Just a little off the top...

Just a little off the top...

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Just a little off the top...

10 years. A decade. An 8th of the average life expectancy in the UK, A Tin wedding anniversary, 2.5 presidential terms. Whichever way you measure it, it’s a long time, but can pass in the blink of an eye at the same time and a lot can happen in those years.

In the ten years that I’ve had this guy I’ve been through 2 relationships, moved twice, got married, bought a house, destroyed 4 cars, changed jobs 4 times, had my Father die. Most changes were for the better but some of them sucked. The last one sucked a lot.

Throughout all that time this guy’s been sat patiently, quietly – occasionally being worked on, but mostly half-heartedly due to other things taking priority, time, money – the same reasons that many encounters and why things get stalled. If you’re a highly motivated individual that just gets it done, then I tip my hat to you – I am not one of these.

10 years ago, would make me 22 and I acquired the beetle from a friend for a steal of a price. It had been in the back of his workshop patiently waiting, but again daily life, bills and trying to keep the unit running took precedence over doing personal fun projects. He was on the road once, but a fateful trip to run to the sun saw the engine blow and that was the end of his current guise and the start of a new one.

In the ten years mentioned, about 5 ago, I started here at Just Kampers. As every job it has its ups and downs, but there are major perks and many more ups than I had in the garage I was working at. 2 of the major perks here are an on-site workshop for staff to use and a director with an appetite for chopping cars up. A conversation was struck up about when the workshop would be free and if I could move in. This was received with much enthusiasm and said director even trailered it over for me – you can’t get much better than that.

Looking over the beetle once he was firmly in at work highlighted some issues – ten years of learning how to do repairs and those repairs now needed redoing, before the fun stuff could begin. I had a vision in my head that 22-year-old me could almost grasp and every lunchtime was spent redoing heater channels, rear quarters, making bulkheads and messing about with doors – essentially to get the shell strong enough to then cut to pieces. 3 months went by – approximately 50 hours of work or 60 lunchtimes. It has gone in the blink of an eye, but it was time and a Saturday was booked in the diary.

Roof chopping a beetle is apparently one of the hardest chops to undertake and make look good. This is down to the double curve of the roof – essentially as soon as you make that car smaller, your roof needs to get bigger, it’s messed up, it doesn’t make sense and it’s where a lot of chops go wrong. This isn’t having a pop or poking fun, saying “mines better than yours” as the sheer ballsiness it takes to cut your car into 4 pieces earns massive respect straight off. Everyone has different tastes and there are a variety of chops to suit. In that 10 years I have looked and looked and looked and had a clear idea of what I wanted – it wasn’t going to be wedge shaped, it had to retain the curve of the roof and it had to look hard. Luckily Pete the director who was going to help, read as do most of the work, was on the same page. It was worked out that we weren’t going to widen the roof and by dropping it down in the back with a tweak and slight rake on the pillars we could achieve it.

The Saturday came around with an early start at the JK workshop. Doughnuts, coffee and tins of fizzy drink were on hand to power on through the day, although the sheer excitement coursing through my veins had kept me up most of the night before like a kid at Christmas. I’d enlisted the help of a good friend by the name of Craig, who not only is an engineer / welder for a living but had fully built and sold a 64 beetle as well as sorting out a 68 bay in the whole time it had taken me to do 1 heater channel. As said earlier he is one of these motivated people that just gets stuff done.

After re bracing the shell as I had welded it in where we need to cut the roof off, it was go time. Pete marked out the cut lines on the body, we decided on 4 inches not the biggest chop, but the body is channelled 4 inches over the pan and anymore ran the risk of not being able to see out of it or fit inside.

B pillars were cut in the middle, A pillars trimmed down and around the rear screen the big cuts were made. It was off and free, and everything suddenly got a little bit real.

Next step was to move the roof down and back which instantly showed why you need at least 1 roof, potentially 2 if you widen it as well.

Off came the front section of the first roof and cut lines were drawn out on the donor to try and join the two together in a way that would cause minimum distortion when welding in.

Once dropped into place we were given an insight into how it could look, but something was slightly off. It turned out even though the B pillars were cut equally to the back and the front, there was a major dip in the middle. It didn’t make sense as to why it had happened, but a quick slice through the rear quarter and a B pillar transplant from the donor roof sorted it all out.

To join at the windscreen the A pillar bottoms got cut in 2 places which would allow it to tip inwards and the roof was cut the same to marry up. Getting the 2 joined required some tender BFI as my dad used to say (brute force and ignorance) in the form of Pete hanging off the car bending the A pillar in, while Craig tried to join it together without burning anybody. A rather loud “OUCHYOUF**KER” later and it was solid. The end was in sight as the final bit of getting it into one piece was to weld the 2 skins together on the top. The join was perfect, it couldn’t have been better, and this is where my master plan of a professional welder came into play – too much heat in one place and it would cause the roof to distort. Between Pete and Craig, while I made the tea, it was done. A deep breath and a step back and well.

It looked the nuts, absolutely unbelievable, each one of us couldn’t believe how well it had come out. I’ll let the pictures do the talking, but I am 1000% stoked on it, 1000% stoked I am lucky enough to have people willing to help me achieve these things, but 100% guilty I let life get in the way of doing this while my dad was alive. This was right up his street and I know he would be 1000% stoked on it as well, if not even more.

In the 10 years that me and this guy have been in each other’s lives, I have learnt a few life lessons and mellowed a lot. Key things being – have less friends who are better over many friends who couldn’t care. Small work on a project each day gets more done than a whole day every few months.

Just because you can get 50 cutting discs off the internet for not a lot of money, doesn’t mean you should. Nearly every disc we used exploded with varying degrees of excitement ranging from, pieces hitting me in the face, to an angle grinder getting thrown away before it severed any limbs.

And maybe the main lesson is just bother with people, my dad used to say, “play the game” and “if you give a little, you’ll get a lot”. He was absolutely, 1000% correct and I am unbelievably thankful to JK for letting me have the car here and to Pete and Craig for giving up their time to get this done.

Now the hard work begins.




2 years ago