Coal Update: 1963 VW Beetle – A Summer of Discontent

After reading several positive update articles by Aaron65 on his classic fleet, I thought an update on my VW was in order, which has a decidedly different slant.


As of 2022 my Volkswagen had been languishing since the start of the Covid pandemic. I found myself at a crossroads, either I had to get it back on the road or let it go. Aside from my epic trip to the CC gathering in Detroit, I hadn’t really driven the car much and felt that I needed at least one more year to enjoy it on the road.

The biggest problem was the front end, or beam as it’s known on vintage VWs. I’d done no work here before getting it on the road in 2017, and there was a lot of shaking happening up there at speeds over 90km/hr.


VW beams come in two varieties, after 1966 ball joints were used but older cars like mine used a system of pins and bushings to accommodate suspension movement. Rebuilding a link pin beam was quite possible, but required tools that I didn’t have, or particularly want. There is a dedicated aircooled VW shop an hour from my house, and although Jamie had rebuilt my engine a few years back he declined to take on my beam.

I was stuck, until I found that a well known VW supplier in Milwaukee (whose name I won’t mention here for reasons that will become apparent) sold reconditioned link pin beams. This seemed like the perfect solution, swap out the whole assembly and be back on the road quickly. The company had mixed reviews, most customers were happy but if you were unhappy you didn’t get much help from customer service. I decided to take a chance, and ordered one in March hoping that the long advertised delivery would get it to me in May.


Imagine my surprise when the FedEx guy dropped this on my front porch a week later. 70 pounds of VW front beam. Shrink wrapped only, no box or skid, banged up corners and way too early for me to use. I stashed it in the garage, and my 30 day warranty was up before I would look at it again.

Getting the old beam out was straightforward, I just needed to have a friend lay with me on the driveway and lower it together. Disassembly also gave me quite a list of other parts to order as my steering damper, shock bushings, column couplings, wheel bearing seals, steering box clamp etc. etc. were all unsuitable for reuse. I renewed my relationships with Wolfsburg West and CIP1.


Reconnecting the tie rod ends I encountered my first problem. The arm coming off the spindle was seriously bent upwards. Had I done that somehow? I sure didn’t think so. As it was, the left kingpin on my old beam was still tight so I removed the spindle assembly. That was a milestone, I was now trying to assemble one good beam from the two that I had.

But something wasn’t right, the link pins wouldn’t come out. After driving them out with a punch & hammer I found that the link pins appeared to have been whittled out of a block of steel by a caveman holding an angle grinder. New bushings and pins were ordered. The proper new one is on the right, if you couldn’t tell.

I borrowed an arbor press to push the new bushings in, fumbling around with an unsecured press on the garage floor was a real highlight of the project. And did I mention that 2022 was a very hot summer in Ontario?  Our driveway faces the afternoon sun and most days it was over 30 degrees while I was trying to do this work. Desperate measures were needed to keep my beer cold.


Finally back on the wheels in August. Letting the front of the car down was a sweet moment, which quickly turned sour when I realized that the front suspension didn’t move. Checking my work it appeared that like the link pins, the trailing arm bushings were too tight. This development will require another round of disassembly and rework in 2023.  So for my money I basically got a rebuildable core (which I already had) and by the time I’m done I’ll have completely refurbished it in situ.

Even so, the summer wasn’t a total loss, I rebuilt the carburetor and again I’ll mention what a joy it is to order parts for this car, everything is readily available.


Additionally, my car has paint problems. The decklid and hood paint have been departing for years due to poor prep, and I could no longer ignore it.  Since those were the only areas affected I sent them off for a repaint in the fall. I don’t have them back yet, they found bondo covering sandblasting warpage, so it’ll take more time and more money. If I get them back in time to move the car outside in the spring I’ll be happy.


And so the languishing continues, and I’m giving myself one more year to get the car roadworthy again. I always say that if it wasn’t for bad luck I wouldn’t have any at all, so it’s quite encouraging to read other tales of success with vintage cars.

Surely the next update will contain better news. Until then!