If you’re just joining us, you should get to know Miss Mabel. This fine lady is a 1959 VW Beetle the shop has built as our entry in the Ultimate VW Build-Off in Vegas October 1-4, 2015.
Not that she’ll get much road time for the next year. That’s because she’ll spend that time as a trailer queen making the rounds of all the shows the shop goes to. But, still a good idea to make sure she’s good to go if needed.
How’d it go?
(First, I think we’re all glad it’s 00Dub doing the driving!) She made it out of the gravel driveway at the Volkswagen restoration shop with no real problems. Well, except that she lost her Gremlin bell. That’s a pretty strong indicator that we’ve built a pan scraper here. That’s good for the shows, but she’ll need to come up a bit to be driven after she’s done showing off.
PP hopped in to film the next part of her road test (NO SHOES, of course!). Engine’s sounding good, sunroof is lovely, and the interior’s comfy. We passed over a small asphalt strip – just a patch, really, to repair a crack in the road. And on approach, that sucker loomed like an enormous speed bump! Perspective changes quite a bit when you’re that low to the ground. So good so far, though.
Until we took the final curve and the shift just seemed off. Like maybe the brand new VW transmission was stuck in the wrong gear?
Oh… or maybe it was the fact that the weld attaching the shifter in place failed and the shifter came off in Dub’s hand. Yeah, that might be the issue.
This, volks, is why we road test. As eager as we all are to get every completed project out there and sent home with our clients, it’s really not ready until it’s ready. We can’t overstate the importance of testing before we send a Porsche or VW restoration project home. That’s why we typically put about 500 miles on every build we do. We’ll test it under different weather conditions, on different roads, at variable speeds and every sort of normal driving condition you might encounter.
We’ve got a few days before she gets into the hauler to take her cross-country trip – so we’ve got it covered.
Whether you’re down the road or across the country, we can help. It’s not super expensive to ship project cars across the United States, and about half (maybe more!) of our clients are long-distance. When you look at spending this kind of money on a Porsche or VW restoration project (yeahhhhh, it’s a pretty penny), the cost of shipping your ride to a shop that can do it right is negligible.
Click or call 256-828-2123 to start the conversation about YOUR project.
Airkooled Kustoms custom VW restoration shop is known for “doing it right.” There’s nowhere that’s more visible than in our paint. No 50/50 jobs here – you know, looks good at 50 yards if you’re driving 50 mph past it. In fact, the closer you come, the more closely you look, the better the finish looks.
This is Miss Mabel, the 1959 VW Beetle Ragtop the shop is preparing for the Ultimate VW Build-Off. It’s in Las Vegas, October 1-4, 2015. Even though Mabel started out with a relatively sound body, she looked every bit of her nearly sixty years. Her once dull, gray, creased, dinged, patina body has been straightened, repaired, and perfected. Painted and polished to within an inch of her life, she now sports a paint job so slick and juicy that it’s hard not to drool on her.
Making Paint Shiny -er
In this little clip, Spook shows her bling black finish in the shade and the sunlight. That’s to demonstrate why people will be spending an inordinate amount of time looking at her. She looks sinister and shiny in the shade – brilliantly black and blingy in the sunlight – all the same finish, of course.
That’s the hallmark of Airkooled Kustoms custom VW restoration projects. There’s more to see than what your eye picks up right away. Ninja-like, right? With some builds out there, the hope is that you’ll like the car and keep walking before you see what’s wrong with it. It’s the opposite with AKK builds. The longer you look, the more you love it, the more detail you see.
Mabel’s finish is so fine that fans are mistaking it for a mirror in many of her build pictures.
If you’d like to see more, check out the build progress here: https://airkooledkustoms.com/projects/whats-on-the-floor/1959-vw-beetle-ragtop/
And if you’re planning to join us at the Ultimate VW Build-Off (http://www.ultimatevwbuildoff.com), be sure to bring your sunglasses. We’d hate for Miss Mabel’s shine to make you squint!
Inspired? Searching for “VW restoration shops near me” now that you’ve caught the bug? Airkooled Kustoms hails from Hazel Green, Alabama. But that doesn’t mean you’ve got to live in the southeast to become a client. In fact, most of our clients live “yonder” (a southern term we’ve come to understand as “not here”). Some of them have project cars they’ve been hauling around for decades. Others have nothing more than a dream and a willing checkbook. We can arrange for transport for you to get your vehicle from hither and yon (we’re not 100% on that one, but think it probably means “wherever you are”) to the shop.
Just give us a call at 256-828-2123 or click to contact us online. The sooner we start talking about your project, the sooner you’ll drive it.
So, how do you put a 1959 VW Beetle back together again after taking it apart down to the tiniest component? And how do you do it without nicking about 183 hours’ worth of glassy, glossy paint finish (to date – not finished with the finish yet!)? Oh, and let’s do this without hurting anyone’s back, fingers, toes, or anything else.
You assemble a team of guys who all care a LOT about the project, who’ve done this before, and who work well together – and ONE guy to do the directing as it goes down. Watch as the Airkooled Kustoms krew mates Miss Mabel’s body and chassis. It happens fast – less than 56 seconds. Lots of forethought and planning.
Oh, and if you’re trying this at home, remember… beer only happens afterward. As this was mid-morning, there was no beer – just donuts.
A Custom VW Beetle Takes Time
Also, if you’re inviting your friends to come help you with the mating on your car, you *might* want to clarify what this IS, and what it IS NOT. Some folks get a little confused and excited, and are likely to show up with candles, matches, and a Sade mix tape to help get things going. Nobody we know, of course.
So, in case you’re new here, this is Miss Mabel. Mabel is a 1959 VW Beetle Ragtop that’s being built as the shop’s entry in the Ultimate VW Build-Off in Las Vegas, October 1-4, 2015. She’s a Dub that followed Spook around for years, practically begging for a restoration.
As you might guess, the cobbler’s kids are typically running around barefoot – and Mabel was no exception to that rule. From the time Airkooled Kustoms opened in Hazel Green, AL, back in 2005, it’s stayed busy. In fact, sometimes you can barely walk through the shop without “sucking it in” to make sure you don’t scratch the finish of any of the gorgeous Dubs on the shop floor. It’s a good thing Spook bought the adjoining acreage a while back – it serves as the waiting room for VW restoration projects whose time has not yet come.
Anyway, Miss Mabel’s turn finally came when the shop got invited to compete in this rather exclusive build-off with the nation’s top Volkswagen restoration shops. Kind of a different project, because there’s no client funding the build – it’s on the shop. Also, since there’s no client directing the project (I’d like this, and this… but not that), the guys are dreaming up the most creative, stealthy details to include with the only limitation being the guys’ imagination. Oh, and the $20K parts cap specified by the competition rules.
Kustom or Classic VW?
Lest you worry that she’s going to be a garish mishmash of after-market add-ons, first of all… you must be new here. Second, let us put your mind at ease by sharing something a wise Dub guy once said (on Thursday, probably)…
To quote 00Dub, “If (any detail) stops your eye in the flow, it doesn’t belong there.” Every single mind-blowing customization on this build blends in perfectly. You wouldn’t even know it was there, unless you knew it was there – and even then maybe not.
In fact, most of what’s most amazing about this build is what you DON’T see. (And that’s saying a lot, considering that what you DO see is drop-dead gorgeous.)
For example, the electrical. The wiring harness is so ninja-stealthy that even the most OCD (er, CDO to keep it alphabetical) among us will make ‘that’ face in examining it. You know the face – the one that basically says, “Oh. Wow. That is badass” because it is extraordinarily tidy and orderly.
Anyhow, if you’d like to watch this remarkable build in progress, be sure to visit Mabel’s VW restoration page here.
And if you’d like to sponsor this Ultimate VW Build-Off project and get your name listed on the AKK site – and an exclusive build t-shirt designed by Snoopy (as well as other very kool bonuses), here’s how to make it happen.
We caught up with Crazy Uncle Floyd recently – here’s what he says about his work on our 1959 VW Beetle Ragtop, Miss Mabel.
I’m having a great time at work. Just about everything I do at work is fun, but some things are better than others. The shop is competing with a handful of other air-cooled VW shops from around the country to see who builds the best air-cooled VW. The judging will be in Las Vegas this October. Our girl “Mabel” a 1959 ragtop beetle, will be presented at that time. She is a black and red beauty, a “one of a kind,” and as good as it gets.
My contribution will be in the engine compartment. Mabel has a stock 1600 DP that we freshened with new pistons, rings, wrist pins, and cylinders. The magic Mr. Ed, Ed’s foreign car parts, reworked the heads and sent them back to us in better than new condition. All seals, oil pump, and oil cooler were replaced. Her endplay was within spec. so we stopped with this.
When the long block was back together, the engine tin was refitted and adjusted as needed to get a good seal. This is when any questionable pieces can be reworked or replaced, before any paint prep starts. The original VW tin fits and performs much better than aftermarket pieces, so we comb through a lot of trash to find the treasures that will become Mabel.
All pieces we plan to paint, the engine tin, are sent to soda blast. The alternator stand, alternator, and intake manifolds were also prepped for paint. When the parts came back to the shop from blast, Spook grabbed them and retreated to the clean end of the building. The painted engine tin Spook gave me back to work with was beyond anything I had imagined. Shiny black tin with red skulls everywhere, high gloss and lots of it.
All I have to do is fit it all together and not damage the goods. I wrapped tape around my wrenches and screwdrivers to prevent scratches. I put tape any place I would be attaching something. I kept my hands clean. I grabbed handfuls of new shiny fasteners and dove in. This is where the fun is.
I have Mabel’s engine fitted and the rear tin and exhaust on. This is the most impressive engine I have worked on and it is a thing of beauty. Now I will take off the rear tin and exhaust to get this rascal ready to be installed. Wait until you see how this story ends!
Watch what 00Dub is about to do to the 1959 VW Beetle wiring harness for Miss Mabel, Airkooled Kustoms’ entry into the Ultimate VW Build-Off in Las Vegas, October 2015.
Expose most folks’ wiring, and you’ll see what looks a lot like rainbow colored spaghetti. It’s understandable – after all, not too many people like working with invisible shock juice. Easier to just hook it all up as best you can and then forget about it (until something comes unhooked or shorts out).
Even though electrical work isn’t 00Dub’s favorite part of a VW restoration, his Zen Master demeanor makes him well-suited for it. In fact, one look at how he sets up this wiring harness could be a lesson in “doing it right” – words we live or die by here at the shop.
Wonder if he lines up pasta like this before eating it?!
Miss Mabel is about two-thirds of the way complete at this point. As with all restoration projects, every phase of the build has lots of small details to finish. With most projects that come through the shop, it seems like the point of paint ‘feels’ like the project’s just about done (at least to everyone who’s not working on it!). That’s probably because it’s such a visible milestone.
Still so much more to be done, and the build already has more than a thousand hours in on it. Thank goodness we started with a solid core. With some projects, the core is in such bad shape – mostly rust and bad prior ‘repairs’ – that significant body work has to be completed before any progress can be seen. We’ve had vehicles come in that looked like Flintstone mobiles (no floor), others that had bizarre body work done in the past (cement? Mexican newspapers? and of course, BONDO). The cores that come up from Florida or other coastal environments with salty air show the worst damage from rust – but no matter where they come from, if they’ve got rust issues that haven’t been addressed appropriately, there’s going to be some serious body work ahead to save the vehicle.
In a kustom VW restoration paint is the most stunning part of the transformation – or at least the most jaw-dropping. To see an old patina monster with its dull, decades’-old finish become panels so lustrously shiny that they look like hued mirrors blows the mind.
Airkooled Kustoms is known for doing it right. What we do, is what we do… and we won’t do it if it’s not right. That precept shows up in every aspect of every project. You should see the wiring that’s being done in Miss Mabel – no crazy spaghetti-like tangle of colors. Most people never see most of the painstaking details that go into an AKK build – or the nearly freakish dedication (even off the clock) that goes into making each VW restoration project that comes through the shop the very best it can be.
“We are never truly satisfied with our work. The closer we get to perfection, the more we realize how far away we are. When we can live with it, then the client may see it,” is how Spook puts it.
In this hypnotic video, we see Spook doing Spook stuff. He’s at stage 3 of a 4-stage polishing process on Miss Mabel’s door. That hum, that rhythmic back and forth of the DA – you may want to put this video on a loop to play when you could use a little Zen. Wait until the very end when you can see the results. Hard to believe that’s solid metal and not liquid.
What most people notice when they watch this process is how the polisher becomes an extension of his hands. Believe me, it is NOT as easy as it looks. That kind of fluidity in motion only comes after thousands of hours of practice – muscle memory at its best.