It's a bug life!
The life and soul of a man and the love for his bug.
Hello to all the wonderful folks out there that read this. Bentley of The Back Roads here! Proud owner of a leather-craft business run with my father and of course, an early 1967 (One Year Only) Beetle!
Let me begin by introducing you to a vehicle that has no doubt been named many times in her past, but I like to refer to her as 'Fluffy' or 'Fluff' for short. First registered in the UK on 24th April 1967.
At the age of 17 I bought this wonderful example of a Beetle, having absolutely no knowledge as to how special the car I was purchasing actually was. Bought for the prize sum of £2050 with a last minute bid on eBay I was in love immediately. Almost entirely original including her engine and paint she is, from what I have been informed, worth a considerable amount more than this sum. The local Classic VW scene is soaring and '67 Split buses are going for upwards of £35000 in mediocre condition I dare to even ask what this little bundle of joy is worth to the right individual, although I have been told on several occasions that she is worth quite reasonably within the £13000 region. (My insurance company would have a meltdown!) So let the story of my past 8 years with her begin.
So long ago... so young... Let's not mention the hair...
Attention! Boy does she get some attention! My first ever motor vehicle show that I attended was by suggestion of a work colleague 2 years after the initial purchase. I bumbled in expecting to see lots of other Beetles just like mine.... only to find, none of them were! Yes they were all Beetles, but none of them had that character that mine had. She seemed a tad wider, longer and more sleek looking than the others, I had different catches, rear lights and other items of small detail I started to pick out. It was only until people started approaching my general area and asking if she was a '67 I realised something must be special about the year.
Let the research begin! Since then I have attended plenty of shows, while not always with Fluffy, I have always asked around to gain peoples inside knowledge of my cars year, gathering, resourcing and researching I have found a ton of information is accessible to us one year only owners! It became apparent that little Fluff here was part of a small production run of Beetles AKA The One Year only model. From the end of '66 to mid '67 VW decided to run a cross over car in order to make way for the 'New' model (Upright headlights) So as a little celebration of their work they fitted what they considered the best features of all their past models, to this one. There are far too many parts that are designated to this model only. The most obvious are listed above, but it runs to the finest of details, including the door winders shape, style and colour! There is quite a few left in the U.S. of this model, interestingly however they already had the upright headlights. My particular car is actually 1 of only 4 Registered on UK roads. This Autumn I had the privilege of meeting another one of us by pure chance at the Excel centre. Small world one could say!
ADVENTURES! Of how many do we speak? "Oh so very many" said Fluff, "oh so many!". I think it is safe to say that this wonderful old girl has been far and wide across all possible cavernous and pot hole riddled roads the UK can throw at her. As a younger chap I was very keen on medieval re-enactment, 15th Century to be precise. This has led to trips from Sussex to Suffolk and beyond, most of the time the old girl has whistled along without a hitch full of heavy canvas, wool, wood, lumps of steel and all manner of other wonderfully heavy items we used. She has been inside castles the public can't access, driven across beautiful lawns that are not even allowed to be walked on by punters and seen some of the finest English countryside the human eye can visualise! Slowly moving away from this hobby I have continued the camping, but in a lighter standing with modern equipment. Of course, we still drove full to the roof, seats folded down and the bonnet filled! Brighton, Heddingham, Hastings, Epping to name a mere few! These adventures and stories are created even to this day as little Fluffy remains my daily driver.
Anyone in need of a taxi?
With 99870 on the clock (I often wonder how many times that little clock has rolled over) and still running strong, I decided it was about time she had a full engine re-build. What an adventure in itself this undertaking would turn out to be! Before embarking on this glorious little escapade I had never really touched serious mechanical issues with the old girl. It became easier and far less taxing to just 'hand it to the specialist' However, money was tight and I had a mission! Knowing that this was not going to be an overnight job, I battled through. The tin ware was all shot-blasted and I re-sprayed it in the original L94 Black, straight to bare metal just like the factory did back in '67. The engine was stripped, the case was machined along with the crank, cam shaft and heads. This was all then professionally cleaned and soda blasted to start a fresh. Apart from the conrods, rockers and tappets as they had absolutely no wear... Mind Boggling after near 100000 miles and millions of revolutions.
Everything else was replaced with NOS parts or the highest quality re-production parts I could get my hands on through specialist firms. Just a smidge over £1000 later with a new clutch and the engine in place, I turned the key..... She didn't start. My world cascaded, my pride totally obliterated. "Calls the master at spanner wielding (Dad)" As advised, I swap my HT Leads to the correct locations, DOH! She starts! And not with the whining whir she used to have, no this is a new sound, a purr, a happy purr! I think it is fair to say that every man should build a block and listen to his handwork start up like that. It is a life experience one will never forget! Her little engine is now run in, utilising a semi-synthetic racing oil to keep her sweet and I dare to say, she runs like a dream!
My latest crusade is the unfortunate need to re-spray the original paint. It has taken myself and several other one year only experts to actually nail her faded colouring, at last I have a paint code! L595 Fontana Grey, it's technically a '66 only colour stateside but over here in the Drizzly UK it made it's debut and abrupt end in the latter half of 66' to early half of '67. Replaced by what I believe to be 'Chinchilla Grey' A much darker shade.. which can in fact be seen on her bonnet, aka her 'Birthmark'.
From teen to adult my bug has been by my side!
To bring my little heart to heart with you folks to a close, I think it worth mentioning that classic cars never cease to amaze, bemuse and ponder my thoughts of just how hardy these fantastic little cars are. They really are built to last!
I hope that you have enjoyed this light spell of sun, wind and waves with Fluffy!
Bentley - The Back Roads Maniac