Friday, September 5, 2008

The Nautilus in drydock.

I don't normally name my cars, but at one point I had so many of them that my wife asked that I give them names. When discussing cars, it helps her to have a friendly name to refer to. Even after I've downsized my collection of Volkswagens to only two, the names have stuck.

The '64 Type 343 Karmann Ghia that I am currently restoring is called 'the Nautilus'. Disney did a version of Jules Verne's "20 Thousand Leagues Under the Sea" and their rendition of the Nautilus has a very pronounced razor edge, all around the craft, not to mention a number of other very unusual styling cues, just like my Ghia. My car was orginally Sea Blue, is currently separated from the pan and is resting on what might be mistaken for a boat trailer. Some have commented that the car body looks a little like a boat or submarine. I think that in this nose shot it looks a little like a puffer fish.

I've been through the restoration 'spanking machine' several times before, however this particular restoration adventure has really been the most intense and frustrating of Volkswagen endeavors that I've ever experienced. For those of you considering the restoration of one of these cars, I have a couple of 'lessons learned' to share with you: set your expectations low, and your budget high. With regards to the bodywork--and to hopefully not overstate the obvious--if you know you have rust or damage in a particular area, definitely go into it with as many body panels as you can scrape together, in advance. Then, find the best and most patient body shop you can afford.

These pictures document the work done before the right rear quarter and extreme rear body panels and valence panels were replaced. The car looked like a great start for a restoration, but once media blasted it became apparent that there was a right rear fender replacement and some structural damage to the right rear in times past. I put the feelers out, as we were definitely looking for better panels to use. Came up completely empty. We ended up using the panels from the other '64 I originally rolled into this body shop for restoration. This also required the use of one of Lars' rear wheel well arches and more patience was necessary before this part arrived from Germany.

We've used Lars' Type 34 rocker panel replacments before and in fact we used his front two rocker panel sections on this particular car. And I'd use them again on any Type 34 project. They fit great and work well. However--and in stark contrast--the rear wheel arches are disappointing, as the coutours are not entirely authentic. They do work, and this part is currently the only game in town, so there you have it. With the car now in paint, I still consider this area to be a weakness in its appearance and will probably one day have that section redone using an original piece--or even a Lars' panel, if they improve.

These pictures were taken back in October of 2007 and it was slow ahead through much of last Winter. The good news for me is that patience prevails and that major progress has been made by the body shop since April and the car has since been painted L514 Emerald Green, but 'the Nautilus' is a name that still suits it.