September 15th Deadline

It’s been a long road getting to the point where my son and I are ready to do some of the heavy lifting required on the Super Beetle. It has been sadly shuttled between the garage and the side yard for the past couple years (which have flown by far too quickly) as we needed the garage for other projects. House projects and general life have intervened in all plans to move forward with it, but the time now seems to be right for a fresh start. We probably have 90% of all the parts needed to get it functioning properly and reliably, including a new distributor to replace the sluggish 009, a proper carburetor, a new wiring harness (which we might wait on), etc.

So before I re-launch this site with new posts, I’ll just relay a little background and update. When I got out of VW’s around 2005-06 (see the post below, where I sold all my VW’s), I ended up getting back into Saabs for a bit, and then got out of those too, but my son never forgot them. Most of his on-road formative years were spent in either my 1990 SPG or our family wagon, a 2004 9-5 Arc. I also had a 2003 9-5 Aero 5-speed and a 9-2X Linear (non-turbo) for a bit.

My son in 2008 at the annual Saabs@Carlisle (Carlisle PA Import & Performance Nationals)

When Saab went bankrupt, I pretty much decided I was done with cars that required me to embark on a search for NOS or used spare parts anytime something broke or needed replacing. So over the next few years I transitioned out of Saabs and gravitated toward Jeeps, parts for which were so prevalent you could probably walk into the local bodega and ask for them. Even back in the day, you could build an entire CJ from parts ordered out of a JC Whitney catalog, though it probably wouldn’t be the highest quality rig. My current daily driver is a 2012 Wrangler 2-door 6-speed. I’ve done most of the work on it myself, and for the most part it’s super easy to work on and maintain. After selling the 9-5 wagon, we went to an Acura TSX Sportwagon for a while for the family hauler, until we hit someone who blew a light on the Long Island Expressway service road, totaling the TSX. We then leased a couple Grand Cherokees, which the whole family loved, but then Jeep pretty much priced us out of the market, so in 2019 we got out of the leasing game and purchased a new Subaru Forester which now has 84K miles on it and has been a great car so far.

Back in 2011, my dad had driven one of the last new Saab 9-5’s and fell in love with it. When Saab’s bankruptcy was announced, he asked me if I thought there would be any fire sales on them, and I said he should make the dealership an offer. He lowballed them on a 2011 9-5 Turbo4, and they said yes, so he has had that car for the last twelve years, and I think it has likely been his favorite car. He drove it everywhere, and put about 110K miles on it. My son always admired it as the “last Saab in the family,” so when my dad decided it was time to move on to something new, he gave the car to my son for his 16th birthday.

For the last few months, we’ve been getting it up to speed. It was quite a struggle as these last 9-5’s had a number of known issues, and we’ve been working through them one-by-one. Unfortunately, most of the available tutorials and documentation online are for the first generation (1997-2010) models. They only made 11,280 of the NG9-5’s (for reference, as rare as the Type III’s are, over 2.5 million of them came out of the German factory alone over the car’s run), and some parts are pretty much impossible to find, while standard parts like brake pads and rotors needed hours of research to find the correct matching parts for this particular (Turbo4) model.

Celebrating at Shake Shack after finally getting the rotors/pads replaced all around

There were four different brake and rotor combinations just for the NG9-5 alone, depending on whether or not you had the Aero package, the “dust and performance” package, etc. I thought it would be easier if I just bought the EBC “Rotor & Pad Kit” for our specific 9-5, but the pads ended up being the wrong size, so we sent them back, only to find the replacements didn’t ship with the accompanying hardware kit. The good thing is the folks at BuyBrakes were excellent, and went the extra mile to find that their catalog had an error in it and confirmed all subsequent part shipments for us. Hopefully fixing their records helps the next NG9-5 owner.

Once the brakes were taken care of, my son fixed the rear driver’s side directional, which was registering a fault. The NG9-5’s had an issue with melting turning lamp sockets, so my dad had switched to LED’s, and it seems the resistor that had gone on that side was either faulty or had burned out. My son replaced the resistor and that fixed the issue.

After that, we installed new LED’s in the rear light bar, which required cutting into the ends of the bar with a dremel and also running VERY thin new wires through it to the new logic board which we installed in the middle above the license plate, then sealing it all up with JB Weld plastic epoxy. It came out great. My dad said he hadn’t even realized the bar was supposed to look like that. I imagine like with most NG9-5’s, his probably failed within the first year or two of ownership. Since we rarely drive behind our own cars, let alone at night, he probably never noticed it.

Fixed the rear light bar with new outer LED’s and new logic board

So the car is registered and inspected in NY now, and my son takes his road test next week. He still wants to tear into the audio system, but they are TIGHTLY integrated with the whole car, especially in these late models, so I’m not sure how much success he’ll have with it. The stock base audio system sounds pretty bad, so he’ll at least swap out the speakers with something better. Hopefully it’s all set otherwise for a few years and should be a solid, safe car for him. We might still wire up a backup camera, as visibility is pretty bad from inside the cabin. It does drive really nicely though. Having driven the Subaru for the past few years, I forgot what a quality (heavy) European car feels like. It’s a great highway cruiser in particular. We’re pretty excited to be bringing the car to the annual Saabs@Carlisle show this May, even though we’ll probably have one of the most basic Saabs present. My son hasn’t wanted to go for the past few years because it’s quite a hike for us, but now that we have something to put on the showfield, we’re making the trek.

Which brings us at long last to the ’71 Super Beetle.

I think the electrical issues with the Beetle have been one of the main “demotivators” to getting the thing sorted and on the road, in addition to the fact that we have to pull the engine and replace all the chrome cooling tin. It feels like a lot to dig into. There’s also some hesitation because it actually runs right now and pulling it apart to try to make it more safe and reliable opens us up to the issue we see all over the Samba – people starting projects and giving up and selling everything once the thing is in pieces. We don’t want to do that.

However, over the past few years my son and I have gotten into fixing vintage electronic equipment, and I think it has helped a lot with our understanding of signal tracing and such, so hopefully we’ll be able to track down and resolve any electrical issues.

My first successful vintage electronics repair job – a Technics SA-400 ($25 estate sale pickup)

We did resolve an issue with one of the rear taillights not working a few months ago. I forgot what the issue was and how we resolved it, but when we were trying to track it down, it seemed like our troubleshooting process worked better than it had a few years earlier when we tried to figure out what was wrong.

There are a few extra wires coming out of what looks like a replaced ignition, but they don’t match up to the colors in the Bentley guide. Last time we looked at it (a year ago or so), we had figured out what they were supposed to be for, but I didn’t write them down so we’ll have to figure it out again and keep much better notes going forward.

All in all, we’re excited to get going on the car again, and to get a few more “wins” in, and we now have a goal to shoot for – the local Long Island VW Club’s 2024 All-VW show on September 15, 2024 at Riverhead Bay Volkswagen in Riverhead, NY. If all goes well, I’ll be updating this site over the spring and summer with our progress, and hopefully we’ll have the Beetle registered and inspected and at the show this fall!


Aaaand, We’re Back

When I sold all my Type III stuff about fourteen years ago now, I really never thought I’d own another aircooled VW. Actually, I never really thought I’d own another vintage automobile. However, my soon-to-be twelve-year-old son has really gotten into cars and he has been asking for years now if we could get a project car to work on. Knowing the time, energy, and money that goes into such an endeavor, I’ve been delaying. He really wanted a Nissan or a Saab, but I knew money probably wouldn’t go far on one of those marques, and having dealt with the rarity of Type III parts back in the early 00’s, I also knew if we were going to get something, it would need to have plenty of cheap parts available, preferably from multiple sources. It also needed to be simple because I’m not a mechanic, and I’d need to be able to learn as I went (and so would he)!

So when the time finally came that I had to stop saying “no” to a project car, it looked like an aircooled Beetle would hopefully fit the bill nicely. Even if we needed to replace the entire wiring harness, it could be done. I knew we wanted a late model (post-’68) model. No collectibles. Our budget wouldn’t allow anything older. Also, if we were getting a standard Beetle, we didn’t want anything newer than a ’72, as the late Bob Hoover had informed me after my previous experiences with a hurting ’73 standard Beetle that the hammerhead pan in the later models was prone to twisting.  We also didn’t want anything that needed new heater channels or pans.

We were visiting my folks on our summer vacation, and got to talking with my dad about it and he said if we could find something for a couple thousand bucks, he’d pick up the tab for it. We searched The Samba and Craigslist.

There were a couple cars on The Samba that looked promising. First was an orange Super with a sunroof that looked like it would be a good starter car, but looking in the forum of the user who posted it for sale, it was obvious there were issues with the sunroof that he didn’t disclose in the listing. Then there was a really nice, unmolested standard ’71 for a decent price. By the time I contacted the guy, the car was supposedly already sold (it is, however, still up on the Samba).

After that, I found a rust-free California car with a blown engine, but the seller apparently didn’t want to work with me to ship it across country. Maybe he thought I was a scammer.

Eventually, something turned up on The Samba and I was surprised to see the seller was Randy from OldBug, a site I had been aware of back when I was working on my Type III’s. I remember thinking back then that if I ever wanted to buy another aircooled VW, that would probably be the place to get it. Kind of odd that that’s where we ended up finding this car. We made Randy an offer, and he helped find us a shipper. Within a few days, the car was here.

Selling all my Type 3 stuff

Well, as you can probably see from the diary here, since my wife and I bought our house I have spent far too little time on these cars. It’s time to turn them over to someone who will pick up where I left off. My wife and I are embarking on this spiritual “de-cluttering” endeavor, and we’re hoping that it will restore some balance to our lives. I’ve had a clutter problem most of my life, and it’s starting to weigh me down. It’s time to give up things that I’m no longer using and be free of them to let them move along to new owners, or to be recycled or whatever they’re next bound for.

It’s kind of an experiment, and I’m sure it will take a while to figure out if it’s working or not. My feeling is how can it not work? I think I got overwhelmed by the amount of work that I wanted to do on the cars to get them to the point where I’d be happy with them. Now, I won’t need to really worry about that anymore. No more worrying about what to do if they’re not idling right, or how I’m going to weld in replacement sections of the pan on the Fastback, or how I’m going to keep ahead of the rust that is constantly attacking Type 3’s here in the northeast US.

So that’s it for the diary I think. I have lots of Type 3 manuals that I still plan to scan in and put on this site, and the site itself isn’t going anywhere. I will keep it going as it seems to get about five hundred unique visitors a month on average and since the material has been static for a while, it seems like some people are using it as a resource, which is what I had hoped it would become. So rest assured, it’s staying put here at and I will continue to add to it.

Thanks for visiting.

December 3, 2005

It’s Saturday, almost a month after my last post. Things have been moving slow on the Fastback. Between work and a writing project I’ve been working on with an old friend, I’ve had little time or motivation to get back to work. So it sits in the garage, rear on jack stands. I did finally get the parts in from CIP, and noticed that the battery tray patch panel is WAY shallow. It only extends from about the rear frame where the seatback goes to the floor to where the divider area between where the battery sits and the rear foot area is. I was hoping it extended at least a little into the foot area. I think I’ll have to grab some sheet metal from the Squareback up in NH before I attempt a repair. The actual patch panel seems pretty thick, and is much more solid than I imagined it would be.

I did get started on the FI harness repair. Man, what a hack job that thing was. Check the frayed ends of the wires in the pic. I had to be very careful getting the shrink tubing off the wires. It was too tight to get scissors or clippers in there, so I had to use a sheetrock knife with a new blade, and had to be careful not to cut the wires themselves. Cutting four inches of tubing took me about fifteen minutes. It was brittle as hard plastic. The wires themselves are the same way, probably a result of so many heat/cool cycles over the years. I’m going to have to take my time fixing them as well, since any bending is likely to damage the wires inside the insulation. It’s not going to be fun. I’m half thinking I should just take the engine out of the car for easier access to the wires, but I’ll see if I can avoid that. From what I can tell, the engine is in good condition, so I’d like to just get this thing running and then do the brakes and go through the suspension so I can perhaps get it on the road. With the first snow of the year coming Tuesday though, and the resulting salt on the roads, it looks like I have until Spring to get this all done. That’s fine with me — the wife and I still have two rooms of the house to finish painting and getting situated: our bedroom and a bathroom off the kitchen. They’ve been sitting in painter’s white for over a year now. Time to get to them.

Today’s project though is to start scanning in a couple old Super 8 films I made in college to see if I can make decent AVIs out of them. It’s around 40 degrees out today and the garage isn’t heated. What I think is an arthritis onset in the knuckles of my left index and middle fingers has been particularly bad for the past couple days as well. I’m going to have to get that checked out because it’s been getting worse and worse since the Fall set in. Grand.

November 8, 2005

I’ve been on some big deadlines at work, so I haven’t had much of a chance to work on the Fasty recently. Last week I did manage to remove the fuel injectors and the fuel ring from the engine compartment. The seals were pretty dry, and when I went looking for the fuel injector seals that I know I bought at some point earlier this year, I couldn’t find them. So I ended up going on CIP to get some new ones. While I was there I picked up a headliner to replace the one that’s in the car (ripped, and stuffed with rat nest padding), and I got the replacement battery tray as well, which is now available for sale.

At one point CIP also had total left/right pans available, but it looks like they’re all gone now. My guess is that someone scooped them up and will now sell them at premium prices. I should write to CIP to see if they’re going to have more in stock. Might be a good idea to pick up a set if possible. Never know what kind of Type 3 I’ll pick up in the future.

So the seals and the tray and the headliner are scheduled for delivery today. I’m hoping to take Friday and Saturday off so I’ll get the fuel system all set up in the Fasty, and if I am in the mood, I guess I’ll be tackling the electrical system on the FI as well. Lots of soldering to do. The thing is a mess in the engine compartment. I’d rather not replace the FI harness if I can help it at all. It’s pretty brittle, but I think it will be OK. Just gotta be gentle with it.