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Hi - As soon as I read about the Smyth Perfomance New Beetle Ute kit that was about to be released last summer, I knew I had to have one. I've been messing with cars and trucks since I was 14, and now that I'm over 75, I figured this would make a great winter project in my shop here on our small farm in Missouri. I ordered the kit as soon as it was available, and my order number was 110 . I didn't have a car yet, but contacted a friend who operates a used car lot in central Missouri, and told him what I wanted. The guy gets all his vehicles from the east coast, and has "spotters" there to find the vehicles he wants. A couple weeks later I had my 1998 Beetle, 2.0 L engine, 5 speed manual , with 79,700 miles on the meter ! Because the owners name was on the title, I took a chance a wrote a letter to her, with a picture of the car in front of my shop. A few days later she called me ! We had a great conversation, and she told me she bought the car new, with 12 miles on it. She owned it for 20 years and 9 months . She lived in Washington, D.C. and had no garage, so the car has been outside all the time. I asked her why every body panel had so many small dents, and she asked me if I had ever been in, or driven in Washington D.C. ? Even tho she had an assigned parking spot at her work place, apparently nearly 21 years of driving and parking in that area takes it's toll on a vehicle.

I decided to renew or refresh everything under the hood before starting the kit work. I went beyond a tune up. The engine now has all new belts and hoses, the fuel injection system has been rebuilt, a new radiator installed, front struts, ball joints, tie rod ends, as well as a 3 gauge panel installed on top of the dash with water, volts, and temp gauges. While waiting for some parts, I decided to start some body work on the door dents and dings.
 

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Starting the work for the kit project meant removing the rear seat, all the side panels, and the rear hatch. Then the rear fenders were removed, all wiring moved out of the way, and the headliner blocked down so it wouldn't be harmed when the roof was cut.
 

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That’s awesome the former owner called you. Nice story to go with your build. Looking forward to lots of pics.

As for not working as fast as 25-35 year olds many of them are to busy playing with their computer games so yeah you’ve got them beat hands down.
 

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Now it's time for a new blade in the Sawsall, and start cutting. Smyth has 18 videos on YouTube that one follows to learn about each step of the kit build process. The owner of the company does a great job of showing the viewer how every part fits, where it goes, and how to accomplish each operation,
That’s awesome the former owner called you. Nice story to go with your build. Looking forward to lots of pics.

As for not working as fast as 25-35 year olds many of them are to busy playing with their computer games so yeah you’ve got them beat hands down.
Thanks - She was delighted that I was going to restore " her " Beetle, but I chose to not mention that it would come out of my shop as a pickup truck. I didn't get the feeling that she'd go for that after she mentioned about 20 times how much she LOVED her Beetle. Some days you are better to bite your tongue - right ?
 

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Now it's time to start the cargo box assembly. The aluminum panels are CNC cut, and very accurate. I have to drill out all the holes, but the CNC machine has cut a 1/8" hole that acts as a center punch at each place for me. The videos tell me which holes need to be 3/16" dia or 5/16" dia. All the hardware included in the kit is 1st rate material. The nuts, bolts and washers are all stainless steel. The tailgate hinges and latches are also top quality. The cab rear window and the rubber weatherstrip gets drop shipped from LMC Truck and it's the window from a '65 Chevy pickup truck ! As I bolted these pieces together, every hole lined up perfectly. I didn't have to adjust any one. That's how accurate the CNC machine is.
In the last photos you'll see my last work from yesterday, by placing the box into the Beetle. Final tightening of the nuts & bolts won't take place until after I build and install the tailgate. The only way to get the gaps correct on the left and right side of the tailgate is by adjusting the box as I snug all the fasteners in place.
 

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Assembling the tailgate frame fooled me. There are only 2 parts - an inner and outer frame . But, what you see as the smaller, thinner part, is the rear part that the fiberglass skin gets bonded onto. Because the body has an outward curve , fitting the smaller part into the larger part had to be carefully done, but the aluminum gave quite a fight ! Once it was finally in place, and all bolts & nuts tightened, it took 2 1/2 hours ! I showed a close-up of the skuffed edge of the outer aluminum . The suggestion from the kit company is to bond the fiberglass to the tailgate frame with the same adhesive used to install windshields. The idea is so that in the event someone bumps and damages the tailgate, the adhesive can be cut, and the fiberglass panel removed and repaired . Once done, it can be replaced with the same type adhesive.

Just in case anyone is interested, that wooden "bench" you have seen me working on is actually the empty shipping crate that the Beetle UTE kit was shipped in ! It is 96" L X 36" W X 26 " H . The shipping weight for the kit is 400 lbs, If anyone has any questions , or comments, please feel free to jump in . Thanks.
 

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I was wondering about that bench. I am trying to remember in your original thread if you said you picked this up or it was shipped?
 

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I needed to have mine shipped, as their factory was then in Massachusetts and I live in Missouri. Because of the huge sales volume of the Beetle Ute kits, the company has consolidated all their operations into one large facility in Rhode Island. They also make kits for Dodge Chargers, Audi, Jetta, and Subaru. But the Beetle had quickly taken the lead !

I know that my shipment was picked up late on an Friday afternoon at the factory. I had it here the following Wednesday. I thought that was pretty fast shipping.
 

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Not too many pictures this time, but the work took quite a bit of time. This was the part of the project when all the support plates, gussets, braces, and brackets had to be installed. Making sure that the gap between the tailgate and the box sides is very important, so as the cargo box was being bolted into place, this gap was checked and rechecked about a hundred times ! Then the mating surface between the new box front, and the VW floor also had to be sealed, because of course water will enter the cargo box, but we don't want it to seep into the cab interior. The last parts I installed were the braces for the floor panels.
 

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Well, back to the project, now that I've completed Jury Duty ! One must do one's civic duty - right ! You see the box ready for the aluminum floor pieces. The flooring is very strong, but each piece is 12" wide, and 3 pieces come with the kit. So, you can cover 36" which spans across the opening you see with about 1/2" to spare in each side. The inside measurement of the box is 39.5" . Here's when I must put in a positive plug for Mark Smith, the company owner for this kit company. When you dial the company number, a friendly voice says " Hello - this is Mark " !!! Yup, the company owner actually answers the phone. He's friendly, never seems to be in a hurry, and is very interested in how you are doing with your project. I asked about my 36" of flooring , with a box width of 39.5" , and Mark told me the kit was designed so that the panels would only cover the opening in the center, as the long pieces seen in the left and right side of the box complete the span. Well, I'm going to purchase another 12' panel from them, and cut my own strips for the left and right side so that I have a more uniform look once the bed floor is done. Just my personal choice.

Then it was on to fitting the side panels so that the gaps at the doors would be straight and equal from side to side. Because the aluminum box parts were so well made, and the fiberglass panels are so accurate, it really didn't take much effort at all to have these panels all lined up.

It was fortunate that the above step went well, because the next step was ( I know we are supposed to be polite with our comments, but . . . ) This next step was a BITCH !!!
You see, VW holds the inner fender liner inside the wheel well with a bunch of sheet metal screws that go into speed clips on the body side, as well as in the inner lip of the fender.
In order to reuse that inner fender liner, one must cut off the lip from the edge of the VW fender, because you need all those clips as well as the plastic panel on which the clips are mounted ! I feel sorry for anyone who gave away their rear fenders thinking that they did not need them any more.

You will see that I decided to hold those VW strips, with the clips in place just as it was from VW, by drilling a series of 1/8" holes and holding the strips to the fiberglass by using Cleco fasteners. These are really meant for holding sheet metal parts, but they worked well for me here. I actually reinstalled each inner fender liner to make certain all the holes for the screws lined up before I permanently attached the strips to the inside of the fiberglass panels. That was a real struggle, because now the inside dimensions were less that they were on the VW car.

Once I was ready to " glue " the strips in place inside the fiberglass panels, I first had to skuff the fiberglass panels, as well as skuff the outer edge of the VW strips. Then I chose to use the LIQUID NAIL FUZE * IT construction adhesive to bond these two parts together. Also in the 1/8" holes I had drilled before for the Cleco fasteners, this time I installed 1/8" aluminum Pop rivits from the inside-out ! That is , the head of the rivit is now on the inner surface. Once everything had set up, the tiny part that stuck outside the fender I simply ground off. That will be covered when I do the body work later.
 

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Because all these parts were fitted and tested before , it was time to permanently attach the fiberglass panels. Once again I used the Liquid Nail FUZE * IT adhesive, and I am very happy with the results. Now it's on to fitting and installing that back of the cab !
 

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Because all these parts were fitted and tested before , it was time to permanently attach the fiberglass panels. Once again I used the Liquid Nail FUZE * IT adhesive, and I am very happy with the results. Now it's on to fitting and installing that back of the cab !
Man, you're knocking this project out at a good clip.
Is the Liquid Nails FUZE*IT the reccomend adhesive for this project? I'm about to start on another beetle project and considering what bonding adhesives to use.
Your review and take-aways would be appreciated.
 

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Thanks for the kind comments. Some time ago, I talked with Mark Smith, owner of the kit company, and asked about what might be the best adhesive to use. In the past I have ordered and used actual automotive bonding adhesive, but that stuff is really expensive ! Mark mentioned that guys are using all sorts of brands of adhesives so long as the directions mention that they are intended for metal as well as fiberglass. The FUZE*IT lists other products as well, and I have used it in the past with 100% positive results, so that is why I used it with this project. The only different suggestion that Mark makes is for the fiberglass skin on the tail gate. That apparently is the most often damaged item ( I'm guessing his experience from the other kit experience ) . He suggests to use the black windshield bonding material. That way, if your tail gate gets damaged, you can cut thru the adhesive, just like removing a damaged windshield. After repairing your tail gate, replace it with the same kind of black bonding material again ! I'm sure there are several other brands of great adhesive, but I felt that the Liquid Nail was a quality brand name, and my past experience with the FUZE*IT was why I chose to try it again.

I have included some photos of how the project looked at the end of today.
 

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After I posted the above, I had an additional thought I felt should be mentioned. If you've worked with fiberglass before, you probably already know this, but for those following this build, here is a very important bonding tip.. When bonding aluminum to fiberglass ( in this case it's the rough side where at the factory the wet fiberglass was sprayed into a mold ) BOTH the aluminum and the fiberglass need to be scuffed, so the adhesive will have some rough, but clean edges to grip on and hold.

Now, anyone looking at the backside of my molded fiberglass panels would say that they look plenty rough, so why do anything to them ? There are two very good reasons.
1 - spraying the fiberglass does not leave a level surface - the person spraying the job is doing it by eye, so there are high and low spots. 2 - Someone smarter than I can tell us the chemical process involved, but as fiberglass is setting up, a wax-like coating floats to the surface. So, cured fiberglass has a wax coating , and that must be ground off before there is any chance for a good adhesive bond to take place. I use 80 grit paper to get my results. Then vacuum the surfaces really well, wipe them with a clean rag , and resist touching them with your bare hands !Then you are ready to apply the adhesive as per the instructions that came with your product.
 

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Since my last post, I've been busy with time consuming " fussy work " as one fellow called it ! In the first two picts you'll be seeing that the cab is now permanently attached to the rest of the vehicle. That took an unusual amount of time, because I did not like the normal way the kit company intended the fiberglass cab back to be attached. If you watch a YouTube video of the cab being attached, you will see that the left and right side "wings", or portions just behind the doors, are glued and riveted to the B pillar on the car.

When I temporarily held those wings in place as shown in the videos, it would mean that when finished, those areas would be nearly 1/4" inset from the rear edge of the door. Now if you look at the Beetle sedan, the rear quarter glass is not recessed , so I wondered why would I want to create this set-back as shown in the videos ? I decided to look for the proper thickness material to make shims, so I could get the wings out in the proper place. Those shims, or spacer strips, would need to be flexible, and weatherproof. Geeze - I had a couple rear fenders that were made from just the right stuff ! A quick experiment proved that two strips of fender material brought the wings out to the perfect position. Some adhesive and rivets and the wings were fixed in place and looked proper.

The next day as I was trimming the door gap material on the wing edge, I kept looking at the top of the doors, and looked at the black detail there. The fiberglass wings did not have that detail molded into them from the kit factory. The more I looked at the thing , the more I convinced myself I just had to create that detail somehow. Well. since I had I piece of fiberglass laying around that had been cut out for the rear cab window, I found it to be the proper thickness. I made a chip board pattern first, then made two fiberglass trim pieces.
I used adhesive to bond them in place, then the following day I used my Dremel tool to finish shape them. Once primed and painted, it will look like a factory item.

You will see that I am using the tail lights that came with the kit as 3rd brake lights. I found a vendor on Ebay that had a VW emblem that was the same diameter, so when it's all done this will add a little different look to the UTE. For tail lights I am going to use the tail lights from the 1966 - 67 Beetle sedan.

Now - to me - the really boring part starts. I started painting my car and truck projects when I was 14 years old, which means I been painting this stuff for 61 years now. The excitement of painting went away a long time ago, but I keep reminding myself of what body shops charge to paint a vehicle these days and that keeps me going !
About it for this time, - I hope you enjoy watching the progress. Cheers !
 

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AS you can see in the first 3 photos, the work on the body has begun. Fun. I decided I needed to change my outlook and shifted gears mentally to layout a plan for a storage cabinet in the front part of the cargo box. I want a lockable box , but I also have to work with the floor panels that are a part of the kit from Smyth Performance. My storage cabinet will be 39.5" W X 13.5" D X 16.5 " H .

The kit includes 3 pieces aluminum floor material , each piece being 12" wide by 60" long. So, placed side by side, you have floor material 36" wide, but the cargo box is 39.5" wide. The company design has aluminum side panels as part of the framework for the box construction that do span any open areas, but I don't like that design element. Maybe some people think it's OK , but I'd rather have a uniform pattern look to the floor all the way across from side to side. SO, I contacted the company, and bought a 4th floor panel so I would have enough material to have a perfect looking floor in the bed ! I centered the first 3 panels, and found that I needed 1 3/4" on each side. Of course, those pieces had to be cut from the starter edges of the 4th panel. I put a metal cutting blade in my 10" table saw, and ran thru a couple wooden practice pieces first before I cut the aluminum. When all looked good, it was time to rip the strips from the aluminum panel ! It went well, and everything fit as planned. From the balance of the 4th panel, I ripped 1 1/2" wide bracing strips that I used under the center 3 floor panels. I used aluminum rivets to hold it all together.

From the photos you can see that I have a wooden 1" X 2" strip of wood wedged into place across the box. It is placed 1/4" above the floor panels. My lockable storage box will have a separate floor in it's bottom/ The floor panels have to be able to slide back and off, in case I need to access the spare tire, jack, and tools. The wooden piece is simply my guide for the time being !
 

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