Melissa M 1963 VW Bug Ragtop

Herbie the Love Bug - On the Road Again

I hope you find this story enjoyable and worth publishing. It would make a wonderful ending to the near 5 year restoration project. Other photos are available. The entire project has been documented with photos. Submitted by Melissa Martinez, mother to Matthew Arndt. The article was printed in the local newspaper in a format that helped detail the project. I thought it would be useful to you in explaining the project. If you have any questions please let me know.

What kind of vehicle did you buy, and what did you set out to do it?

1. My son (Matthew Arndt) used his savings to purchase a 1963 air-cooled VW Bug - Ragtop (without engine) on July 2009. At that time he was a sophomore in high school. His lofty goal was to restore the car and build the engine himself.

Why did you take on this project?

2. Matthew had such an interest in cars and restoring this air-cooled VW Bug seemed like a fun family activity. Matthew's hero as a child was Disney's Herbie the Love Bug; the magical racing car with a mind of its own and capable of driving itself. Herbie the Love Bug happened to be a 1963 pearl-white VW Bug with a fabric ragtop (large sunroof). Matthew and his Mom (Melissa) took on this project as it was to be Matthew's high school graduation present. Our naive assumption was that the restoration wouldn't take long to complete - just a few parts here and there. It didn't take long to realize we needed experts.

How and when did you find it, and how long have you had it?

3. Everyday, as Matthew would be driven to his neighborhood elementary school he would see this VW Bug covered and sitting in the driveway of someone's house. In the 6th grade, his last year at his elementary school, Matthew and his father stopped to ask the owner if he would sell the vehicle. Matthew did not know until that day that the car was a neglected Herbie the Love Bug. The car was a rusty pearly white ragtop (hard to find today) VW Bug that was originally purchased in Austin Texas. The current owner bought the car from family members and was the 2nd owner of the car , but was not interested in selling the family car. In fact, he had kept the car in hopes of restoring it himself.

Fast forward to 2010 (four years later) where Matthew was now a sophomore year in high school. Matthew with his mom stopped by the owner's house again and the VW Bug was in the same spot rotting away. Matthew left a compassionate note for the owner and to our surprise the owner called Matthew and said he was ready to sell the car. Today, Matthew is 20 years old and a sophomore at a Texas college studying mechanical engineering. Almost five years later (2014), the VW Bug, is cruising the Austin streets on special weather days. The vehicle is Austin purchased (the dealership no longer exists), Austin restored, and driven by an Austin native.

What work and/or modifications have you done, and what's still left to do, if anything?

4. The VW Bug became a complete restoration project. As the pictures will show the body was pulled off the chassis. There is nothing left to do except drive and finally enjoy the car. Two incredible and talented individuals (Chuck and Steve) are responsible for the restoration of this beautiful vehicle. Chuck did all the meticulous body work and paint job. And Steve completed the assembly, mechanical and restorative process - basically he put the entire car back together. Mom financed what was to only be a two year project.

What hurdles did you run into along the way, and how did you resolve them?

5. Because the project extended beyond two years Matthew graduated from high school and headed to college. Matthew's mom, Melissa, took on the task of keeping this project on track. There were so many unexpected hurdles and team Matthew and Mom learned patience and persistence. Both Chuck and Steve had personal issues that arose over the years that delayed the project. Each had periods of time where they wanted to work on other cars or other things and so progress slowed and sometimes halted. Many original parts had to be found at salvage yards. It was a very stressful endeavor to keep everyone motivated. Always keeping an active presence on the project was critical. The sequence of events to rebuild the car required constant towing between both Chuck and Steve workshops as the project progressed. The VW Bug even got towed to have the headliner installed because the engine was the last thing to be installed.

6. Matthew and mom had no restoration experience. Matthew was learning how to work on cars with this father and mom had no experience at all.

What was your first ride?

7. Matthew's first ride was a VW Jetta TDI

What have you learned from this process?

8. Over the five years it took to complete the project we learned many life lessons. Although my son and I were diligent about completing the project, we were also emotionally invested in reaching the finish line. Along the way we acquired a patience and respect for the individuals who do restorative work and even gained a better appreciation for the cost of purchasing a restored vehicle. Most importantly, we made new friends and were able to give a new life to a beautiful vehicle that - as Willie Nelson sings - 'on the road again".

What else should we know

10. Matthew did not know the VW Bug (aka Herbie the Love Bug) was complete. The car was picked up Saturday March 2014 and the engine had less the 100 miles on it. Mom chose to surprise Matthew on Saturday April 2014 at Charles Maund VW Dealership in Austin Texas with the vehicle. The restored VW Bug was driven to the Charles Maund VW Dealership to ask if they would be willing to help surprise Matthew with the car. The plan was to tell my son they we should just drive over the dealership lot to "look" at cars. Who knew how Matthew would react or if he would recognize that the car on the lot was actually his. Charles Maund VW loved the car and the level of restoration, and they agreed to participate with the surprise unveiling and placed the car in their showroom - even alongside one of their restored ragtops. Matthew was overcome with emotion.

Melissa Martinez


Austin, Texas

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