Passion to Build, Passion to Drive 1962 Convertible
Restored in Bellflower, CA, by Miguel Casillas, this 1962 convertible is now owned by Brenda and Tom
This whole idea started life as a beater ‘68 Type 3, which was found near his home in Friendswood, Texas (hey, you gotta drive a woodie in Friendswood, right?). Once Eric and his buddy Bob Talton got the engine running and drove it home, the real work began, as new sheet metal was the word of the day. Rust was everywhere including the floorboards, lower rockers, and any place else there (used) to be metal. But that did not deter Eric from slating this VW as something he wanted to make a serious rat/surf ride that would be different from the rest. All told, Eric figures he spent about 1500 hours on this ride, over a period of four years and about $15,000 worth of parts and “bug spray.”
During the years that Miguel collected parts he needed to put this fun project together, he was able to locate a rare “W” convertible decklid, “heart” taillights, and a “Pope’s nose” license plate light — all worth considerably more today than when he purchased them back in the mid-nineties. The front fenders are early bullet turn signal OEM models, while the “banana” rear window is from an early convertible model. Once all those goodies were put together, it was time to trailer the body over to see Di-Alba Brother’s body shop in Pomona, California for the complete treatment. Starting with dipping the body shell and pieces to get them back to bare metal, Di-Alba prepped them for the dazzling paint job to come. With no front or rear body damage, and little rust repair, the team made quick progress on this convertible, and soon it was time to pick a color. Miguel chose a Mustang Medium Garnet Red, using Dupont Chroma Base 2-stage enamel. Di-Alba sprayed the body and then followed up with coats of clear. The result is a paint job that has a candy appearance, but more important to its current owner (Brenda and Tommy Smith), matches a can of Dr. Pepper — their favorite beverage!
The next phase of this VW’s revival started with the body placed back on the pan, and the convertible top assembly rebuilt, painted and partly chromed. At this point, it was time to search out the right color fabric and top material, which would go along with the bright red exterior and painted dash. For this task, Miguel contacted Eddy & Sons Auto Trim of Bellflower, California, to handle the complete interior redo. Starting with a pair of Scat front seats, a two-tone gray leatherette was selected that looked great against the red, and was originally designed for marine applications. The rear seat and door panels came next, with the rear cushion undergoing a re-contour job to give it some extra support.
When it came time to select the top material, Miguel could not find any existing color canvas that seemed to look right, so a special dye was created to change the top color slightly, and make it one-off and perfect for this VW! The same gray material was used for the headliner, and a matching gray plush carpeting was next to be fitted.
Interior do-dads include a wood Momo steering wheel (which matches a custom hardwood dash panel fitted with VDO white face gauges and a refaced stock speedo), radio delete plate, glove box stainless pull, billet dash knobs, Wolfsburg West gray seat belts, Gene Berg shifter, and polished stainless threshold plates. There is also a fair amount of chromed used throughout this VW, including the pedal assembly, door striker plates, rear spring plates and torsion bar covers — not to mention the complete front end assembly!
Not to ignore the engine compartment, Miguel put together a 1776cc engine, based on a ‘78 fuel-injected case, counterweighted crank, and Mahle pistons. Inside, Miguel and his buddy Sergio (known simply as “Vamp” for his night life) installed a Web #118 cam, stock oil pump with a full-flow cover, ported big-valved heads from German Auto, and a pair of Weber 40 IDF carburetors with cross-bar linkage. Up top, Miguel found a vintage CB Performance center-mount fan housing with chrome alternator, chrome engine tin, billet cover for that Bosch 009 distributor, and a billet degree pulley. Underneath, we find a 1-5/8 merged collector exhaust system, fitted with a Fat Boy muffler, Mesa 72-plate cooler with fan, and a remote oil filter.
The icing on the cake came when the wheels and tires were added, using chrome Empi 5-spokes, 135/15 Michelin tires up front and 195/60/15s Pirelli radicals out back. Final touches include rechromed bumpers in addition to front and rear Empi bumper guards and fresh trim.
So after all this hard work, Miguel had to make a huge decision — whether or not to sell the car to help fund his larger goal of purchasing a Subway sandwich franchise. So, reluctantly, the ‘62 was put on eBay and was quickly snatched up by Texan’s Brenda and Tommy Smith of Arlington (located just outside Ft. Worth). With that sale, the next phase of this convertible’s life was beginning. That was in March of this year, and the following month we spotted it at the Fredericksburg show (see elsewhere in this issue). After seeing how much enjoyment Brenda and Tommy were having, we quickly decided to shoot these photos and record the details. It is often said that we are merely caretakers of old cars, and we never actually own them. Ownership is only for a period of time before someone else is handed the keys, and the task of keeping it on the road. Yes, this story has a happy ending as Miguel is quite pleased to find someone who loves the VW that he took so long to put together. And for Brenda and Tommy, they are thrilled to own a beautiful example of a custom 1962 VW convertible.