Words by Chris Turner & Photos by Rachel Roo Johnston – Originally Published in Hayburner Issue 28
1950 was an important year for the Volkswagen. VW had established the notion that advancements would be made to the car with very little change to the exterior styling that was becoming so popular.
By 1950, the Volkswagen complex included four mile-long assembly halls, several other huge buildings, a rail siding, test track and even a fully functional power station. With that, Volkswagenwerk was West Germany’s largest single employer and the engine for a national economic recovery few would have ever thought possible.
Consider that in May 1949, less than a year after building its 25,000th postwar vehicle, Volkswagen sailed past 50,000. Then, in 1950 doubled to 100,000. It is said that the ’50 year model was the Beetle that won the peoples hearts turning what had previously been a car that reminded people of a time many would rather forget and instead a car representing a modern-era with flourishing industry.
This same year general manager Heinrich “Heinz” Nordhoff had broadened Volkswagen’s reach with a cleverly conceived spin-off model – The Transporter or Microbus. But, it was always the Volkswagen Beetle that brought in the vast majority of the sales and profits, which kept improving each year right along with the car.
Any Split Window Beetle is known to be the holy grail amongst VW fans world wide and this June 1950 model has to be one of the best examples out there. This particular car was purchased in 2010 by 52 year old Robert Saleh, father of two grown up children and director of a technology company. The main reason for Robert’s fascination with Vintage Volkswagen came from the fact he first saw them as car you could work on yourself and by parts cheaply. Well… you could buy the parts cheaply at the time. His first car was a Beetle – He modified it by lowering it and fitting a lager engine back in 1982 and he’s been working on and off with Beetles ever since.
This car was bought in pieces – A body shell but the rest of the parts in dozens of boxes. It took over a year to work out what parts were missing and what parts were not correct for the car. After making a comprehensive list, another two years were spent searching theSamba, eBay and various other car events around Australia, the UK and Europe in a quest to complete the car. Even the original lever shock absorbers had to be rebuilt in the USA.
The remit on the build from Rob was to keep the Bug as close to original as possible without over-restoring. He didn’t want to use any reproduction parts and everything was to be stripped and rebuilt to a finish as near to factory as possible. The car was not to be modified and had to be as close as it could be as the day it rolled off the production line with matching numbers body, floorpan and engine. With this in mind, the Beetle was taken over to Ricky Cox of the Wonky Donkey Emporium.
First off the floorpan was bead blasted and then a Klassic Fab floorpan section TIG welded in on one side. The body was very solid, with just a small repair to the rear bumper hanging panel. He sourced all four original wings from Germany, and as you can imagine Split Bug wings are hard to find and very expensive. So when they turned up, Ricky hand crafted the repair sections on an English wheel and TIG welded them in. Virtually every bolt is original Kamax produced and literally every nut, bolt and washer was stripped and blacked the same as it would have left the factory in 1950.
Interior wise – Ricky stripped the seats for Himmel Service in Hamburg to supply the materials. But before fitting, all the frames had rotten sections fabricated and again bead blasted and painted in the correct factory colour.
Rob, amongst other trades, is a time served (no pun intended) watch maker so he stripped the pod and rebuilt the Speedo and windup clock along with the original winder in the glovebox himself. They sourced a pair of glove box doors and along with the original aluminium trim frames restored them back to original spec.
The engine had been stripped and rebuilt but was missing the original heater shoe boxes, they sourced some rotten boxes and then fabricated new sections and rebuilt them. Richard Oakley supplied a rebuilt original carburettor and the engine fired into life with all twenty five horses ready to go… it was a special moment as they knew the engine was original to the car.
All five original 16” wheels came with the Bug. So again, they got bead blasted and refinished in original colours before fitting a new set of crossly tyres. The paintwork was finished in ‘L78’ Medium Brown (Glasurit). To finish it off, Rob had sourced original aluminium side trim from various places which were in a very poor state but Ricky worked it into what you see today.