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Project #Super71 - One Rusty Frame Head

This particular VW Beetle came into my life back in 1996 when my mechanic decided we needed a promotional car to take to the local VW shows and cruise nights. The Bug was not 100% when we fixed it up back then and a lot of corners were cut to insure we had it on the road by the summer on 1997. Fast forward 24 years later and those trouble areas that were "Patched Up" back then were only getting worse, but until I flipped the chassis upside down to remove those "Repairs" I wasn't sure what I was going to have to work with.

The first step was to get the entire chassis flipped upside down so I could get a better look at it, and to make it easier to work on. If you have ever has to work under a car you know how much of a pain that can be. In addition, upside down welding is no fun. I backed the chassis out from under the body and muscled it up on its side. Because I left the rear wheels on, it would stand up all on its own. Right away it was clear that the frame head and Napoleon hat were going to require some repairs, but just how much was still unknown. I took some photos and then completed the flip and pushed the chassis back into my work area. It was time to bust out the angle grinder and dig in.

Back in 1996 my mechanic had someone weld a thick patch panel over the trouble area on the lower frame head. It covered most of the frame head and hid most of the rust. It seemed to do the job for 24 years but I needed to know what it looked like now. I used the angle grinder to cut the welds and free the metal patch. Once removed I was pretty shocked to see a gaping whole and a huge amount of rust. This was going to be a tricky repair and take some patience and creativity.

With any project that seems overwhelming all you can do it break it into smaller chunks and tackle each small problem at a time. In this situation the first job would be to clean up and cut out as much rusty metal as possible and see what was left to work with. Once that was complete I could try and formulate a master repair plan using the materials I had. If that failed I would have to spend the big bucks to buy a completely new frame head (Something I didn't want to do since they are around $600).

After looking at the mess I had to work with I came up with a plan of attack. I was going to leave the good metal in place and use the heavy gauge repair panel to create a new lower portion of the frame head and Napoleon hat. The panel was larger than required so I cut it to size and used the cutoff metal to fabricate new lower portions for the Napoleon hat. Before my new patch panel could be welded in place I had to make repairs to a few other areas.

  1. Fabricate and weld in an extension for the metal that butts up to the control arm brace.
  2. Fabricate and weld in some bar stock to create a new lower frame head perimeter.
  3. Cut away the bad metal in the forward portion of the tunnel, and fabricate a replacement panel.
  4. Replace the old fuel line that runs through the tunnel.

Once I had every piece required fabricated and ready to go, I was able to weld everything in place in the right order. It took several days to put it all together but I was extremely happy with the results. This Super Beetle was just holding on before this repair and now it's unbelievably strong. The best part is that the entire repair only cost me $40. The newly repaired frame head was painted and seam sealed in order to protect it from the elements. The job tested my creativity and fabrication skills. I think I learned a lot and I will need that knowlege to continue repairs to the rest of the Beetle.

Thanks for following the build. Please leave your feedback, questions and comments below.


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