Friday, October 31, 2008

The big cover-up -- carpeting the Nautilus.

In addition to any role floor coverings are expected to serve in a car, carpeting in a Karmann Ghia also serves the unintended role of sponge, soaking up water that inevitably makes its way past inferior or deteriorated window and door seals. This does nothing to enhance the carpet's longevity. When it comes time for restoration, the carpet has usually decomposed to a point that it resembles a sort of rust, fungus and oil infused mulch that's not recommended for use in the garden. Even if your car's current floor covering is a lime green 2" shag that was installed in the height of the '70s, the sad truth is that the crop of newer cheaper carpet kits available today are not much better, right out of the box.

I've owned my fair share of original Volkswagens over the years. Where Karmann Ghias are concerned, I've recently owned two with nearly original interiors and have taken notes and pictures of these cars to use as guidance with future restorations. I've also torn into the battered remains of other orignal cars in search of interior pieces to help catalog my understanding of how things were originally done. I've also kept my eyes open for original used parts on ebay and der Samba and this has paid off with a recent score of a nearly complete '66 model year Type 34 carpet kit. I'll use this kit as a template to build a reproduction carpet set, once the appropriate carpet material can be sourced. I'll use most of the grommets from this carpet set on the reproduction set to enhance its authenticity, but my needs for carpeting will not include the carpet floor mats and I'll be donating the thimble grommets to someone for their '66 or later carpet restoration.

Take a close look at the layout of the carpet in the picture to the left. With the exception of the 4 floor mat pieces, all other carpet sections have one or more blue lines drawn on their backsides that run left-right in the picture. These lines are used to properly orient the main square weave line, which runs top-bottom in the picture. Refering to the picture below of the two square weave samples, this picture also shows the alignment of the main square weave line in a top-bottom orientation. Refering back to the picture at left, all pieces are actually correctly oriented top-bottom, as well. Also, the mystery carpet fragment missing from this set is the counter part to the carpet piece at the picture's front right. This piece is the one which fits over the left inner wheel housing. This piece invariably takes a real beating from the driver's left foot, much like the driver's floor mat does from the driver's right foot--whether it be the rubber mat (cars up through '65) or the carpet sections shown in this picture (cars '66 and later). If the driver's side carpet in my '98 Toyota 4Runner is any indication, carpet wear is directly proportional to driver's anxiety and is exacerbated by any tendencies towards road rage.

Anyway, it is interesting to note that there is a rubberized backing only on the four floormats, which further increases their durability.

One of the biggest problems in having a custom Type 14 or 34 carpet kit made is finding the correct carpet stock. I know what the original stuff looks like and I know what color carpet should be. Current carpet kits seem manufactured to a price point and invariably skimp on certain details. On particular aspects of my car's restoration, I'm not interested in cutting corners. In choosing the correct German square weave carpet, it must at least have the correct number of squares per inch, the correct binding type, a nearly correct color, the correct square weave orientation and it must fit correctly. Though some manufacturers obviously disagree, I honestly don't think I'm asking for much.

Depending on the year of car, carpet stock originally supplied to Volkswagen appears to have had either 7 or 8 squares per inch. This is easily determined by laying down a ruler and measuring the number of square weave squares running in an inch across the grain on a piece of carpet. After researching this on a number of original carpet sets from both the Type 14 and Type 34 cars, I've made some observations that seem to consistently apply to carpet sets installed by Volkswagen in the '60s on at least the Karmann Ghias. Carpet material used up through the '65 model year had the 7 squares per inch density and was bound with cloth material. Carpet material used from the beginning of the '66 model year and later had the 8 squares per inch density and was bound with vinyl material. The colors available for both the carpet itself and the edge binding are all specified in the Type 14 and Type 34 parts books.


My capable assistant, at right, models at least two of the carpet types used in the Type 34, early at left (up through '65), and late at right ('66 and later). Happy Halloweeeeeeen!!!

About a month ago, BerT3 made a remark on der Samba that got me thinking that he might have stumbled upon a stash of carpet material that would pass my acid test. He even agreed to send me a sample. This sample easily passed my '8 squares per inch density index' test and I am absolutely convinced that this is exactly the right stuff for '66 and later cars. The color is even a correct very dark salt and pepper. Unfortunately my car is a '64, so I ended up passing on the opportunity to buy some of it. For those of you seeking an authentic later '60s Karmann Ghia carpet fabric, this stuff is for you. It's OEM Haargarn, 2 meters in width, and I was able to use an original Type 34 carpet set (see above picture) to lay out a pattern that would have used a rather minimal 3.2 meter length of it. Total cost with shipping to the US would have been $1000.00. But if you want the right stuff, this is in my opinion well worth it.

Though this lead didn't pan out, I'm sure I'll eventually find a reasonable approximation for my car. In the picture at left, the left carpet sample is the Haargarn sample I received from BerT3. The right carpet piece is a scrap of charcoal colored Sewfine squareweave I picked up off the floor at Motorworks Restorations a few months ago when Jeremy was using one of their kits to carpet a Bug. It's got a rather sloppy square weave pattern to it, but it IS German square weave and it IS the right color. While I'd rather have Lenny Copp sew me up a kit, I'm still not sure about the carpet stock he is using in his kits. I hope to get a chance to see it in person in the Spring.