Home > Project Cars > 1974 Volkswagen Super Beetle 1303 S > 1974 Volkswagen Super Beetle 1303 S Part 6: Hidden Gems and Challenges

1974 Volkswagen Super Beetle 1303 S Part 6: Hidden Gems and Challenges

In our previous report, we got our 1974 Volkswagen Super Beetle 1303 S running again after we replaced the fan belt and the ignition coil, and fiddled with the carburetor and the timing. We drove it out of our garage, had it fueled up at a nearby Petron gas station; had the air pressure of all tires, including the spare, checked; had it washed; and then drove around for a while before we parked it back in our garage. Believe it or not, this was the first time that we really got a good look in and around our green Bug under bright sunlight after we got it FREE from the late Ildefonso “Fons” Caluag in June 2019.

For the most part after we became the custodian of this 1303 S, we’ve inspected it under a roofed garage – at the Caluag residence in Pandacan, Manila or at the Dizon ancestral home in Sampaloc. We were told by Mang Kid (what we affectionately called the previous owner, Fons) that this VW has some mechanical issues and that he was not satisfied with the paintjob that it had sometime in the late ’90s. Now that we have some time in our hands, we decided to go through the car with a fine tooth comb and make a list of the paint and mechanical issues that we need to tackle in the future.

Scratches, Dings and Rusty Things

We have to take into account that our green Super Beetle rolled out of the Volkswagenwerk AG factory in Wolfsburg, Germany 47 years ago. Add a more-than-20-year-old semi-professional local paintjob to a 47-year-old import, and we have a lot of work that will need to be done soon. Let’s start at the front of the car:

The front bumper has a small ding on top, is developing surface rust and some pitting on the chrome, and needs to be refurbished. The license plate needs to be updated, too.

Viewed from another angle, the paint bubbles look like pimples growing out of a teenager’s face – except our green Bug is a 47-year-old teenager.

We opened the front trunk, took out all the stuff crammed into it, and inspected the inner portion of the trunk lid as well as the trunk floor. We were happy to find just a few rusty areas but we need to address these issues immediately so they won’t become bigger problems.

A dab of rust inhibitor is the quick, cheap and temporary fix for the rot developing at the front edge of the trunk lid/hood.

The spare tire well appears to be solid with some minor surface rust at the corners.


The windshield washer reservoir has no leaks and just needs a little cleaning.

Tires and Spares

Looking at the spare tire, we could surmise that our 1303 S was originally equipped with 15-inch Lemmerz GT M444 sports wheels when it rolled out the factory in 1974. The spare Lemmerz GT rim was shod in a 195/55R15 Bridgestone Potenza RE94 tire that had worn-out treads. Since the car rolls on 15-inch five-spoke ATS aluminum alloy wheels that use longer wheel bolts, Mang Kid thoughtfully taped four shorter wheel bolts to the spare wheel just in case it will be used in an emergency.

195/55R15 Bridgestone Potenza RE94 spare tire is mounted on a rare 15 x 5.5J (ET 34) Lemmerz GT M444 sports wheel.

Previous owner taped four short wheel bolts to mount the Lemmerz spare wheel in case of a flat tire.

15-inch five-spoke ATS alloy wheels needs a light refurbishing while Potenza RE94 tires will need to be replaced with fresh new Bridgestone tires.

After we removed all the stuff from the trunk to inspect and take photos, we decided not to put some of the unnecessary items back. As we sifted through the stuff that Mang Kid had left in trunk, we were surprised to find several spare parts that he said we might need when we work on the suspension and steering. We realized how thoughtful he was, stuffing much needed spare parts for our future needs, even after he gave us the green Bug for FREE as a token of appreciation for helping restore his other Bug – the cream 1973 Beetle 1300 S that we chronicled elsewhere in this website. God bless his soul!

With the new nose section, the Super Beetle offers increased trunk space than the regular Beetle. The spare tire is mounted flush and flat.

We found a set of EMPI bushings, a brand new control arm, and a pair of dampers for the McPherson struts that we will need when we repair the front suspension.

We also found some spare weather strips, fender liners and window trim that could prove useful to our future restoration work on the green Bug.

Repairs and Quick Fixes

As we continued to walk around the car, we found some paint flaws as well as repairs and quick fixes that were done to keep the car from rusting and deteriorating much faster. We can only guess that some repairs were done by Mang Kid to ensure that the rust doesn’t spread. With our current limited budget, we are more likely to follow his lead for quite some time.

Rust at the edge of the front fender must have been sanded and painted over just to make sure it doesn’t get bigger…

… while the ding at the edge of the driver’s door likely got the same treatment.

The deteriorating rubber seal and guide on the driver’s side window still keeps the water out but needs to be replaced soon. Local Safeview glass must have replaced original window.

At the back, we found more evidence of shoddy workmanship by the person who did the green paintjob. The paint on the fender looked like it can be peeled off like a thin foil or vinyl wrap. The painter probably did a poor job prepping the surface for the finishing coat of metallic green. According to Mang Kid, it was a quickie wash-over paint job to change the color from the original light blue to this metallic green. Thankfully, we found some traces of the original paint that we can color-match when we get the car painted back to its factory color.

Paint on the rear fender looks like it was a thin, flimsy vinyl wrap. Rear bumper needs some refurbishing and re-chroming while “elephant feet” tail light needs cleaning.

Rear engine lid also developed some paint bubbles and blisters.

We found some spots under the engine lid with intact traces of the factory light blue paint. We can have this color-matched when it’s time to have the car repainted back to its original color.

Fixing What We Could 

We then turned our attention to the interior of our green Super Beetle and found a few other problems that will require our attention soon. Lest we sound like we do nothing but complain and point out problem areas, we got our tools and fixed some things that we can fix immediately. For example, when we ordered the new EMPI distributor, we ordered a pair of new black window risers or crank handles to replace the old ones in the car. These may be small jobs but they are “baby steps” forward in making the car look and function better.

The old window risers on both doors were missing the plastic trim and they look pitted and dirty. The knob on the driver’s side doesn’t rotate and appears to be stuck due to age.

A few minutes with a Philips head screw driver and some sweat can turn something unsightly into something more palatable.

The warped and scratched door card (siding) will be replaced in the future.

We were extremely lucky that the interior of our FREE green Super Beetle is mostly complete and that the repairs needed are minimal. Being obsessive-compulsive (OC) car restorers, we like to sweat through the details of the interior so we can dream of… err, plan on a course of action and hopefully, a future budget, to restore the interior back to its original condition like when it left the factory.

The interior is generally intact and mostly complete, save for some aftermarket accessories that the previous owner (before Mang Kid) installed.

The driver’s seat needs a lot of work. A new seat cover and the plastic trim around the seat needs to be located and acquired along with a new carpet and rubber mats.

Aftermarket VDO tachometer is mounted too low and out of the natural line-of-sight. It will be cleaned, refurbished and relocated for safety while the butchered panel will be replaced or repaired.

Future “Inside Job” and Missing Mang Kid

The more we dug into the interior of our green Bug, the more work we find that we’ll need to do. We even found a big chunk of rust hiding in the footwell that we’ll need to sand or grind down before it spreads out to other panels. Thankfully, these challenges are all manageable. We’ve seen worse in other project cars.

The old gray carpet in the driver’s footwell looks like it needs just a little cleaning…

… but it covers some rust that is beginning to spread. Time to bring out the wire wheel, the sander, and some rust inhibitor.

On a positive note, the shifter is a desirable Hurst aftermarket stick shift. It just needs some cleaning and a lot of TLC.

One of things we got out of the front trunk was a huge box that contained a brand-new headliner material for the ceiling. We looked at the ceiling of our car and found it is still intact so we can only guess that Mang Kid ordered it as a spare for a future teardown and restoration. We really feel blessed that he stuffed all these spare parts and trim into the trunk when he gave us this green Bug in June last year.

The cushion and foam of the rear bench seat has become hard and lumpy while the cover has become faded and brittle. But, the seat is still serviceable.

We were surprised to find a “boom box” when we folded the rear seat. We plan to remove it in the future but we will keep it as it is temporarily.

The ceiling of our Super Beetle is a bit worn at the edges but still intact. Mang Kid thoughtfully gave us a new set of headliner material when he gave us the car.

We spent half of a cool and sunny December morning looking around our 1974 Volkswagen Super Beetle 1303 S and we were lucky to find some hidden treasures. But the biggest gem of all was the previous owner, Mang Kid, the late Ildefonso Caluag. Even after his passing in March 2020 at age 81, his generosity, his knowledge, and his passion for all things Beetle lingers. We’re honored and extremely grateful for the privilege of having his rolling legacy handed down to us.