In May 2019, I was approached by the producers of Salvage Hunters Classic Cars about a 1962 Beetle Karmann Cabriolet they had purchased. The production company had ordered a copy of my book – Patina Volkswagens – after seeing a review by Octane magazine. This led to the realisation that one of their presenters – Drew Pritchard – featured in the book. The plan for their Beetle was to strip off the matt black repaint to reveal the original paint. I was asked if I knew of anyone with this kind of experience, to which I replied: “Yes, me!”
I visited the Salvage Hunters Classic Cars workshop near Banbury to appraise the car and see if the figure they had in mind to do the work was reasonable. On seeing the car in person, I was struggling a little bit to see the potential, but I knew that I could do the work involved – I’ve been doing patina restorations on old VWs for around 15 years and have stripped other cars back to original paint. The idea was that I’d just do the stripping, some very minor welding and blend in the paint on any areas that needed it.
Around a month later came the first filming day in Banbury; we chatted on camera about the car and I’d brought some thinners along to have a little play with seeing if it would remove paint. One side of the car had already been partially stripped, but whoever did it apparently used oven cleaner and some fairly coarse sandpaper.
As I detailed in my second book – How to Build a Patina Volkswagen – there are several methods to employ when trying to strip paint; usually, thinners would be tried first, as it’s the least abrasive, followed by thinners and fine steel wool, graffiti remover, oven cleaner and regular paint stripper. The final methods if the above didn’t work would be to carefully sand with finer grades of wet and dry.
Luckily, the thinners we tested on camera revealed some original paint underneath, but it also highlighted a few potential areas of concern; it was assumed that all four wings were original to the car, but the stripping on camera revealed one front wing was Sea Blue.
Chatting on camera, we all had differing views about how we should proceed with the preservation; the hood was one area that we initially disagreed on – it was very tatty and, mixed with how rough the car looked with the black paint, I was pretty vocal that I thought it should be changed.
With the car safely at Dub Works in Petersfield, where I’d arranged to rent some space to do the work on the car, work could begin. As the last coat of paint applied was black, it would clog any rags used with the thinners quite quickly; I decided to change to using a pot of decanted thinners and a paintbrush; I’d work the thinners in, then wipe off with a rag or blue roll. This was painstaking work and gave off a lot of fumes, but thinners is what was used to strip all of the black and the orange layer below.
There was a final coat of white to remove, but this was more resistant to the thinners – it appeared to be house paint. I found that this was best removed with very fine steel wool and thinners; this required industrial chemical resistant gloves, as it would eat through regular latex/nitrile gloves in seconds.
Even with the steel wool, it still took an age to get the white paint off. I’d change things up at this point, spending some time stripping paint and then taking time out to begin restoring other parts of the car.
As the paint came off, there were a few areas of concern; as mentioned earlier, one of the wings was Sea Blue originally and also had a lot of rust through in the lower headlamp bowl area. The other front wing proved to be a New Old Stock Volkswagen wing. However, the factory packing primer had not been removed before this had been painted, leading to a lot of rust trails under the paint and primer; I made the decision to have both front wings blasted, so I could be sure that the rust had been eradicated, before painting them to match the rest of the car.
Having had the wings blasted, there were also several stress cracks to weld up, after which I sanded, rust converted and primed both wings. I then painted two further layers – I had both colours of the VW factory primer mixed up and laid these layers on first so that any patination and fading would match the original paint on the rest of the car.
We then decided to use cellulose in aerosol cans, as it’s easier to do patina style paint in this manner. The engine lid of the car was similar to the NOS wing and it was discovered that the passenger door had been stripped back to bare metal at some point and left to rust – this needed to be bare-metalled, rust treated and painted too.
The bonnet was in quite a mess; it had been dented quite badly at some point and the rust had crept under the paint, so we decided to take a section of it back to bare metal and have Jason, owner of Dub Works, panel beat the damaged area. After this, the paint was sympathetically added.
All of the new paint was carefully added as thin layers, after which it was gently wet sanded with foam-backed paper; we wanted a little bit of the grey to bleed through but didn’t want to overdo it, especially as most of the existing original paint on this car was thick. Once all the paint repairs had been carried out, I enlisted the help of Steve Parsons to add some patina effect to the repainted areas.
We decided to paint the wheels in two-tone, using VW Moss Green centres and VW Pearl White rims; we also decided to fit NOS Sand Beige running board mats. Even though the original wheel colour was black/white and the original running board mats were black, the decision was made that it would look better this way. I also repainted all of the wing beading in Yukon yellow to match the paint. Once the paint was nearing completion, we decided that the hood would be better repaired than replaced; I suggested Portchester Trimmers, who are local to me and they were happy to do the work.
What with sourcing a lot of the hard to find parts from all over the globe and finding specialists to carry out some of the work, as well as doing more of a full restoration than I’d envisaged, the project took a couple of months longer than expected, but I loved being given the opportunity to do it and, I like to think, the results speak for themselves.
Being that Salvage Hunters Classic Cars is quite a mainstream car programme, I’m sure that this car will really divide opinion, but anyone who views the episode will hopefully realise that patina restoration isn’t a lazy or cheapskate option to restoring a car – it’s a conscious choice and one that is more sympathetic to originality.
Once the car left me, the guys at the SH workshop carried out the final few items, such as fitting window rubbers; many parts had to be sourced from the USA and Belgium, amongst others.
The car was revealed on camera on 12th December 2019 at Caffeine and Machine near Stratford upon Avon; the above photos are from the reveal day. Here’s a shot of Mark with Steve Parsons, Paul Cowland and Drew Pritchard:
The car featured in series 4 (episode 5) of Salvage Hunters Classic Cars on Quest TV on Wednesday 6th May 2020. The show is available to watch on-demand via dPlay.
Follow @barefootdriver on Instagram for more patina inspiration.