Jon visits the specialist who ensured that his Beetle would stand the test of time
‘Searching for a rétroviseur Coccinelle gauche or a VW Käfer Außenspiegel links hasn’t come up with anything yet’
Aa trip down to Street in Somerset to see VW specialist Arnold Levics was high on my list of places to visit in my recently rebuilt Volkswagen Beetle. Arnie (as he’s more usually known) used to service the car when I acquired it, as a student, back in 1981.
My mission was to thank him for the thorough and life-saving injection of Waxoyl he’d applied all those years ago. I reckon it’s the main reason why the car survived relatively rust-free for such a long time.
Arnie’s now in his seventies and the business, with the help of other family members, seems as busy as ever keeping old VWs on the road. On the day I dropped by, there was a 1982 Jetta and a splendid Type 2 Camper up on the ramps being fettled.
It was good to chat with Arnie, who revealed that very few 1980s customers took him up on his Waxoyling offer on account of the expense, and that seeing my car still on the road had made his week. I seem to recall that the bill was actually rather modest. His period sticker still has pride of place in my car’s rear window.
Seeing Arnie again reminded me that I hadn’t actually planned to buy my particular Beetle at all. He’d lined up a slightly more desirable dark green K-reg 1300 and I was going to pay him £350 for it, hard-earned from my holiday jobs. Unfortunately its gearbox suffered a terminal problem just before I was due to take delivery. My father took pity on me, brought forward plans to replace his own 1200 Beetle with a Golf, and sold his car to me instead.
Thirty-six years later I couldn’t help thinking that the 1300, with its extra soundproofing and trim, would have been much quieter trolling up and down the M5 from Birmingham. Beetles had a reputation back in the day for their motorwaymunching abilities – they were inspired by the autobahnen, after all, and their maximum speed was also their cruising speed. But only the more expensive versions deserved that accolade. I stopped at Gloucester services for an antitinnitus break in both directions.
The car’s more at home doing 50 or 60mph on A- and B-roads. When I recently had an appointment to drive the latest Golf GTI in Buckinghamshire, I plotted a much more leisurely route to avoid the aural fatigue of the M1 and M6.
On the trip I noticed some strange deposits around the fuel filler which turned out to be a disintegrating cap seal. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to source a replacement seal, though complete replacement caps are easy to come by. Alas, my newly acquired cap suffers from the depressingly common problem of being a relatively poor modern copy. The original has a rather satisfying clicking mechanism, which prevents it from being overtightened. The new one doesn’t.
On the subject of low-quality copy parts, at least I’ve managed to source an original driver’s door mirror. This supplants the modern replacement I’d fitted, which has miserably low optical quality. My new original was just 12 quid on eBay. Genuine passenger door mirrors are harder to find because they were rarely fitted when the cars were new. Even thinking laterally and searching for a rétroviseur Coccinelle gauche or a
VW Käfer Außenspiegel links hasn’t come up with anything yet. I won’t give up, though.
Arnie’s sticker, still proudly displayed in Jon’s Beetle.
Mysterious black crumbs turned out to be as a result of a slowly disintegrating fuel filler cap seal. New cap (on left) isn’t as well made as the original (on right). Arnie Levics: VW Beetle specialist extraordinaire.
1972 VW BEETLE 1200