ignition lock for the Merc and it is now on the road and ready for sale. I also spent some time tidying the garage to recieve the car. I also ordered an Empi gear stick from Machine7 so this should improve gear changes a little.  I haven't yet got the V5 document back so I can't really drive the car until it is fully road legal.

18/06/2010
I have been busy preparing the old Merc for sale and decided to take a chisel to the ignition switch to remove it. This is stopping progress on the baja as it is in the way of the garage. I have parts on the way via ebay to fix it quickly and get it on up for sale. I have also been trawling ebay for items for the Baja bug and have managed to get some internal door handles for around 15 for a pair.  These should arrive soon.  I have also sprayed the rear suspension swing arms with WD40 to enable easier adjustment of the rear suspension. Research shows that one outer spline on the torsion bars arms should drop the rear suspension by 5.5cm. This looks exactly what I want to eliminate the camber thats causing handling problems, so hopefully tomorrow if the weather is fine there should be some progress.

12/06/2010 Car arrives home Saturday June 12th 2010
The car was spotted on ebay and I decided to make a purchase. 1900 seemed like a reasonable sum. On pickup the car isn't as good as appears in the photos , but overall the car is solid which is the main thing. The paint work is quite bad as the body was
not keyed correctly before the paint was applied and is flaking off in some areas. Richard Joy who sold me the car was the builder and seemed an honest chap and gave me all the lowdown on the faults and what he has done to the car. He even took me for a spin up the road before we exchanged money. After we loaded up the car and strapped it to the trailer it was time to head home. The London traffic was the usual nightmare and towing a trailer made things worse.  Fortunately Romford is not too far from the inner ring road, so after a few minutes we were onto dual carriageway and up the M11.

On arrival home we found that due to the raised rear suspension, and the large negative camber the rear wheels it had hopped over quite a bit and the Bug had nearly fallen in between the trailer rails! This was a lucky escape and made removal of the bug off the trailer quite difficult. With a little bit of forward and back we fired up the bug and drove it off and onto the drive. The neighbours got their first taste of the noise that this bug generates. There were a few twitching curtains. I expect I may make the next version of the village newsletter!! When on the drive I took the opportunity to wash the car and have a good look all around. The bodywork seems to be covered in filler under the paint in areas where there is no rust. There are a few holes but nothing too serious. Underneath there has been extensive welding and a lot of patches, but all appears solid. The front lights have very rusty chrome rings on them and are also left hand drive items. These need replacing, but they appear to be Austin Mini items. The doors also don't match, one has a screw location for a wing mirror, the other doesn't. This wouldn't be so bad, but the screw in one is the passenger side.

One heater channel (sill) has been replaced and is quite good, but the passenger side could do with replacing. It's OK though and would pass an MOT. The engine appears to be the best bit, it starts first time and is very solid. There is a slight oil leak from between the case halfs, but again nothing to worry about. One concern is that many of the original VW bits are missing. The interior door cards don't have any pull handles , The rear seat has no seat panels near the floor, there are no wing mirrors and no standard rear lights. These items are very expensive new, but there is a Beetle specialist breakers nearby, so I might try to see if I can get the odd salvage part to complete the interior. One good point is that the dash board is untouched and has just been painted black. I modified the dash board in my last beetle and this was one thing I always regretted. The standard beetle dash is so iconic.

The car seems to have completely new wiring, which normally is a good thing. I have noticed a few areas where the wires pass through the bodywork without grommets. These will cause shorts if the car is driven for any period so I will have to watch out for blown fuses.  The fuel pipe is also fixed using cable ties. This is an MOT failure if the inspector is a little strict, so I may tidy this up with P clips.  I want the car to be reliable enough to get me to work every now and again. This is a round trip of 170 miles so these sort of things are more important than cosmetics and tuning improvements.

My initial thoughts are to do very little to the car for a few months but use it and see if anything major arises. I did take a sneaky drive around the car park and the handling is very poor. I dont expect Formula 1 cornering in a beetle and even less in a Baja, but things can be improved.  I would like to lower the car at the rear to get the tires flat on the ground. I believe 2" would be fine, which as it happens will make the sill parallel to the floor. Independant rear suspension would be the ultimate, but this is very expensive and the car probably wouldn't justify the expense.

I really like the roof rack as I haven't had access to a car with one for a few years now. The trips to the local B & Q to get wood and stuff should be a little easier now. I must check it is secure though!

The roof mounted lights are only for show and are not wired. I think these may be illegal anyhow if they were wired. I'm not sure what to do though as they do look quite cool and match the paint job and theme of the vehicle as do the ammo boxes mounted to the side.

Brakes are adequate and are drums front and rear. My first beetle had this setup and it is OK, but not very good when the drums get damp. Front disk conversions are relatively cheap and have the added bonus of self adjustment. This is again something for later if I decide to keep the car. They are really easy to fit so a few hundred quid and a days work does sound tempting.

The door keys are completely worn out, so maybe some new door handles and locks and a push button start with ignition switch. I did this on my last kit car and it worked very well. I adjusted the clutch cable and this makes the gear change much better, but maybe a new empi trigger gear stick.......Oh dear and I said I wasn't going to do much. I'm just waiting for the V5 document to come back and then I can get it on the road.  I'll spend the time getting the garage clean and selling my old Merc.


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