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I may have went too far in the Karmann Ghia restoration. It’s going to take all my focus and attention to come back from these recent mistakes, can I do it? I hope so.

  1. Get the Karmann Ghia Sand Blasted
  2. Cut Away Damaged Panels
  3. Panic Internally
  4. Make Methodical Progress

1. Get the Karmann Ghia Sand Blasted

In a previous project, I made a rotisserie to remove the Karmann Ghia’s body from the chassis. This structure also allows me to rotate the body along the long axis to access all sides. That feature is very important at this part of the restoration, because it is time to remove all of the old paint, rust, and body filler. You can buy a large sand blasting setup and the stripping medium. I chose to hire out that service to a traveling sandblasting business. The guy pulled up to the barn after I wheeled the body outside. It several hours for him to sandblast the entire car.

Once he was finished, I applied a coat of After Blast to the raw metal to stop flash rusting. That is the formation of surface rust on the bare metal due to humidity in the air. The After Blast creates an oxidation barrier  on the metal and helps prepare it for paint and body work. And oh boy, will there need to be body work. There are several places in the body where time and rust have corroded away the metal. Part supplies have replacement panels because of this common rust. I have to cutout the gross panels and weld in the new ones.

2. Cut Away Damaged Panels

Using a pneumatic cutting wheel attached to my new compressor setup, I could trace the placement of the new panels on the body and cut them away. To replace the panels, I had to add a flange to the body so the new panel could firmly attach to the car. The more panels I cut, the more rusty pieces fell out along the way. I started to get a bit overwhelmed with all of the pieces being removed. My plan to replace the rusty panels started to spiral out of control and I couldn’t figure out where the panels needed to mount.

3. Panic Internally

When I stepped back and looked at the cut-up Karmann Ghia, I realized that I had removed too many panels. I saw too many panels, even though most of the lower panels will be replaced, because I had no remaining reference points. To install the panels, they have to align to the “bottom” of the body. In my haste, I removed almost all of the reference points at the “bottom.” While most of this project has been a learning experience, it was at this point where I felt completely lost. I am terrified that I have past a point of no return. I feel like I have ruined the body by taking off too much, too soon. Time to go freak out.

4. Make Methodical Progress

After I took a break and freaked out for a while, I sought out some wise counsel. My good friend Jimmy Diresta made a good point that I could “Come back from any mistake.” So I decided to fit the heater channel in place, which would become my new lower reference point. After some tense cutting and aggressive positioning, the channel was in place and level with some upper panels. It was at this point that I could vaguely see a path forward. It won’t be easy, and I may still face problems related to this down the line, but I could work with it.

I am now slowly adding the replacement panels onto the car and my welding sheet metal skills are improving. Slowly and methodically I’m recreating the rotted out side of the car. I’m super happy that there are new panels readily available and for the encouraging words from friends. I hope you stick around for more updates to the Karmann Ghia, because this restoration is stretching my skills and patience. I’m sure I will look back at this struggle and be proud of the progress, but I have to keep going, one panel at a time.