Eric Anderson tackles his first VW project, out of a $300 abandoned '68 Type 3.
Termites beware! The wood you are about to chew on may not be what it appears, and serious health risk may arise if you continue to lunch on this particular Volkswagen woodie! Yes, fellow VW fans, the wood you see on the side of Eric Anderson’s wild 1968 Squareback is indeed hand painted, and is not real. Amazing you say? That it is, but what’s more interesting is that this is Eric’s first VW project, and he did his own wood graining.
Looking at the finished product, Eric simply did not squirt the body with flat black primer and call it macaroni. No sir. Once the body was free of cancer, he continued his work by frenching the front headlights, reshaping the front and rear aprons (no more bumpers), shaving the door handles, side trim, antenna mast, hood emblem, rear license plate light/grab handle, cowl vents, and torsion bar access caps. Even the dash received a major dose of new metal as Eric really went to town reshaping the gauge cluster, making room for a center console to house the air suspension controls and stereo. Did we mention the complete dash now bolts-in?
We let the cat out of the bag when we mentioned this T-3 has air suspension, and to accommodate the new rear setup, the entire rear floor (around the engine lid) was raised 6-inches. This also provided extra room underneath for a much larger engine that will soon replace the basically stock 1600cc that now lurks inside. But moving to the rear suspension, while the transaxle remains a swingaxle, the “suspension” is far from stock. The new floor was cut out of a piece of 3/16-inch plate and was welded in to reinforce each side where the upper air bag brackets were welded. Upper and lower bag brackets were fabricated and TIG welded in place. Uppers are located at the rear body mount area by the wheel tubs, and the lowers were TIG’d to the axle tubes. While a pair of KYB shocks still exist on revamped lower mounts, the original torsion bars have been removed and replaced with custom bearing housings, and notched spring plates. What supports the bulk of the car is a pair of rear air bags, controlled by a inside/rear mounted five gallon air tank and 12V Thomas compressor, and plumbed with Extreme air valves and 3/8-inch lines and fittings.
The real brain trust of this car is the front suspension, based on a Type 3 assembly that has been completely redone and sci-fied out! Eric narrowed front track by a total of 4 inches, and he even raised the front pan bulkhead by 2 inches, giving the front a 2-inch drop right out of the box. Original torsion bars were removed altogether, and custom 4160 chromoly axles were machined to fit into custom bushings located in the center of the beam. A brace was welded in the center of the beam to house the custom machined bushings for the top and bottom axles. Custom retainers were made to hold these axles in place, and all Grade-8 bolts were used throughout. Two braces were then fabricated to support the beam top and bottom. Custom made levers are bolted to the lower axles, which connect to the air bag suspension. Two air bags push off mild steel tubing welded to 3/16-inch plates located at the original front body mount location. These bags push horizontally, against these lower levers, which turns the lower axle downward, and lifts the car a total of 5 inches before limiting (KYB) shock travel, and hitting the custom stops. While a stock T-3 steering box was retained, it now connects to the steering shaft via a Flaming River u-joint. Stock Type 3 spindles were retained, as was the factory disc brakes.
For the exterior look that Eric wanted, the entire body was sprayed using Kirker Satin Black (not black primer!), while the floorpan was covered with two coats of 3M Rocker Schultz on both sides. Those awesome wood side and dash panels are for not real (sorry termites), and were done by hand, by Eric using an air brush. To tackle this monster job, he did a lot of research on faux wood grain painting, and gathered a lot of information from a good friend Rodney Hutcherson, who is an expert with the process. Eric ended up using seven different Matrix toners, slow reducers, and different tools and smearing techniques to make it look like wood. He also used an airbrush and pinstriping to add to the effect. And to protect the finish, he used inner clear coats to lock down the different colors. After the grain was done, it was touched up and shadowed with the airbrush. Over forty hours went into the wood grain and clear coatings — wow!
Inside the woodie wagon we find custom black with red double stitched seat and door panel upholstery from Sewfine Interior Products in Amarillo, Texas, and installed by Eric and his wife Kathy. Both the headliner and carpeting were done in basic black, which are nicely offset with a touch of red trim. That custom dash panel now houses a full set of Auto Meter Old Time 2 gauges, while the real focal point is the outrageous shifter! Based on an Empi, Eric added an extension and attached a real spray gun, which is hooked up to the air ride suspension system and functions as a bleed off, to lower the suspension by simply pulling the trigger! Amazing. Other interior details include a red painted stock steering wheel, Pioneer head unit with a JBL 600 watt amp, Boston Acoustic 10-inch subs, and Kicker 6.5 and 1.0s in a custom box built into the floor by Konstantin Lytvynchuk. The finishing touch was to paint the stock wheel Guards Red, add 135 and 165 sized tires, and include a real Infinity surfboard (wood grained to match the car) that is held onto the roof via a custom made rack by Robert Haddock Sr. and Jr. So, as you can tell, Eric’s many talents are really showcased on this, his first VW project. We expect to see a lot more from him in the near future.
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Lasting ImpressionWhen Bryan Ortiz saw an early bus sitting in a driveway when he was just a young boy, he knew he would someday own such a cool looking VW. Years later his beautiful '61 23-Window bus not only took Best Best of Show Custom at the 2014 Classic, it is also featured in the December 2015 issue of Hot VWs!