One of the things I love most about the world of cars is the creativity and effort that folks put into making them something special. It happens at all levels of skill set and shop size, and the end results vary as greatly as the people behind the wrenches. In todays article I am going to share one project and one gentleman that I have been involved with and will always remember.
Quite a few years ago now at the VW Classic in California a gentleman from Arizona pulled in to the event in one of the coolest Beetles I have ever seen. At first glance it looked like a hot rod Hebmuller but upon close inspection and chatting with the owner, I realized it was something he had built by himself. I was absolutely in love with the car and he even gave me a ride in it after the event. It was magic. A couple years went by and I saw it pop up for sale and jumped on it immediately. It arrived at my shop a few days later and I pretty quickly jumped in to complete the project and add my own touch. The car was in black primer and had an unfinished interior, but the workmanship was stellar and I felt it really deserved a finish that would legitimize it and bring it to the next level. Since the car was built by one man and not a checkbook, I wanted to continue the theme and handled the paint and body myself in my own backyard. I did have a pro do the interior though, but anything else I tried to tackle myself.
I named the car the Rosenstiel Roadster after Dave Rosenstiel, the man who had crafted the body and the car was featured in many magazines and was my personal dream machine for a long long time. In 2008 when the recession hit and things got tight, I reluctantly put the car up for sale to keep the kids fed and the lights on and it went off to a collector in Europe, basically never to be seen again. I miss this car every single day.
A few years back the phone rang and on the other end was Dave Rosenstiel. We chatted for a while and he told me that he had another Beetle creation that he had built and had his fun with, and he wondered if I would be interested in buying the car. He loved what I did with the roadster and I think he was curious to see what I might do with his coupe. He sent me a few photos and not long after I was on his doorstep with cash in pocket and my truck and trailer.
Just like with the roadster, he had finished in black primer and had left the interior pretty bare bones. He had some fun with it locally but was on to the next project and it was time for it to go. I was absolutely thrilled to be the next owner and to give it my touch. Ill go into what I did with it in just a bit, but before I do I want to share with you some photos of what Dave started with and some pics along the way. Hopefully it will inspire others to get out there in the garage and build something. Dave is one man in his suburban garage with basic hand tools and a vision. A Postal Carrier by day, and a hammer wielding metal wizard by night. He started with junk parts and a dream and just kept working it until he was satisfied with the results. His joy and passion were in the building process , the shaping of the metal and the puzzle assembly of it all. The shiny show car scene is not his thing. He just likes to make stuff.
The photo set above shows a phenomenal transformation from a derelict baja body that was left for dead to a sleek and smooth chop to coupe. Chunks of other VWs were scavenged here and there and through patience , persistence and countless hours of hammer swinging and spark making this impressive creation emerged. One of my favorite pics of the set is the one of Dave at work. A small cluttered home garage like that of 95% of the the world, basic hand tools and a man that is not afraid to use them. Proof that you dont need to be the guy with the high dollar TV show shop filled with lifts and CNC machines. No big presses or English wheel, just the bare bones basics and the skills to make the most of them. I absolutely love it. Dave kicks ass.
Dave had pulled the engine from the car for another project and some other parts as well. These pics are of the car when I took on the project and I admit as I was standing there in his yard staring at it, I was really not sure which way I was going to go with it. I knew it would come to me eventually. I just could not pass up the opportunity to grab it and I was thrilled to have it. The Rosenstiel Coupe would be the next project to hopefully hit the magazines and So Cal shows!
Once back at the "Carchaeology Laboratories" I started out with a good bath and then rolled it in the shop. For the rest of the day I just stared at the car from every possible angle. I looked at every little detail and then would step back and take it all in and squint a bit. By the end of the day I had my plan. With the big So Cal VW Classic / El Prado shows just 10 days away I had my target. I told my wife that it was game on and to not expect to see much of me for the next couple weeks and I just dived in full force to challenge myself and see what I could accomplish.
Late that night I started pulling the car apart and prepping things for paint. I had some leftover VW Dove Blue paint from another project sitting on the shelf and sprayed the interior and under the lids the next morning and then started hunting through the parts pile for stuff to use to complete the project. A used 1600 came out of the dusty shed and was quickly cleaned up and readied for install. I headed to town to get parts and other paint supplies so be prepped for the days to come.
I decided I wanted to go for a patina look finish on the exterior, not only because it would look cool, but also due to the time crunch. I knew if I went after it to make the exterior perfect that there would be no way to make it to the shows. I sprayed a variety of greys, ruddy browns and oranges over the flat black that was on the car. I masked off the shiny interior and under the lids as well as the glass. Next stop was body color.
I had the local paint shop mix up some Dove Blue two stage, but just used the base coat so it would go on flat. After a good coat of the solid blue and some cure time, I went after it with an assortment of very fine sandpaper to work through to the colors below. Once satisfied with the overall look I went after it with the buffer to bring it up to a mild shine. Also while curing I started on the interior. The last photo is of me flat on my back after a truly epic session of labor.
The mad thrash was amplified by the arrival of a photographer from the French magazine Super VW, that wanted to shoot the car for a feature. This was about 7 days in from the start of the project, but thanks to some help from my buddy Seb for a couple days leading up to it, we managed to make it look like a car in time for the photos. It was not operational yet, but by the time the shows came around a couple days later...it was. The photo set above shows some of the details as well as my favorite shot of the car taken at the VW Classic...a bunch of guys standing there slack jawed and staring at it. It was at that moment that I realized what had happened over the past 10 days and it was well worth the effort. I did sleep for about a week after that, but the car got done and it made its splash. Minor changes were made over time, the biggest being the wheels (which I had borrowed from a friend) and then a few more accessories.
After a great bunch of fun with the car for the rest of the year I decided that I wanted to ship the car abroad and show it at the legendary Volksworld show in England. My daughter and I flew over to attend the show and give it one last day in the spotlight. The car remains in England in a private collection today.
Long live the Rosenstiel Coupe and Roadster and three cheers to the incredible craftsman that put them together in his suburban garage in the desert of Arizona. Dave Rosenstiel sir, you have my utmost respect and endless thanks for letting me take the next steps with two of your creations. Got anything else in the pipeline Dave?