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Picked up a $300 project car

19328 Views 136 Replies 37 Participants Last post by  v3
A 1974 Volkswagen Baja Beetle

From the Craigslist ad:

Towing her home:

Sitting in the rain not getting worked on:

Engine runs well, trans shifts pretty smooth, body isn't that rough, All original German glass, rear firewall is gone as well as the cargo area deck pan, interior is very rough, only 1 seat and it is garbage, drum brakes are toast, Front tires are dry rot, rears look pretty good, matching set of staggered rims, suspension looks mostly intact except for the missing front shocks, Generator wiring is toast, all other wiring looks intact but not wired, fuel tank will need a good cleaning and the factory hard fuel lines are clogged.

Guy had it listed for $1000, talked himself down to $500, then he bit when I offered him $300.

Work done since I picked it up Friday:

Cleaned fuel tank and factory hard lines, mounted and wired electric fuel pump, cleaned out all the damned mud, made a nice little "T" shifter.

Next up:
Install missing front shocks
New front tires
Swap from drums to discs and replace wobbly hubs
Swap generator for an alternator
Wire everything
Weld in new firewall and pans

After that she should be safe, and legal to drive and we will see what direction I want to take after than.
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Had a little bit of time to fiddle the other day between working 22 days straight, finally got around to doing my valves. Most of them were too tight, I'm guessing PO just made sure they touched instead of using an actual gauge. Got the useless mechanical fuel pump out of the way and a block off plate on. Found out what the horrible grinding sound from my driver rear hub was.....a bunch of brake parts loose rolling around in the drum, springs, adjusters and some unrecognizable metal. I don't have a parking brake or any rear brakes for that matter but at least that horrible noise is gone.

I'll add parking brake and new rears to the list-o-stuff.

Took it for a shake down run from LaVergne to my parents near the Smyrna airport and the shifter went all loose and wobbly on me as I was about to turn from Murfreesboro Rd to Sam Ridley, the set screw that holds the shift shaft to the trans came loose and fell out. Did a quick field fix and got it to my parents house where I tightened it down further....gotta slap some loc-tite in there when I remember.

So, Took it out to "Dubs in the Boro" VW show Saturday. That was the furthest drive yet, it did pretty well. Made it up to 56 mph, going to eventually need some new steering component and some rear shocks maybe as the ride is very stiff and she wanders. I'm sure anything that had a rubber bushing died and rotted years ago.

Coming together at least.

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Forgot all about this thread.....work done since October:

Got my replacement windshield in with the help of some speaker wire and my lovely Fiance.

Got one thing off the list......flipped the white out to white in and reset the leaky bead

Adjusted the rear brake shoes....they actually help stop (a little) now
Re-routed the oil pressure sensor, didn't like the way it was before
Ran wiring for the reverse sensor
Installed a wink mirror with some little mounts I made.....I wasn't feeling all the blind spots

retrofitted some LEDs I had laying around into the speedo.....I'll need to put in some sort of diffuser to better distribute the light

Test fit the panel.......still need to buy/borrow a welder and tack it in

Got the turn signal column thingy swapped for one that wasn't damaged and tried to add some diffusion to the LED, will have to wait till it gets darker to see if it helped.

Got a whole day to work on the baja.....boy did it need it.

After the front disc upgrade the rust was really beginning to annoy me, so I busted it all back down to metal and threw some paint over it.

Then started on the rears, full refresh:

Figured I'd preempt the rust on these


Better.....however I found out I am missing the E-brake actuator arm, now on order.

Other side started off bad.....nice "cotter pin"

Axle nut was WAY past 200 ft lbs for sure, my fence post hub immobilizer I used for the drivers side just rolled and folded, walking around the garage looking for something to use I realized my hi-lift would be perfect.

Got it off, got everything cleaned up and changed out then attempted to bleed......but no fluid, no bubbles.

Looks like the rubber line is collapsed or something is clogged, after pumping the brakes hard a few times I got fluid to weep out of the middle of the rubber line.

So, e-brake arm, pin and retainer as well as the cable and a new set of rubber lines are all on order.

This thing is going to stop better than it did off the assembly line when I'm done.

Terrible welds I know, but at least they match all the other terrible welds already there. Add a couple coats of high temp flat black and I think it looks much better than before. Now, do I get a tractor flapper or just keep a tin can over the tip when not in use.

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Got the e-brake hardware that was missing in

and installed onto the lever with a new cable. Very nice o be able to pull the brake when I park instead of leaving it in gear.

Replaced the collapsed rubber hose and threw in a new one on the other side to match

Then I coerced a friend into coming over and helping me bleed the air and what can only be described as gumbo out of the lines,

It stops like a whole different animal now. I literately only had front brakes before and they would lock the fronts up and I would skid to a stop under hard braking. Now those big beefy rears are helping to stop and man is it a difference.
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Wow, thats a lot of work. Good work though. Keep it up!
I dig it! My sister has a beetle and loves/hates it to death LOL. She lives in Phoenix so Im always bummed when I find out it broke down on her and I cant help out. Hope to see that ugly bastard out and about sometime!

Tack welded it in once every inch or so. Had to tack then bang it in place with a hammer in quite a few places and some there was just too big a gap to even bang the metal into place.

The places I could't get the metal close enough I managed to layer up some seam sealant to bridge the gap. All in all it turned out decent in my opinion.

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I've had a '63,'66,'67 and a '74 all standard beetles. Each beetle I went through I would always swap my same 1641 dual baby Dellorto carbed motor into each chasis. I miss how inexpensive some of the parts were.
Keep up the good work!

Found the blinker module/relay thingy cleaned it up and connected all the wiring. Dash indicator still doesn't work. I'll have to do something about that.

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Found the blinker module/relay thingy cleaned it up and connected all the wiring. Dash indicator still doesn't work. I'll have to do something about that.

its a bug. You don't need any stinkin blinkers. ;-)
I mainly want them for when I'm towing it. Instead of magnetic lights I am going to wire in a pigtail to use the lights on the bug powered from the tow vehicle.
Woo, got it working with all the parts that came with it, just had to clean up all the corrosion and add an extra ground wire to the sender. I guess it wasn't getting a good ground through the tank.

Private video..
Yeah, apparently that is my youtube default now for some reason. It should be fixed.
Well wouldn't you know it, last Thursday on my way to meet with The Wolfsburg Alliance VW club I hear a loud and unnerving bang then my engine starts running at a much higher RPM and at a very wrong tone. Pull over and find my spark plug hanging from the wire. Peek into the hole and find my insert has busted in half and been spit out. Have to limp back home on 3 cylinders with zero compression on one which was not fun.

So local VW forum to the rescue, A member from there had offered up a set of heads the first time I had the blow out but I declined in favor of the quick fix. Luckily when I asked him this time he still had them and gave them to me free of charge. So an extremely big thank you to him.

I've spent the last two days cleaning them up, one looks good as new the other had a damaged valve, I'll know more once I pull them.

I went ahead and ordered some push rod tubes since two of mine are smashed and held together with silicon (I think?) and leaking like crazy so I'll change those with the heads.

I hope to have the heads cleaned, taken apart and have replacement valves in and lapped then installed back on the Baja before Bug-A-palooza (Big VW show April 12&13)
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One of the valves was toast, one of the springs was snapped, all the springs have a good amount of rust, hopefully just surface rust and there is a small crack in between the intake and exhaust valve seats but doesn't extend into the seat so it should be fine (according to the interwebs)

Clean enough to install and run but since I'm going to be waiting on push rod tubes I may as well go all out and really get them clean.

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Well, back from my vacation and got a chance to work this morning:

Found out one of the free heads had a dropped valve seat so it won't be used:

Took the bad head off, found that the cylinder wasn't even seated properly. Probably losing a good amount of power with no compression.

Big hole where the spark plug threads should be:

Lapped the valves, installed new springs and installed onto the cylinders with new push rod tubes:

Took the "good" side off, everything with this head looks good. I'll lap the valves and replace the springs, clean off all the damned green paint the PO put everywhere and clean off all the grime then slap it back on with some new push rod tubes:

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Managed to get is all back together.......and actually running, as well as new plugs and a sludge, er, oil change.

It sounds much better and is peppier too.

When I took the driver side head loose three of the head nuts were loose and a fourth was barely holding onto the threads, the number 4 cylinder was not fully seated into the head so all my compression on that cylinder was pretty much blowing out the top. I basically drove it on 3 cylinders the whole time I've owned it.

That should be a testament to German engineering.

Still need to adjust the idle down and re-adjust the valve / lifer clearance......getting a lot of clanking.

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Looking really great!! I wish I had kept my old super project. I just wasn't patient enough at the time.

Sent from my PG06100 using Tapatalk 2
I dig this project. A lot of pics to look at too.

Hope to see you out an about this year at the Belk get together in the Boro (which start the 2nd of May).
I'm sure I'll be out and about now that I can actually drive it more than a few miles without hearing loss and worrying about it blowing up.

I adjusted the valve clearance and idled it down a bit......took it for a test drive.
It is weird that it is so much more quite than it was before......I actually got a phone call and could hear the person on the other side while at a stop light and I still have more sound proofing to do.
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