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Auto frame straightening--any experience?
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Tom A    Posted 07-22-2002 at 04:58:48       [Reply]  [Send Email]
Son was involved in a pretty major car accident. Thank God, he and the lady who hit him are fine.

I suspect the car is totalled but...

It is/was a 73 VW Superbeetle, in like-new or better condition. He'd spent thousands over the past few years on custom paint, upholstery, engine, sound system etc etc and it is his first love.

He roughly hit head on with a mid-sized Pontiac, and amazingly enough the Pontiac look lots worse. His car has lots of damage to the left front and side, with lighter damage along right front. It "looks" warped, now, though when you look at it carefully from the front.

We've had several friends tell us that there have been great advances in frame straightening, and that the little car might be save-able. I really would like to save it, but don't want to make a dumb mistake.

Anybody have recent experience with this? Is it really possible, and if so what does it run? What about future problems, tire wear and such...?


Hal/WA    Posted 07-23-2002 at 11:52:59       [Reply]  [No Email]
The bottom line question I would be asking is: would it be worth it to spend a lot of money fixing the wrecked car?

How badly it is damaged is hard to assess unless you are very familiar with body work and, I would guess, VW's. The bugs have a very tough floor pan that the surprisingly light body attaches to. Maybe the damage is actually less than you think and it would be reasonable to repair it.

But even if it can be fixed, you will still have an old bug. In my opinion, they were neither good handlers, or very economical cars as compared with newere vehicles. I also think that the old bugs were some of the least safe cars on the road. I had a 73 Super Beetle years ago and had a lot of trouble with it. We called it the Wonder Bug, because we always wondered what was going to go wrong next. Now I know that other people have had great experiences with the bugs, but I would never fool with them again.

One place that VW bugs really shine is in parts interchangability. I would explore the possibility of getting another car and changing over the usable parts from the wrecked one. Be aware that the 73 Super Beetle uses a completely different front suspension that most of the earlier beetles (and it is not the suspension used in dune buggys). But many of the other parts will work on most any beetle. This might be a lot more practical than repairing the wreck. Then you just have to deal with the custom paint job.

Have you come to an agreement with the other driver's insurance company? I recall your earlier post. If you have not completed negotiations with them, you really don't know how much money you have to work with. Don't just give up.....

If I were in your situation, I would do the best I could with the insurance company and then buy another safer, newer car for my teenager. I would ask for the salvage of the wreck as part of the deal and then would find another VW to transfer the parts to. But that is just my opinion.

buck    Posted 07-22-2002 at 21:02:01       [Reply]  [No Email]

Having reconditioned VW beetles for 20 years I have to tell you of one 73 Super Beetle Convertible. This particular car was just as it came off the dealers lot with just a few miles and in the 20 years I only saw one other a 74 super beetle as nice.These little used cars are in a class of their own. On the 73 convertible a man bought it for his grandsons first car. In short order the grandson rolled the car 4 times and came out with only a few scratches. The car ended up back in my shop as a parts car.I looked the car over real good and decided to attempt to save it.After stripping the car down to the main body and pan I sent it to a frame shop and was shocked at how well it turned out. I was able to rebuild the car to look as good as before but now it was just a run of the mill car that had been brought back from a total loss and no where near the value that the man had paid for it for his grandson.

LarryAJ    Posted 07-22-2002 at 11:08:24       [Reply]  [No Email]
Let me drop in my $0.02 here.

My daughter was hit in the left front of her Jeep when she was in college. The insurance company of the other driver (who was at fault) "declared" the car totaled. I just ignored them and found a good body shop thru my sister - the accident was in Texas and I am in Virginia. I got the car fixed for just about what the "totaled out" pay out was going to be. It saved me a trip to find another car!!

About 6 months after I got the car fixed, I got a call from the insurance company adjuster. Seems the claim was still outstanding and the company wanted it cleared out, asap. I explained what I had done and why. He asked for copies of the bills, which I carefully kept, and within a month here came a check for the full amount.

Hope you can do the same. Point out that there are extenuating circumstances that make the normal "totaled out" figures inapropriate for this case. Since your son was not at fault - I assume - you could go after the other driver to "make you whole" again, i.e. pay any difference between the insurance company payment and the cost to return the car to it's before accident condition. Since the car was a '73 it is alomst 30 years old and would be considered an antique - NOT just transportation like a '90 modle would be. If your son has all the reciepts/bills/etc. (or can get copies/documentation) for the work he has had done and the materials he has used, these would enhance your claim for more that the insurance company is going to offer initally.

I would be SURE to find the BEST body shop you can find in your area. A good one can fix anything! Might take a while if they have to replace things with pieces from junk yards. BUT it CAN be done.

Good luck,

Nathan(GA)    Posted 07-22-2002 at 11:08:21       [Reply]  [No Email]
These folks are correct. Although it's been a while, I've meesed with VW's a good bit. With a regular beetle you can remove the body from the sheet metal pan without too much trouble. The body will be all open on the bottom side.

I've only owned 1 super beetle, so I don't remember exactly, but seems like it has less of a pan than the others. I know the front end is different.

With a custom car, the paint is the big money. Maybe you and your son could find a decent car and change all the custom stuff to it.

I've got 2 pan running gears, 3 mostly complete beetles, a body shell and several engines and transaxles in the field now.

Good Luck!

DeadCarp    Posted 07-22-2002 at 09:36:35       [Reply]  [No Email]
I worked long enough in a frame shop to see a few cars straightened, and there's no real magic to it. The idea is to load the thing in a straightening frame and pull wherever it was pushed. Unibodies can be pulled too. It's possible to partly straighten it, add splices and replace the really bad parts. If it's your own, it can end up tougher than before. If they can make it, you can fix it, but you're gonna need new headliners etc, so don't forget your checkbook. :)

DEE    Posted 06-19-2004 at 00:01:38       [Reply]  [Send Email]
Is it possible to attach the floor board back to the frame? I have a 1986 ford mustang gt convertible and the frame rotted of from the floorboard on the rear passenger side. Thanks, Dee

Salmoneye...Um...    Posted 07-22-2002 at 05:22:47       [Reply]  [Send Email]
Correct me if I am wrong, but punch buggys have a uni-body...there is no frame to straighten...

scooterhead    Posted 07-22-2002 at 05:54:26       [Reply]  [No Email]
I think your right , dont think there is a frame . Rolled one up with a loader 20 some yrs ago , I`m thinkin it was all sheet metal , etc.

uh oh...I'm hearing you say there's no hope?    Posted 07-22-2002 at 06:12:03       [Reply]  [No Email]
If you guys are right, and there is no frame there's even less hope of getting it fixed?

The car seems to be 'warped.' Even the door on the side that wasn't hit no longer opens and closes without effort, and there are lots of stress cracks in the (almost new) paint job all over.

JoeK    Posted 07-22-2002 at 08:32:44       [Reply]  [No Email]
Having some limited knowledge of bugs,No,they do not have a frame as such.They sit on a formed and welded sheet metal floor pan,millions of which have been made into dune buggies,kit cars,trikes etc.You need to talk to a VW Bug"expert".Possibly the body shell and improvements made could be transferred to another "floor Pan/chassis".If this is not feasible in experts opinion,demand satisfaction from insurance co in locating anothe superclean SBeetle and making it a dupicate of lost one.

Ron/Pa    Posted 07-22-2002 at 05:20:13       [Reply]  [Send Email]
The chances of straightening the frame depend on the amount of damage to the frame itself.
It's true that a good shop can do amazing things by stretching and straightening.
Check with your local body shops, and don't be deterred if they say it isn't worth it. Just try to get the name of the best frame shop in your area and explain the attachment to the car and let them tell you if and how much.
Good luck

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