This Month's Feature VW

T34 Perfection

HISTORY: Volkswagen built mass production vehicles with progressive refinements each year but maintaining the general designs over decades. The result of this plan was twenty-one million VW Beetles and thirteen million Transporters were built. In stark contrast to this plan, the Karmann Ghia Type 34 models had a limited production quantity of 42,505 over a short eight years. Coachbuilt by hand at the Karmann factory in Osnabruck Germany, only 28 T34s were made per day. Styling of the T34 was done by Sergio Sartorelli at Carrozzeria Ghia in Turin Italy and had a controversial beltline design, quad front lights, and round rear lights. Thin pillars gave a 1960's cockpit design that was an emerging trend in both European and American sports cars. As the most expensive VW models, T34s were fitted with the most current technology available in those days, with more comfort and convenience features than the austere Beetle and Bus models. For the first time, T34 models featured a 1500cc engine that propelled it to 100mph, unheard of for a traditional VW. Never officially sold in America, T34s were brought into the USA privately by gray-market car dealers, military service personnel, and tourist deliveries in Europe shipped back to America.

LEE HEDGES: Thirty-six years ago, Lee Hedges bought his first T34 in 1987 and immediately volunteered to organize the scattered T34 owners around the world. He founded the first T34 club, called the Type 34 Registry, with the intention of registering each one with its chassis number, owner info, and restoration history. Then in 2011 he founded T34 World ( which has become the one source for T34 info and resources worldwide. Today there are 1785 chassis-registered T34s in T34 World. Although first impressions were split amongst VW fans, these days T34s at the top of most VW owners list of dream models to own. Having collected T34s for 36 years, Lee now owns three T34s in his collection: a Sea Blue 1962 Coupe (the world's oldest T34), this Ruby Red 1962 Cabriolet, and a Cherry Red 1965 RHD Electric Sunroof.

DISCOVERY: This Ruby Red 1962 T34 was first discovered in 1999, sitting in a yard with horses in Sylmar California. It had been parked in 1972 and stored outside with the driver's window down. The horses had eaten the dash pads, seat upholstery, and even the paint off the tops of the fenders. Lee first inspected the chassis number and body number to discover it was #0 001 776. In 1999 it was the world's oldest known T34 and today it's the sixth oldest. How it got to Southern California is a mystery, as the previous owner did not recall much from 1972 when he bought it. The roof's rear pillars were rusty and the body had been painted gold, but otherwise it was relatively complete, but not running. He had the T34 towed back to San Diego and began the disassembly phase. Having already owned another T34 Coupe, Lee decided to convert this one into a Cabriolet. T34 Cabriolet's were first built in late-1962 and only fifteen were built before VW halted production. None of the fifteen Cabriolets were sold to the public and only six survivors exist today, all in Germany.

CONVERSION: The conversion process was done by a metal fabrication shop in San Diego with experience creating Carson Top vehicles. Chassis rails were strengthened with solid steel bars welded underneath. The roof was removed, and a metal lip was created around the rear edge to prevent water getting in. The windshield frame was modified to mimic the original T34 Cabriolet design. But because Lee lives in sunny warm San Diego he chose not to have a folding top designed, instead choosing to have a roadster design. Over the past twenty-four years this T34 has remained structurally solid and has 15,000 miles added to the odometer.

UNIQUE FEATURES: 1962 model T34s have some unique features not seen on later model years. The front nose emblem is a cast metal rectangular emblem, the KG script is placed on the left-rear panel (vs the decklid), and there is a KARMANN script and small Ghia shield fitted to the left-side panel under the pop-out window. A push-button lighting control switch was used from 1962-64, a collectible design element. The 90mph speedometer was used in 1962-63 as the single sidedraft carburetor 45hp engines were used. An elegant cloth/vinyl interior design was offered in 1962-63 as well, creating a comfortable and cool driving experience.

RESTORATION: Lee disassembled the car himself and stripped it to bare metal to discover the areas needing work. He found only a few areas with rust which were cut-out and welded with fresh fabricated metal panels. Prior to the internet no repair metal panels were available for T34 owners. After the top conversion phase, he had a local body shop finalize the body and paint it Ruby Red, the original color. NOS seals were purchased from Lars Neuffer in Germany during a vacation in the summer of 2000. Bumpers, hub caps, and all other plated parts were triple-chromed by Bill & Steve's in Bellflower CA. The stock early 15" rims were powder-coated Pearl White. BF Goodrich 165R15 radial tires were found at Coker Tire with thin 0.75" whitewalls. And the stock upholstery was created by amigo Pedro Sainz in Silver-Beige and Silver cloth to give the elegant interior design. The engine was built by VW Paradise in San Marcos CA as a 1600cc assembled with 1962 parts to be as authentic as possible. The restoration was completed in a year and over the next couple years this Ruby Red T34 was featured in several VW magazines including Hot VWs Vintage Special, VolksWorld, and Let's Play VWs.

OPTIONS & ACCESSORIES: Personalizing our VWs is a fun part of the process and Lee wanted only stock accessories that would have been sold at the VW dealerships in 1962. For tunes he found a 1962 Blaupunkt Frankfurt AM/FM model with German LMU pushbuttons and matching gray knobs. To keep things organized he found an ivory Kamei asymmetrical under-dash parcel tray with nylon netting. The full-circle bent horn ring was offered for early Type 3s and Beetles so Lee added it for added elegance. For safety he added front lap seat belts, having survived a 2000 crash in his other T34 Coupe with only lap belts. For better visibility driving he added dual "cat's eye" side mirrors to both sides, usually only added to the driver's side, having found a RHD mirror in Norway. And lastly, to provide all the tools needed while driving he bought a round plastic Hazet tool kit.

Lee Hedges

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