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360 Days Later

Sam Mebane and his future father in law, Pat, picked up this 1974 VW Thing in late March of 2003 from a customer of Sam's. Sam's day job for the last 17 years has been at California Pacific / JBugs so he is no stranger to the VW world. He first started working on VWs at 13 when his older brother got his first car, a 1964 Baja Bug and soon had a 1974 Standard Beetle of his own. Sam and a number of his friends all had VWs at the time so he became very familiar with the ins and outs of the VW, learning more and more along the way.

Back to the Thing at hand, when it first arrived home Pat had modest intentions of doing a simple restoration and enjoying the car as a weekend cruiser in his home town of Oceanside, California. The Thing was immediately disassembled and the following weekend the body was on jack stands and the chassis was rolled into the garage. The factory floor pans had seen better days as the car had spent time in Northwest Coastal Oregon. Sam and Pat did some minor patch work, grinding and spray paint soon had the chassis clean enough to call "done". The bodywork began with stripping every single nut, bolt, bracket, switch and wire. With that done, sanding the body began. Minor dings and dents were massaged out, the bumper tabs on the fenders were removed and smoothed. The original threaded mirror bosses on the front cowl had long been torn out so those holes were filled as well. With the major body work out of the way, block sanding began on every panel, prepping the car for paint.

Once the body work was complete and Sam enlisted his friend and local VW restoration specialist Jimmy Braxmeyer to spray the Plymouth Prowler Orange Pearl Metallic paint that Pat and Sam had picked out. Jimmy painted the car inside and out, barely. It turns out that although a Thing doesn't have a roof, it still has a whole lot of surface area! A gallon of paint, before mixing the hardener, etc., netted just enough to cover the car, the 4 shock absorbers, the speaker grills and left a nail polish bottle for touch ups. Sam towed the body and panels and pieces home and after a quick crash course in color sanding and polishing, proceeded to sand the body down one last time. This time a show car smooth paint finish was the result.

Remember that once "done" chassis mentioned earlier? Well, turns out that with the body looking as good as it did, the chassis just seemed to look out of place. So Sam completely disassembled and welded in new floor pans. Then the trips to ElectroTech Powder Coating in San Marcos, California began. The chassis, and every other piece of it from the suspension, trailing arms, spindles and even the brake drums were coated gloss black. Sam welded in adjusters to the front beam and sent it along with the chassis components the seat frames, rear seat springs and other interior accessories for powder coating as well. Once the parts were cooled off and back from powder coating assembly began. New ball joints were installed and the front end was reassembled and fitted and sat about 4" lower than stock. The rear trailing arms were installed and set to match the lowered front. Flat 4 BRM wheels, 15x5 in the front and 15x6.5 in the rear were wrapped in Yokohama low profile tires and completed the lowered look. The transmission, which was rebuilt by the now since passed Mike Watson at Stuff Transmissions, was installed and bolted up to new CV Joints to the now cadmium plated stub axles. Speaking of cadmium plating, every door latch mechanism, bracket, nut, bolt and lock plate or washer was sand blasted by Sam before being sent out for the plating. He estimates that no less than 12 hours was spent in front of the blasting cabinet getting them ready. All new German brake components were installed from the master cylinder to the steel lines and brake hoses to the new wheel cylinders and drums.

Since they had gone off the deep end at this point and this Thing was going to be a fully restored show car, they had an appropriate 1914cc long block built with all new parts by local VW engine builder Doug Platt. Sam had all of the engine tin and some other engine parts were powder coated to match the chassis. Then he installed the engine and Dual Weber 44IDF carburetors were fitted along with a CB Performance Serpentine Belt Kit, MSD6AL ignition, stainless steel braided fuel hoses, a 90 amp polished alternator and other items. Sam then started the stereo and interior installation which began with a Blaupunkt head stereo with 7" flip out monitor sending signals to 3 Hifonics amplifiers which were mounted in the trunk. Those 3 amplifiers sent signals to 4 Polk/Momo Audio component speakers, 1 Polk/Momo Audio Subwoofer and a Kenwood center channel speaker. Two of the components were mounted in front custom made kick panels and two in the rear deck custom speaker box and enclosure. The rear enclosure housed the 10" Polk Audio subwoofer and the 10 disc CD changer. The Kenwood center channel speaker was mounted in the dash to the left of the head unit. All of the kick panels, amp rack and rear speaker deck were wrapped in black tweed to match the soon to be installed interior.

Re-wiring the car completely from headlight to tail light began along with installing New Beetle style tail lights, re-chromed original front turn signals and Hella H4 headlights. New switches were installed along with a rebuilt wiper motor, turn signal and wiper switches. The steering column was capped off with a Momo Jet steering wheel to tie into the Polk/Momo series speakers. Black Tweed seat upholstery with black vinyl sides were installed with new padding on to the freshly powder coated seat frames. Black cut pile carpet was installed after being custom made by local interior guru, Jose Rodriguez. Jose also installed the Black Stayfast Canvas convertible top to the new top frame.

After 360 days of working on the car virtually every night after work and through every weekend, the car was complete and ready for a road test. After topping off the fluids and one last inspection Sam drove down to his friend Gary Haugley's shop where Gary tuned the carburetors and checked the timing. The following weekend Sam, his fiancée Lisa and Pat all attended a Thing Car Show in Vista, California where the car took home a first place trophy. That evening when they arrived home Pat gave the car to his daughter Lisa and Sam as a wedding present. Lisa and Sam showed the car a bit more winning a few "Best ofs" and other trophies before finally selling the Thing to pay for their wedding and honey moon.



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