With the minor rust repaired, the body painted and the seats re-trimmed, my 1976 VW Beetle Cabriolet was looking ready for many more glorious, lazy summer days of cruising, just as it had done for the eight years I’d owned it.
However, there was one more essential task; replacing the roof.
I’d already put in plenty of effort making Karmann’s wonderfully well-designed and stout-framed folding roof fit properly against the side and door glass when I’d reassembled the car after painting it. However, the roof’s vinyl was looking tatty.
The tragedy was, the roof was terrific until I accidentally tore it while carrying a piece of steel past the car. A new roof was essential to make my car look as fresh with the top up, as it is with the top down.
I ordered a new vinyl top from a specialist in the USA, Chuck’s Convertibles, and with the rest of the car completed, I got into the daunting task of replacing the roof. Karmann used a variety of cables, clips, screws and small steel panels to hold the vinyl of the roof tight against its frame and yet allow the roof to function correctly.
It all had to be carefully removed, identified and in some cases reconditioned or replaced. Thankfully, I’d had prior experience with convertible top replacement so I knew about such tricks as letting the vinyl un-crease in warm sun and chalking centre-lines on the vinyl as it was laid over and cut-into the folding frame.
One trick I’d forgotten was that re-installing the rear glass – yes, real glass in a Karmann – was far easier with the old window rubber than the new one. Even with plenty of lanolin lubricant, the new rubber was a recalcitrant bastard of a thing so after several hours of pushing, shoving and swearing, I gave up, choosing instead to reinstall the original rubber.
Luckily, it was in perfect condition – like the damaged roof skin I was replacing, I’m sure it had already been replaced sometime before my ownership.
Speaking of ownership, my Karmann now has a new custodian. Yes, after nearly a decade of soul-replenishing driving – and in more recent times, plenty of work restoring – seeing it drive away down the street with its new owner, Uncle Don, smiling behind the wheel was one of the weirdest blends of pride and sadness I have ever felt.
But there is method in my madness. You see, I’ve bought another VW Beetle Karmann Cabriolet that I have some ideas for…