Volk­swa­gen Bee­tle

Jon vis­its the spe­cial­ist who en­sured that his Bee­tle would stand the test of time

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - This Week -

‘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.

JON BENT­LEY CON­TRIB­U­TOR

1972 VW BEE­TLE 1200

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