So I Decided to Buy a Kit Car
As part of my perpetual quest to be Batman in real life, I came across this interesting vehicle on eBay back in 2011:
Believe it or not, that’s a 1968 Volkswagen Beetle.
If we’ve ever met at an event (or if you follow me on Facebook), you know I’m an automotive enthusiast and I’m constantly looking for something to tinker with – usually a Jeep or Corvette, but I wanted to do something different and started browsing eBay for unfinished projects. It was in October of 2011 (ironically, the same year I acquired the Batman suit) that I came across this 1977 Sterling kit car. The Sterling was a car designed in the 70’s by the now-defunct California Component Cars, which was essentially just a fiberglass body kit designed to replace the body of a classic VW beetle.
It immediately caught my attention, and although I had never owned a Volkswagen before, my brother and a lot of friends are passionate about classic VW’s and all were interested in seeing where this could go. Not really knowing what I was getting into, I bid and won.
Fortunately one of my VW enthusiast friends owns a body shop in Clearwater and I had it shipped straight there, excited to check it out on the day it arrived. I knew it needed a gas tank, some paint & body work, and an interior but supposedly everything else worked. Unfortunately my excitement faded quickly when I saw in person what the pictures didn’t reveal.
Cracks in the body reaching up to 12″ long that conveniently didn’t show in the photos. Pieces missing. A pile of parts on the seat that didn’t even look like they belonged to the car. It sagged at an awkward angle to the front, the tires were 30 years old and dry rotted, none of the gauges worked, and the electrical system was impossible to trace because the builder decided to wire EVERYTHING using a single spool of red wire. And lots of electrical tape. The hydraulic pump (used to raise and lower the top) did “work”, but it was leaking fluid all over the place. It was a total basket case.
The shop wasn’t concerned with the body work, but the mechanical was going to be more than they had anticipated so they recommended another local VW guy take a look. We towed it to his shop and worked through the issues one at a time. Rewired the entire car, replaced the hydraulic pump, installed brakes and suspension, added new digital gauges, gas tank, rebuilt the motor and carburetor. A few thousand dollars and almost a year later it was finally running like new and was ready to be driven home and claim its rightful place in my garage so I could get started on the body work.
I didn’t know at the time that I’d be eventually doing an EV conversion, but in the next post I’ll share a little more about what lead up to the decision.