Owners Review: 1966 Volkswagen Beetle by Djordje Grujic

A lovely story of a lifelong love affair with the Love Bug!

Owner/Reviewer: Djordje Grujic
Model: 1966 Volkswagen Beetle
Purchased: 1990
Price: n/a
Where: Belgrade, Serbia

Check out his great story now…

By Djordje Grujic

My love affair with the Beetles started with watching “The Love Bug” movie – it’s all Herbie’s fault! Soon afterwards, my aunt bought new a white ’72 1300, that I enjoyed riding in, still too young to drive. Some years ahead, she decided to buy a Yugo (we are in mid-80s Yugoslavia, guys …) and could not bear to part with the Beetle, so I generously offered my services as the future owner and custodian. And that’s how I got my first Beetle.

It had an excellent AB 44HP (DIN) engine, went like thunder when it wanted to, and rusted even faster … my wife still remembers our dating during the winter, when she scraped the frost from the inside of the windshield, as the heat exchangers were shot, and anyway, no amount of heat could compete with all the holes in the floor.

Fast forward to 1990, I placed an ad that I am selling it or exchanging for an older Beetle. Doing my Beetle research, I realized that the best years were 1966 to 1968 – old bulbous shape, but new mechanics and more powerful engines. Half of the calls were on the lines of “are you nuts????” while the other half were “yeah man, right on!”

Eventually, a guy called – his dad had a 66, that he inherited, but his heart was in tuned Yugos, so would I consider buying it? Needless to say, I drove to the spot where it collected dust, and fell in love.

I called my VW mechanic friend (yes, you have to have one!) and picked him up in the morning to go and see the Beetle. The 6V battery was dead of course, but we jump started it, no problems. My VW guy crawled around it while it puttered away, checked all that should have been checked, got in, opened the window, said “pay the man” and drove away.

Life with the ‘66

The first month my new 66 spent in his workshop, getting converted to 12V, being serviced and getting new tires. The old 72 went to him in lieu of payment, and he even gave me some change – wow! – so I happily drove away.

It was Savannah beige, with black interior, black centre wheels with white rim, US spec bumpers – yes, the front still misses the top rail – and infinite ability to put a smile on my face! No issues, no problems … it went everywhere, being a daily driver whenever there was petrol.

It was the official car at our wedding, with a big white bow over the front hood and ‘JUST MARRIED’ posters plastered on the back. To my wife’s enduring chagrin, I did not let anyone fix any cans to the rear bumper – heck, it rattled enough!

Fast forward to mid 90s, the third cylinder piston decided it was enough. My VW guy was somewhere in Europe, but I managed to find another reliable guy to rebuild the engine. With a child seat in the back, that BTW cost as much as the Beetle at the time, we again went around happily with the revived engine puttering away, enjoying the Adriatic coast.

Then, in late 1998, it was time to restore it. The headliner was dirty and ripped in places, the rust began to show, and the body seals were not always sealing. Just as the restoration started, I had to close the one man office I had started a year before, as the clients mostly thought that the honour of working for them was payment enough. The winter was coming on, the Beetle was in pieces, body off the pan, and the money had ran out.

Great? Of course! What could be better than rebuilding your Beetle???

The great Beetle rebuild

In the depths of winter of 1998-99, I got a Middle East job offer, passed the interview and got the job! Some late payments did come in, so the Beetle was just being painted. The painter was on the other side of town from the shop where the body was being done, so my best man hooked it up to his Escort, with a tow line that snapped thrice and disconnected twice. It was below freezing, and snowing.

I was in the Beetle with no glass or interior, just the driver’s seat and myself, in two jackets and goggles. Somehow, we did not get stopped once – there and back again – however improbable that might seem. A week later, new headliner and carpets went it.

The new paint should have been British Racing Green, but it was … green. Dark, so it suits. The headline and the carpets were of course black. The mechanicals were OK, so no work there.

The clock was ticking … I was expected in Kuwait in March, and we are already in February. One bright sunny Saturday, the guy who did the resto called. The Beetle was done! I rushed over, picked it up, went to register it, and in the morning, my wife and I were on the road to Budapest, for the new job briefing.

Would you go on a 800km trip in a car that was just assembled? Some weeks later though, I landed in Kuwait …

Ever since, I drive the Beetle in the summer, when I am in Belgrade. A kind neighbour looks after it, remembering the Beetle he sold in the 70s. It takes part in the local Buba Beograd rallies and shows, whether I am there to drive it or not. This spring, it will go for a check up again. It is time, dont’ you think?

What was done during the restoration

During the resto, the body was lifted off the pan. All the pan rust was treated, and the rusted parts were replaced with handmade same gauge metal sheets, as the replacement parts were not available. The pan was protected with anti corrosive and tar sealant. The same goes for the body, except the heater tunnels that luckily were available and were installed new.

All the rubber on the body was new, except the door seals and the door window rubbers, that are still in great shape. The body to pan and engine seals were also new. The windshield seal did not agree with the original chrome strip, and that was sadly lost in the meantime.

The headliner and the carpets are new, handmade. The seats and the door cards are original, as is the carpet in the cargo space behind the back seat and the back seat carpet. Still to be done are the bumpers – cleaning, not replacing – the headlights, odds and ends in the interior, front bumper overrider, and exterior mirror.

And, I am going to install a passenger side door mirror, as that is THE ONE thing I miss compared to the new cars.

The engine, trans, and all the drivetrain is the original (see the certificate) F engine, the first generation 1300, single port intake, 40HP (DIN) when new. Aside form the 12V alternator, the only non original part on the engine is the fuel pump. The main brake cylinder and the front drums are new, from two years ago – the old ones died. The steering box was replaced during the resto.

Despite physically being in Belgrade, the Beetle is with me here in Dubai in the Jebel Ali Cool Car Klub – where we love our cars, wherever they are!

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One response to “Owners Review: 1966 Volkswagen Beetle by Djordje Grujic”

  1. MS says:

    I have a 1998 Mexican made classic VW Beetle. I have no idea what to do with it, any tips on what to restore to make it look as beautiful as possible? Thanks.

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