Sunday, November 11, 2012

"Meanwhile, back at the ranch..." Part 2

It took a bit of effort to reach the body man out at the ranch to arrange a time to see the Nautilus, again.  I'm happy to report that work on the right rear fender has progressed.  Some filler was added to help level things out, but in running my hand over the area I found about a 2" diameter high spot at about the 10 o'clock right above the fender lip.  As of a week ago, this is what that fender looked like.  I used the cardboard jig the body man created--pictured below--to confirm my suspicions.  The body man told me he could take the whole thing down to bare metal if I wanted and start over, but I told him to just take down the high spot in the filler he had recently added and then hit it all with a guide coat so I could take another look next week.  I am sure he sensed my frustration with the whole situation.  It was about this time that one of the ranch hands came into the shop and asked me to move my truck because I was "blocking the road"...with the word road being truly used in the loosest of senses.  I was also suddenly slammed back to the reality that my car was indeed located on a working cattle ranch. In context, I'm bound and determined to not become a 'cash cow'  for this outfit.

In enlarging the photo to the left, figures can clearly be seen on the jig that look like working values for the money I'm going to owe the body man.  If so, and if the body man stays on plan, I actually feel it's some of the best money I've spend on bodywork in quite a long time.  My wife first noticed these figures, actually.  She really wants this car done and would like an end to the financial hemorrhaging. 

The orientation of this card is exactly that which was used on the fender between the 10 and 2 o'clock position on the fender.  It's a low tech solution, but a very effective one.

I just noticed that this picture was taken on the decklid of the Nautilus.  Notice that the color of the decklid is not a uniform color of L514 Emerald green.  Like the right rear fender, it's about a bazillion colors right now, depending on how much material needed to be removed in any given spot.  Unfortunately, this provides yet another opportunity to relay a sad backstory for how things were done incorrectly at the previous body shop and how the ramifications of that workmanship have affected both reassembly efforts and finish endurance under the stress of the hot Summer sun.

The right side of the Type 34 decklid has four relatively small mounting holes for the graceful and artistic Karmann Ghia script.  The script orientation and mounting methods are similar to those on the Type 14 Karmann Ghia.  In fact, the script is exactly the same on both models.  The four retainer clips that hold the script to the outer surface of the decklid have a thick rubber exterior that completely encases a round metal 'speed nut' that actually does the work to retain the script.  The rubber covering on these retainers actually serves two purposes, one of which is to protect the paint from scratches and the other to help seal the four script mounting holes to keep water out of the rear truck.  The problem I have had is that so much bondo was applied to the outer surface of the decklid on the right side that the script mounting pins couldn't extend deep enough to allow the retainers a decent grip on the end of two of the four script mounting pins.  I actually discovered this issue about two years ago and it was one of the reasons the car was returned to the previous body shop for rework.  Unknown to me, that body shop's solution was to actually glue the retainer clips to the ends of the script retainer pins to keep them in place, rather than re-work the decklid.  This workaround was discovered this last Spring when I removed the KG script before sending the car out again in July.  What was even more annoying was that while the car sat out in the back lot of the body shop the hot Summer sun worked away at the decklid to actually cause it to flex enough in the heat to CRACK OUT some of the bondo!  The 3 inch crack developed from side to side at the rear most script pin hole.  It went all the way down to the metal because rust was developing.  The only solution for the body man was to remove material from the decklid surface and grind out the crack.  The decklid was then remounted and I think it fits better than ever.  Another problem is solved, more money is spent, but progress is made.

The hood alignment issue was addressed next and was accomplished without any significant body or paint rework.  The body man was more than happy to hand me back the 2 pennies and present me with what I believe is very good hood alignment.  The seal needs to be installed to confirm, but the prognosis is really good.  The two paint drying rack dimples are still present, but at this point I am happy to leave them as is.  The dimples are really hard to see, but the cost savings are real.  At this point, I'll take it! of good news and I was now waiting for the other shoe to drop.  And I wasn't disappointed because it was at this point that the body man told me that he will not install the sunroof section into this car.  He doesn't trust the bodywork done by the previous body shop and at this point doesn't want to turn what looks like a success into a complete and catastrophic failure by removing structural rigidity to install a replacement roof section.  The 'A' pillar water drain tubes are also a complication.  If the car were still in primer the work would still be a challenge, but there would also be less of an investment and therefore fewer concerns about damaging the car.  I have to accept my body man's limitations particularly when it's in my best interests.  There will be no sunroof.  End of story.

"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.