Daniel Masaba’s car is a 1973 model blue Volkswagen Beetle that runs on a 1200cc petrol engine. In March, while visiting a farmer in Dokolo District, Masaba noticed a Beetle that had been abandoned. After making inquiries, he realised it belonged to the farmer he was visiting, who later agreed to sell it to him.
The 49-year old manual transmission car was not in roadworthy condition. Some of the parts such as the floor, a section of the exterior body and the roof had rusted. Also, some of the fuel pipes had rusted while the fuel pump was non-operational. The clutch also needed service.
Fortunately, the air system, through which the car cools as it runs, unlike that of your ordinary car that uses water as coolant, was still functional that when Masaba put oil in the engine, it started, a sign that the engine was also still functional. However, the Beetle could only make it to Kampala for proper service by car carrier.
Restoring the car
Being a single door by design and a five seater by capacity gives the Beetle its current look. Masaba started by changing the entire interior, from the seats to the dashboard, welding the rusted floor, roof, changing the paint from green to blue after applying layers of filler to the rusted parts.
He also replaced the fuel pump, fuel pipes, indicator bulbs and the brake pads, among others, all at a cost of approximately Shs15m. Since restoring the Beetle, Masaba says, he services it every 5,000km driven, or after four months.
“I sometimes carry out my own service since the car’s technology is not that complex. It uses an air cooling system, unlike water cooling where you have to top up coolant every time you service. Usually, all service costs total Shs100,000,” Masaba says.
One of the many features of the Beetle is that it is engine is at the rear and the boot at the front. It is an old car whose production ended around 1986, and lately is rare to come by. It was designed with an air cooling system so that it could start during the winter season since the water cooling system was synonymous with freezing during winter, which meant starting it would be problematic.
Masaba’s Beetle covers approximately 13km per litre of fuel.
David Lwanga, a mechanic, says sourcing for spare parts for cars such as the VW Beetle that run out of production is challenging. The nearest you can get them is Nairobi or the United Kingdom. Luckily for Masaba, his mechanic has more than 15 years of experience in servicing classic cars and knows some Beetle owners with cars that are no longer in use, a potential source for spare parts.
“The Beetle is one of the cars that were manufactured to have as minimal maintenance as possible. The only problem is that spare parts are rear and this means it is not the kind of car you will drive every day. If a part breaks, sourcing it is hard. It is a car you will choose to drive to a wedding or over the weekends,” Lwanga explains.
He adds that an important aspect here is to have a mechanic who understands the technology and mechanical history of such old cars.
According to Hotcars, an online portal, the Volkswagen Beetle is the most produced car in history. When the last of the VW Beetles rolled off the assembly line, 21,529,464 vehicles had been produced.
“It is also claimed to be the longest-running production as well as the most manufactured car on a single platform. That 21 million car figure is the same as the two largest automakers in the world (Volkswagen and Toyota) total annual car production combined,” the portal says.
Is an old Beetle reliable?
According to www.vehiclehistory.com, the Beetle is an iconic car that was made by Volkswagen over the years and for the most part, they were pretty reliable. The newer ones only had more problems because they had more computers and more complicated engines than in the earlier years.
The Volkswagen Beetle is one of the most recognisable cars of all time, and its iconic rounded shape is deep-rooted in pop culture right up there with the likes of the Coca-Cola bottle and the Vespa.
The Beetle was initially designed by German automaker Volkswagen in 1938 as a basic means of transportation marketed to the masses. VW went on to manufacture three versions of the model that would reportedly sell over 22.5 million units before its final production year in America in 2019.
During this time, the Bug amassed countless industry awards, including being named Motor Trend‘s “Import Car of the Year” in 1999 and racking up a Vincentric Best Value in America Award in 2019.