Photos by Joshua Smith

Q: Let’s start at the beginning. What’s your name, how old are you, and where are you from?

A: My name is Chris Wilburn. I’m 53 and I live in Louisville, Kentucky, USA.

Q: What’s your day job and do you have any other hobbies?

A: My wife and I own a children’s furniture store where almost all the staff drive VWs. It’s like a car show in the employee parking lot every day. As for other hobbies, I collect Matchbox, with a scope of 1969 and earlier. Not just the cars but dealer catalogues and anything else I can get my hands on.

 Q: What’s your ultimate VW/Porsche?

A: I’m a pretty fickle guy, so the ultimate is usually the next one. However, the bucket list includes a Fridolin, a double door Barndoor Panel and a 356 Notchback.

Q: Favourite VW event?

A: I’ve been to California for El Prado, BugIn, etc., and every spring we do Bugapaloza in Tennessee. They are awesome shows, but my favourite has to be my club show, The V-Dub Derby. It’s held at a children’s home under 200-year-old oak trees. This year we surpassed 200 cars, which has been a goal that Covid sort of put on hold until now.

Q: What got you into Volkswagens and how many have you owned before this one? Can you list them?

A: My dad isn’t a “car guy” per se, but he had a ’70 Westy that he bought new after I was born. It was our family car and we camped in it and generally used it as it was intended for. It became my first car and I went through a bunch of VWs back when they were cheap and plentiful. From there I went through several hot rods, street rods and muscle cars. I got back into it when my son was ready to start building his first car. Can I list all 40 or so VWs I’ve had? Probably not, but some of the standouts were a ’68 Ghia in the 90s with early Bug headlights, a ’65 walk thru sunroof Standard bus, my current ’72 Westy with 70K original miles, and Blu, my old ’76 Brasilia. The rest were mostly Beetles, a few other Ghias and a bunch of Bay Window buses, which have always been my favourite.

Q: Who, or what, would you say is your biggest influence in the worldwide VW community?

A: I’d have to credit my dad as an early influence, and my son for bringing me back into the VW fold. He rides the line with both air- and water-cooled cars (’59 Ragtop, 20th Anniversary MK4 GTI, MK6 TDI and a new Tiguan) and has shown me an appreciation for the later stuff. In fact, I recently bought a MK2 Jetta as a winter car just so I can hang out with the cool kids.

Q: Best moment during classic VW/Porsche ownership?

A: Aside from being featured in Hayburner? Probably running down the road to a show with my club and son.

Q: Worst moment during classic VW/Porsche ownership?

A: You know, worst moments tend to fade, but I did waste a Type4 engine that had just been built. I was so bummed that I pushed the bus into a corner of the shop and left it there for almost two years before converting it to an upright.

Q: So, what is it we’re looking at here (year, spec and model)?

A: This is Krampus, a 1952 Deluxe Sedan.

Q: What’s the story? How did you get hold of it?

A: The car showed up on at a good price. I messaged the seller but by the time I got to work the listing was down. Turns out he had so much interest in the car that he was overwhelmed. He called me that afternoon, and the next day I hooked up the trailer and went 5½ hours north and got it. It was such a mix of wrong parts I ended up getting it for less than I could have parted it out for. Thankfully I was able to sell everything I had to replace.

Q: Did the car come with any history?

A: The car belonged to the seller’s father, who had passed away. It was purchased in Miami and from what I was told the father just put it into storage. I later found out the car came from Peru, and the guy who sold it to the exporter and a woman whose family had owned the car for many years both reached out to fill in the blanks. I keep saying I’m going to get the birth certificate. Maybe someday.

Q: Tell us about the condition of the car when you first got it home.

A: It looked pretty good, and I was able to drive it on the trailer, but it was full of the wrong parts and even had a late Oval dash grafted in. I don’t know if it was done to try and disguise it as a Zwitter or if it was fixed with the parts available. The car had been hit hard front and rear which resulted in someone replacing the transmission cradle with one from a Type3, which was put in almost 2 inches out of square.

Q: Run us through the restoration/recommission, and who did the work?

A: So I got the car, lowered it, and drove it once around the block. Then I stripped it to a shell and sent it to UnserWerks here in Louisville for metalwork. The entire nose had been changed and then repaired again, so he removed all the weird metal and grafted on a ’57 front clip I found. He also pulled the rear sheet metal back into shape, changed out the dash for the right one, modified a ’53 door to ’52 specs and installed the Rare Air MFG crotch coolers.

I had met the crew from MetalMorphosis at a show, and after talking with Rodney and Cate I sent the car to their shop in Alabama, where they pulled the body, rebuilt the whole pan, put it back together with a bunch of used and new parts I had gathered up, and then Cate put in the full custom interior.

Q: Paint colour (and code if you know it)?

A: Rustolium Matt Forest Green. Six cans put on a nice finish. However, once it was all one colour I knew it needed something, so I did some aging, fauxtina, whatever you want to call it, just to give it some more depth.

Q: Suspension setup?

A: Eva-Resto full air ride front and rear with Airlift 3p management. I’ve never seen a kit so well engineered and easy to install.

Q. Wheel and tyre type and sizes?

A. The wheels came from South America and took a few contacts as well as seven months to get. They are 15×5.5 and 15x 6.5. A combination of axles and widened rear discs set the fitment just right. Tyres are 195/65s in the rear and 155/60s in the front.

Q: Engine and gearbox?

A: Old junk and crap. Actually the engine is a 1600dp that has seen the engine bay of about half a dozen vehicles between my son and me. It’s about ready for a refresh. The transaxle is a 67-68 unit that is geared really well but leaks despite my best efforts to seal it, and could use some new syncros. It came with the car when I got it.

Q: Have you replaced the electrical system?

A: Oh yeah. MetalMorphosis installed a new harness when they put the car together. They actually modified a ’53 harness as most kits don’t offer back to a ’52. It also runs an alternator.

Q: Were there any parts that you found it hard to get hold of?

A: Well, building a Split is definitely an eye-opener. While I was able to secure most of the hard parts from contacts, such as the correct dash that came off a friend’s garage wall, the biggest challenge is the money these parts bring. The budget for this build came from my buying and selling VW parts at swap meets. You gotta sell a LOT of 62-67 taillights to buy a set of ’52 lights, so that was really the biggest challenge.

Q: What is your go-to VW parts shop?

A: With this car, most parts either came from my stash or were sourced from contacts. Very few parts had to be ordered.

Q: Run us through the original interior.

A: It’s pretty far from original, although the seat frames are right. I sent the car to Cate along with piles of used parts, door panels, carpet, etc. Really the only things missing were the front seat covers and the headliner. Imagine my surprise when I saw the magic she did. The headliner and accent panels are custom woven with little Krampuses in them, the seats are this super soft leather, and the carpet with custom Krampus floor mats really finishes off the look. She even went so far as to cast resin door winder knobs and e-brake button. Even though I’ve had the car back for a few months now I still go out and just sit in it, feeling blessed to be the caretaker of this car.

Q: Accessories?

A: I’m a big fan of those over-accessorized cars, so this one has been an exercise in restraint. An original 100K Saint Christopher badge is on the dash, the driving lights are a matched set with one being fog and one being driver, and the hood bird and rear brake light are ACC. My favourite, though, is the custom-made hood crest by Adam’s Custom Badges.

Q: Have you got a stereo fitted and, if so, what are you currently listening to (either in the car or during those late nights in the workshop/garage)?

A: The car doesn’t have a stereo, but I have a portable speaker that works pretty well. I listen to a lot of different stuff depending on my mood, but lately it’s been the White Stripes, the Black Keys and this 90s band called the Limbomaniacs. “Wild Child” by the Black Keys was on repeat for a couple days as I used it to help get through the final setup.

Q: What’s your favourite thing about it, e.g. wheels, paint, detail, trip it’s been on, memory with it, etc.?

A: So the wheels are definitely one of the biggest, but the interior is my favourite bit. It was one of the only things I didn’t have complete control over, and it just suits the car perfectly.

Q: If you had change one thing, what would it be and why?

A: It’s already changed. The car was built with a static drop in mind, and it looked pretty sweet, but after the new wheels went on their more aggressive front offset meant the car either had to go up a little (not an option) or down a lot. Had I done air ride out of the gate it would have been easier for sure.

Q: What’s next for you and the car?

A: I’m on the fence. My bus has a 1776cc that I am considering putting into the Beetle so I can go bigger in the bus, but I also kinda want to do a mean 36hp. I also have a AMR500 setup that may end up going on this winter. Other than that, I just want to drive it.

Q: How often do you use the car?

A: Not enough. It took almost four years from that drive around the block until I was able to really start driving it. It was finished just in time for our club’s annual show, and I’ve driven it around town a couple of times. The weather here in Kentucky means it will not see much use until spring, sadly.

Q: What’s your next project going to be?

A: I’ve reached a point where there is no “next car” for a while, I hope. Once I work all the kinks out of Krampus, I plan to turn my attention back to my bus. I’ve been using it for a few years now and it’s starting to show, so I’ll be working on that next.

Q: Who would you like to thank connected to the project?

A: So much of the credit goes to UnserWerks and MetalMorphosis. I really would have never gotten here without both shops’ excellent help. Of course, my wife who has put up with this car nonsense for almost 40 years, my daughter, and most of all my son. He has the same sickness we all do and has been my extra hands, extra brain, and the voice of reason to some of my crazier ideas.