Sunday, November 11, 2012

"Meanwhile, back at the ranch..." Part 1

I feel like I've been spinning my wheels with the Nautilus for a very long time.  The current state of the project car seems like another 'warmed over' chapter in the same sorry tale of automotive purgatory that I've been living and writing about for several years, now.  Even after setting my expectations low,  I still have to admit that I'd hoped for more progress and better news given the amount of time that's passed since the car was turned over to the most recent body shop for some fine tuning.   Instead of immediately entering the shop's workflow pipeline, the Nautilus spent two months under the hot sun this past summer in the back lot of that body shop.  They later decided the work required for my car was too intense to deal with.  Given the more insurance claims-driven, assembly-line shop processes the shop normally operates within, the foreman eventually contacted me to ask permission to send the car on to another affiliated body shop located on a ranch located several miles to the north.  Initially this plan sounded kinda sketchy, but I decided to allow it because the workspace there was at least large enough to store my car indoors and that the probability of quality time finally being lavished on my vehicle was dramtically improved.  My thinking was that as long as the car didn't start looking like a neglected 'barn-find' vehicle during my next unannounced visit that I was already ahead of the game.

The pictures above, to the left and below were actually taken about nine weeks ago.  Progress is being made...a good sign.  Above all else, I wanted that fat lip on the right rear fender wheel opening addressed, first.  The picture to the left is the left rear fender wheel well opening and lip.  It's perfect...nice and original, and really finished out well.  I asked that this left fender lip be used as a model to rework the right rear fender wheel well opening and lip, pictured below.  By first removing only existing paint and body filler, the right rear fender contours are definitely starting to improve.  Maybe by several magnitudes.  It's not the only issue to contend with as reworking the hood and decklid will also be required.  More on that in a later blog post.  Keep in mind that this car was considered a completed project by that previous body shop.  A number of body work and paint prep issues were uncovered and each one addressed, so the results will be better. Removing body filler significantly reduces the potential of it cracking-out, over time.  Unfortunately, since this is a problem in at least two areas on the car means that there are likely other areas where filler is likewise much too thick.  I'm thinking that the entire rear of the car is sculpted, but I've got to save that for later and go with what I've got despite how depressing that sounds to me right now.
To put things into historical perspective, I bought the Nautilus five years ago.  During that time, a number of milestones were set for this project's progress and completion in the form of dates that coincide with certain major Volkswagen events and activities.  For example, in November 2013 the Nautilus will be 50 years old...but I wouldn't bet the two pennies that were used to align the right front hood hinge that the craft will be anywhere close to being complete by then.  That I will ever finish the car has turned into a sort of joke.  Since I'm dead serious about doing this car correctly, it's not funny to me.  The quality of parts I have accumulated for this car are very nice, so I often wonder if this body and chassis are those that should be used to finish out the project.  Several times I've nearly ditched this platform in favor of better or more historically significant Type 34s I've come across.  I want to be committed to this Type 34, but it's sometimes hard to keep the faith.  I know I'm not alone.  I've read several stories where Type 34s have been effectively abandoned outside of body shops for many months, where owners have left them to be restored.  It seems to me that the quality of work done by dedicated folks like Bobnotch and Racoguy on der Samba is fast becoming a mindset of the past.  To get that level of quality in the results, I am convinced that these days you have to do the work yourself.  Even if you are willing to pay others to do the work.  Since Karmann Ghias are my classic car of choice, there's some motivation there for me to learn metal working skills to turn some of this into a DIY activity and same some major cash.  And bondo.

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