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1987 VW Cabriolet Restoration. Still Own & Drive, 2014!

In February 2004, my neighbors were selling their 1987 VW Cabriolet for a great price. I couldn't help but to jump at the opportunity to rid them of this little bugger of a scoot. I needed a new project! My neighbor had driven the car everyday for the past 10 years; their children didn't want to have anything to do with it, which I found to be shocking. I would have killed to have a car like this when I was a teenager. I was told that the engine probably had 300,000 miles on it (odometer stopped at 130,000), the engine mount was broken and that the car jumped into reverse on its own. My neighbor told me that he made sure to keep up on the oil changes. A good sign! I brought along my friend, Erik, on the test drive and we both determined the car was worth buying even though it was barely idling, the suspension was barely holding up the car, the windshield was severely cracked in two places, the front tires were bald, the interior looked like it had been through a war, and the paint was visibly faded. In spite of these flaws, the car had never been in a wreck, there were no dents, only minor dings and the convertible top was in perfect condition. Another good sign!

The first line of order was to give the car a basic tune up. I was off to our local auto parts store. I purchased a new distributor cap, spark plugs, air filter, oil filter, oil, and Prolong Engine treatment.

Once the car was tuned up, the engine idled at a perfect 1000 rpm. The spark plugs and air filter were so worn that the car was running horribly. I would guess from how well the engine runs that it had fewer than 200k on it. All this little engine needed was a little TLC.

With the car running good, Erik and I began our suspension inspection.

Before getting knee deep into the work, we took it to our local car wash and steam cleaned the engine. We determined that the transmission problem was due to the broken engine mount. After replacing the part for $18, the problem was cured! Two replaced shocks and one front strut totaling $80 cured the suspension problem.

While the cost was fairly low and the process was fairly easy to fix, we encountered some hair raising experiences. The shocks and struts are both wrapped with spring coils under pressure. The back shocks weren't a problem, but when we got to the front strut, we found that while it was easy to remove the spring, it would prove otherwise to put it back on. This process is usually done with a special tool. However, since Erik and I are your typical garage mechanics with very basic tools, it was our ability to improvise that got us through this feat. We used four motorcycle tie downs to compress the springs. I'm not sure how much pressure these springs are under, but my guess is about 400 lbs. Erik is still applauding me for figuring this out.



With the car running in perfect order it was time to get it smogged and have the car registered in my name. Unfortunately, the car wouldn't pass the visual inspection, because the OXS (oxygen sensor) light was on. Luckily, I wasn't charged for the inspection. I purchased a new OXS for $21. Erik and I figured it would only take a few minutes to install this part. Wrong, this little bugger of a part was practically seized on the manifold. Because it was in a rather awkward position with barely any room to move around, it took us two hours and a handful of bruised knuckles and a few newly discovered vocabulary words to complete this job. All was well and this little scoot passed smog!

Erik and I fell in love with this car and were having a blast scooting it around town. However, it looked horrible. It was time to address the paint. While Erik applied a coat of McGuire's wax, I cleaned up the vinyl top. We were both amazed how well the paint looked. If we didn't know any better, we might think it was new paint!



The interior of the car was the next challenge. After receiving three quotes averaging $900 to reupholster the seats, I decided to do it myself. Luckily, my father owned an upholstery shop for years and he was able to give me some tips and tricks of the trade. Plus, it helped that I own an industrial sewing machine.

The upholstery was in bad shape

 

I went to our local upholstery fabric store and purchased the fabric for $74. It took me 2 ½ days to complete the job. I am very pleased at how well the job came out. My dog, Prince, held the fabric in place while I marked it for cutting. This proved to be a very rewarding accomplishment for me. After all, I had never upholstered a car before.

The new reupholstered seats look so much better than before! The work was rather backbreaking, but the results were well worth it.

Just when I thought I was in the clear and free from oily hands, the rear brakes started squealing. I popped off the wheel to discover badly worn brake shoes. After fighting for thirty minutes with the springs on one side, my memory started coming back when I used to change my brakes on a VW I had in high school. I picked up the pace and had the brakes done in no time.

Not only was this car running excellent, now it also looked great! However, it needed some cool rims. I found some great VW original rims on Ebay.

I had so much fun, I did it 2 more times!

With a fresh set of tires, this once broken car has come alive. I am so proud and enjoy driving it. All in all, Erik and I put a lot of labor in and very little money for parts. Not bad for a little car that was under $500! We are off to the beach for our maiden voyage!


Sold On Ebay 2004

I had such a wonderful time working on this car that I have purchased two more at great prices. Of course, they both need an overhaul from top to bottom


Sold in 2007

I am currently working on this VW as of 2006. The engine is running perfectly and the upholstery is complete. However, not shown in this photo is the passenger rear quarter panel which has some damage and will need to be fixed. Do I really need two red VW Cabriolets? Absolutely! Actually, this one is a 1984 Rabbit convertible.

I have found a great passion in tinkering with these lil scoots. Not only are they easy to work on, but with a little TLC they will run forever and are a blast in the summer months! If you are ever in the market for a VW Cabriolet / Rabbit convertible, you should definitely contact me. I always seem to be around when someone is giving one away. Of course, I am always looking for one. HahHa :o)


I Love this little scoot and will probably never sell it!
It still runs and looks great! 2014

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