Volkswagen Beetle restoration provides fun diversion from tough times

man standing in front of blue volkswagen beetle

David Toscano

Posted February 02, 2023

Few cars can match the cultural impact of the diminutive Volkswagen Beetle. See how first-time car restorer Steve Daniels restored an original version of one of the most beloved cars ever made.

The Volkswagen Beetle - which was designed by Ferdinand Porsche and released in 1938 on the cusp of World War II as a simple and affordable car for German workers – went on to sell in excess of 20 million units over its 80-year production span, becoming one of the key vehicles in the democratisation of mobility across the world.

Watch Steve talk about his 1966 VW Beetle restoration

The love bug

The late 1960s and early 1970s proved to be the most successful era for the Beetle, thanks to breakthrough success in the all-important US car market - helped in part by the car starring in a series of Disney movies including Herbie: The Love Bug. Despite local car buyers favouring large domestic-made sedans at the time, Australia wasn’t immune from the unique charms of the Beetle. In fact, the Beetle was even manufactured in Australia between 1962-68, in the Melbourne suburb of Clayton.

While the Beetle was central to the flower power, counterculture movement of the 1960s, the vehicle’s basic platform also spawned the iconic Volkswagen Kombi – the poster vehicle for the popular van life lifestyle
As one of the most recognisable and distinctive cars ever made, with features including an air-cooled rear engine and headlights reminiscent of the legendary Porsche 911, it’s no surprise then that the Volkswagen Beetle is one of the most popular cars for first-time car restorers, such as Steve Daniels.


man driving a restored vintage Volkswagen Beetle car

Steve loves driving his restored 1966 Volkswagen Beetle. Image: Ben Weinstein


Developing car restoration skills

Keen to try his hand at something mechanical, Steve found a 1966 Volkswagen Beetle in Maryborough in regional Victoria that was “clearly ready for restoration.” 
“I don’t know why I chose this car,” Steve confesses. “Sometimes I think the car chose me.” 
Steve completed the restoration from his home in Melbourne’s inner east. Challenges Steve confronted along the restoration journey included the tight confines of his heritage single-car garage where the work took place, the hunt for rare parts that required travel across Victoria and the need to develop specialised skills for each stage of the car's restoration.


old wrecked VW Beetle

The 1966 Volkswagen Beetle was severely run down before its restoration. Image: Ben Weinstein


“My experience coming into this was zero on anything automotive or engines,” Steve admits. “The entire restoration was done by me. Upholstery, the engine, panel work… I bought a welder and taught myself how to weld.” 

For Steve, one of the memorable milestones of the Beetle’s restoration was the installation of the car’s new headliner. 
“Because the headliner is such a big piece of material, you get a big transformation really quickly. So, when that went in [to the vehicle], it was like 'oh wow, now this is starting to look good.'”

interior of VW Beetle

The Volkswagen Beetle has been beautifully restored both inside and out. Image: Ben Weinstein


All in all, the experience of restoring the iconic Beetle brought Steve immense pride and joy. 

“The thing that I liked the most about the restoration project of this car is that it’s not just a car. It’s a vehicle that’s made up of many separate sub-components,” Steve says. “Then, when it’s completed, what you’ve got is a car at the end, but that is just the outcome of a hundred separate mini projects. 
“I’ve loved every moment of it. It has provided me with a diversion through some pretty tough times. It’s a proud moment. I’ll always have this and I’ll always be somebody who has restored a car.”

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