When buying a Beetle we are MOST concerned with the body shell itself first and foremost. Fenders, hoods, seats, wheels, engines and transmissions, doors, bumpers and all the other parts bolted to the car can be changed. The body is the
foundation and we will always look for the best foundation possible.
Sure, it is very nice to find a car that has a body that is in outstanding shape and a complete, running car as well but at the end of the day between a "basket case"
(a car that is disassembled and has most parts in boxes or crates and most likely has a number of missing parts) Beetle that is solid and rust free or a running driving Beetle that has extensive rust or damage, we would lean towards the
Grant it we are slightly biased as we do this for a living and have easy access to most any and all parts that would be needed to assemble a Beetle. Keep that in mind for YOUR own restoration as parts may not be as easy to
come by depending on your location and budget.
Primary Areas to Inspect
Front Apron - Inner Fender wells
Starting at the front, look in the trunk (in the spare tire well on Standard Beetle). Irregular creases or folds in the metal with cracking paint, commonly rusted (very common
on any old car). Not a deal breaker if the damage is minor and the hood and fenders line up well (the panels aren't misaligned or uneven). From the front edge of the front tire, look for damage in the front edges of the fender wells (the
opposite side of the panels we were just looking at from the trunk). These areas are exposed to more weather so any damage will typically be rusted and easy to spot.
Check the door gaps (look for even spacing from the top to the bottom edge) and look for even gaps all the way around the door. Open and close the door, does it open smoothly? Does it seem to stick or
fall when first opening? Do the hinges stick or make it difficult to open or close. None are necessarily deal breakers but will need some attention. The fix may be as easy as new door hinge pins. Worse case the damage may indicate a major
repair is needed or was done incorrectly.Rust is common at the very bottom edge of the door as water drains through the door. Debris may have blocked the drains and can cause rust. Surface rust is common, look for major rust.
Rear Apron - Inner Fender wells
From the back edge of the rear tire, look for damage in the front edges of the fender wells Similar to the front, look for irregular creases or folds. Cracking paint and rust
can highlight the area if indeed damaged.
Overall Fit & Operation
The fenders, hood & decklid, how do they fit the car? Do all the body lines seem to be lined up and even? Are the fender to tire gaps the same? Is the fender to tire clearance the same
from one side to the other?Hood & Decklid Operation When opening and closing the hood or deck lid, does it hit the bumper? Is there a lot of flex, specifically at the edges of the hinges? Where some misalignment is common, too much can be
an indicator of a bad accident.