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1973 Volkswagen Beetle 1600 Part 1: Fons’ Baby

Ildefonso “Fons” Caluag (left) and Atty. Jaime “Jimmy” Dizon (right) at the first birthday of Jimmy’s grandson, Chevy Martin in 2006.

Ildefonso Caluag is a certified Beetle fanatic. He owns two Volkswagen Bugs – a green 1974 Super Beetle 1303 S and a cream 1973 Beetle 1600, which he loving refers to as his “baby”. Fons, as he is known to his friends, narrated that he sold his slightly used locally-assembled 1980s VW Brasilia and with the proceeds, bought the ’73 Beetle sometime in 1981 from an agent of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the ’74 Super Beetle sometime in 1982 from a sales representative of the DMG Corporation, which used to distribute Volkswagens in the Philippines. He was attracted to the two Beetles because both were made in Germany. At the time, he never thought that German-made Beetles would become highly collectible automobiles. He just thought of them as nice, economical and fun cars.

Fons’ 1974 VW Super Beetle 1303 S

In early 2018, Fons disassembled his beloved ’73 Beetle 1600 to have it repainted. He agreed to have the car refinished at his home garage by a painter who charged him only P5,000 for the service. Fons eagerly bought the paint and materials, and the painter went as far as sanding down the existing paint, applying filler to some panels, and block-sanding most panels. However, after advancing his P5,000 service fee and getting money supposedly to buy more materials, the painter abandoned his work and never came back.

Fons’ 1973 VW Beetle 1600 lays unfinished…

… while its fenders, running boards, and bumpers are stored nearby…

… and the paint and materials are kept in the trunk waiting for the painter’s return.

Too Sick To Continue

In August 2018, Fons suffered a bout with pneumonia while he was visiting one of his children in the States. Despite his illness, Fons was able to order parts for his beloved Beetles, which he planned to restore one-by-one once he got better. Upon their return to the Philippines, it was his wife who became sick with osteoporosis. Then, in January 2019, Fons had a second bout of pneumonia, which confined him to the hospital for two weeks and weakened him greatly. At 80 years of age, he suddenly had serious doubts that he can restore his Beetles, let alone finish his beloved ’73 “baby”.

The cream Beetle’s body is solid and straight…

… with just a small amount of body and rust repair needed.

Fons and his wife then remembered to call this author, whose father, the late Atty. Jaime G. Dizon, was their legal counsel and family friend. Of course, we at Power Wheels jumped at the chance of helping a fellow car enthusiast finish their project car. We were just lucky that Fons took good care of his VWs and that the metal bodies of both cars were in such great condition that only a miniscule amount of metal work will be required to get them back to look factory fresh. We decided to tackle the Beetle projects one-by-one, like how Fons planned it before. We started with the cream ’73 Beetle.

Authenticating the Bug

We did some groundwork before we decided to take on the Beetle 1600. Through its chassis number 113 2763 732, we learned that it was made at the Volkswagenwerk AG factory in Germany between December 1972 and July 1973. Its engine number AD862653 connotes that it is a 1,584cc horizontally-opposed air-cooled 4-cylinder, also known as the boxer motor, which was made during the same period. The dual port flat four churns out a modest 60 horsepower and 108 Newton meters of torque, which was more than adequate at the time. Fons’ baby rolls on aftermarket chrome 15-inch EMPI wheels shod in 195/55-15 Bridgestone Potenza RE002/003 tires.

Volkswagenwerk AG tag showed two chassis numbers 113 2763 732 and 112 2290 492, which had slash marks.

The flat pan confirms the chassis number as 113 2763 732.

We asked Johnson Tan, the proprietor of JSK Custom Paint and Auto Works, if they could sponsor a wash-over paint job for the cream Beetle and he readily agreed despite the load of work preparing entries for the 2019 Manila International Auto Show (MIAS), which is scheduled in April 4-7, 2019. “We’ll try to finish the Beetle before MIAS so the owner can enjoy it and perhaps help him recover from his illness”, said the kind-hearted JSK big boss.

The Beetle on the Auto Transporter flatbed truck before leaving Pandacan.

Johnson also referred us to Auto Transporter and we got a hefty discount for the flatbed towing service to bring the disassembled Beetle from Fons’ residence in Pandacan, Manila to the JSK Custom workshop in Valenzuela City. The Auto Transporter personnel were very helpful and careful in loading the VW onto their flatbed truck, as well as loading the four fenders and other parts into the car. They were also on time as per our appointment. Needless to say, we were very pleased with their service.

The Beetle being unloaded at the JSK Customs workshop in Valenzuela City.

At JSK Custom Paint and Auto Works

Upon arrival at the JSK Custom workshop, we did a mini inventory of what we’d be leaving behind for the JSK artisans to work on. After all, a car restoration job gets harder and more complicated if one person disassembles the car and another will put it back together. Fortunately, Fons was meticulous enough to gather all the necessary nuts-and-bolts and other accessories in his residence. We initially bought the parts and accessories that will be needed for the paint and body works. We will bring the other parts as the work progresses.

Right side of the Beetle reveals some surface rust on the door.

Left side shows degrees of paint preparation work.

Left front fender

Left rear fender

Right front fender

Right rear fender

Some of the prep work by the former painter is shoddy.

Fons carefully collected all the necessary nuts and bolts.

License plate light cover…

… and gas filler flap are taped together.

Left front wheel

Left rear wheel

Right front wheel

Right rear wheel

Wheel nut lock, windshield washer nipple, and lug nut lock key were in the ash tray.

Driver’s side door

Passenger side door lacks window mechanism, which was removed for repairs.

1600 boxer motor starts easily, idles nicely, and revs great.

Stamped engine number confirms originality.

Padded dash and Wolfsburg logo at center of steering wheel.

Ceiling is still intact.

Interior is still inviting despite being disassembled.

So, we’re off to another project, only this time, we’re helping a family friend get his “baby” back and perhaps nurse him back to health, too. Stay tuned as we chronicle this wash-over special courtesy of JSK Custom Paint and Auto Works!