Winton Mitchell subcontracts to Ngatea Panelbeaters as a specialist painter. He has a special interest in classic VWS and kept a watchful eye on the body repairs, knowing that he was going to have to paint the car. With the chassis and engine back at my home in Auckland, Winton was able to prepare the body for paint and get to all the nooks and crannies that would otherwise be impossible to reach. He was fastidious to the point of allowing me to work only on the underside of the body panels, where I did many days’ worth of sanding and seam sealing before he was satisfied. I offered to help with the block sanding, but he wouldn’t hear of it. I soon saw why: he could spot blemishes where I saw nothing wrong, and several coats of highbulk primer went on the body, with each coat followed by more block sanding and wet sanding by hand. Watching an artist at work is one of the unadulterated pleasures in life.
I chose Lotus White for the body because that was the original colour, and selected Gobi Beige for the roof for two reasons — first, that was a VW colour of the same year, 1968, and secondly, the colour would enhance the colour scheme we had chosen for the interior. If a third reason were required, I would say that the car’s overall appearance and subtle lines and curves are enhanced by the addition of a second colour.
In my view, while not detracting from the quality of the metal work underneath, the paintwork is perhaps the best feature of the car as restored.
While the body was in the paint booth, the chassis and engine went to Qualitat European Motors for the latter to be reconditioned and the suspension, brakes, and fuel lines to be installed. It was then found that the engine block was not original to the car and that it was shot anyway. So, on the advice of Qualitat’s workshop manager, Vagn Dyson, we installed a reconditioned 1641cc engine using the old top-of-the-engine parts that my wife and I had refurbished — I had already installed new shock absorbers and brake lines.
With everything in place, the chassis — now fitted with the reconditioned engine — went back to Ngatea, where my wife and I spent a few days installing sound deadening to the floorpans and internal sections of the body, including the underside of the roof and inside the doors.
We also installed a new headliner — that took a couple of days before we were ready to reunite the body and chassis. We fitted the doors and front and rear trunk lids — they had been painted separately — and then the process of reinstalling everything that had come off the car began.
We fitted the front and rear windscreens — both original but polished by Novus — and the steering column (temporarily).
When the body was ready to go back on the chassis, I phoned my insurer and enquired about classic car insurance. They wouldn’t allow me to convey the Ghia on a trailer. I begged and pleaded — I had spent more than a $1500 on transporting the body and chassis here, there, and everywhere. No luck. I tried again later but still no luck. I then phoned Vero, and it took fewer than 90 seconds to sort out a policy that included cover while on a car trailer hauled by me. Five minutes later, my usual insurer phoned back — and said they had made a mistake and that they did, in fact, provide cover for the car while on a car trailer. I didn’t take up that option.
Because the Ghia had come into New Zealand damaged, the repair work had to be inspected and certified. Barry Robinson, a qualified repair certifier, regularly inspected the car during the repair work at Ngatea Panelbeaters and issued a final certificate (Form LT308 08/14) on November 20. A final inspection was performed by Christopher Karl at VINZ, Mount Wellington. Vagn Dyson quickly cleared up the three issues discovered during that inspection — a tail light not working, play in the left front wheel bearing, and play in the steering box — and the Karmann Ghia was registered and licensed on November 25, 2015, exactly two years, one month, and one week after I’d bought it.