Project Żuczek – The First Attempt

So in a relatively short amount of time after purchasing Murbella I started to look for a car that I could sink my teeth into and make it into something I really wanted to have. Something that had a part of me in it.

So I started searching the sites looking for a 1974 Super Beetle that I could literally recreate my mother’s 1974 again, including finding Ansen Mag wheels and such!

And this search is when my ignorance as an amateur car person really caused excitement to get the better of me over the true condition of vintage cars out there.

On one Sunday I managed to drive all over Ohio looking at 3 cars in very different parts of the state in just one day.


We drove up to Mansfield and looked at a $7000 1972 Super that was brought up from Texas. It was nice, but needed mechanical work and some paint restoration. It had the sunroof I’d always wanted, but wasn’t quite a 1303.

After looking at that we drove clear across the state, almost to Indiana, to Greenville to look at a Rallye Yellow 1974 Super. For all intents and purposes it looked ok and my magnet tests didn’t really turn up too much. It looked solid, and the engine seemed fine and appeared 100% original with all of the EGR stuff and even the dashpot on the carb still!

Another jaunt down farther south and we looked at a 71 that needed a massive amount of work.

I came home and all I could think about was the 74 in Greenville.

I made 1 offer. It was rejected. I made another offer which was accepted and then arranged to go get it.

1974 Super Beetle 1303

It wasn’t until I bought it and transferred the title that I really started to drive it. Sure the test drive showed that it started, stopped, and needed brake work but every car outside of Murbella that I tested did.

It was on the drive back over 70 miles when I really started to see some of the things that I had previously missed while inspecting it.

You have to understand, the car looks really good. The paint job (a respray) is not perfect but waxed up it looks great. This is all very misleading and I was soon to find out what a mistake I had made.

It was on the way back to Columbus that it became obvious that the fuel gauge was dead and the odometer wasn’t turning. There were electrical issues with the brake lights as well a problem with stalling at idle.

However, the car made it all the way back home.

It wasn’t until about a week later, while working on it in the drive, when I started to see the major warning signs that I missed.

1974 Super Beetle 1303

Attempting to jack up the passenger side at the rear jack point ended up unveiling a massive amount of rust covered up with bedliner. The jack point then started ripping out of the channel since it was all rust.

I started really poking and prodding and realized that while the car looked good, it had a massive amount of issues.

I managed to get the engine idling better but the more I got into the brakes the more I realized there was more than just new shoes that were needed.

I drove it a couple of more times and then had issues with the coil going bad. My knee replacement in October sidelined me for many months and the cars remained in the garage.

Finally feeling much better and moving around by late December, I put the 74 up on stands in the garage and slowly but surely really started to get into the car.

1974 Super Beetle 1303

I had already used some of the holiday sales at CIP1 and other stores to get a new disk brake upgrade for the front. I figured I would spent the winter getting the car’s braking system cleaned up with a front upgrade and then new shoes on the rear.

It went downhill from there.

I spent hours trying to remove brake hoses and metal lines from the wheel cylinders and discovered everything was seized. There was no way anything was going to come off easily and ultimately I had to rip out the 40+ year old steel lines just to put new stuff on.

When I finally go around to doing the front disk upgrade, I discovered more hidden rust and the same seized brake lines. It was here that I also discovered that the master cylinder was toast.

I ended up having to just cut the steel lines to get the master cylinder out so basically all of the lines on the car were shot.

There was nothing on the brake system that was salvageable. The master cylinder was completely corroded inside and the brake fluid that was in the system had obviously been there for ever, rusted and mostly water.

It was in needing to pull the line from the master to the rear T that the real major issues started to become apparent.

Pulling back the carpets revealed that someone had riveted thing sheet metal over entirely rusted frame parts and heater channels, and then painted it all with a brush.

My magnets had picked up the sheet metal during inspection so there was nothing to imply how bad it was.

1974 Super Beetle 1303 cancer

1974 Super Beetle 1303 cancer

More and more hidden rust became apparent. And then the worst case scenario, I uncovered a cancerous frame head that a previous owner had filled the rusted gaps with some kind of rubber silicone and then sprayed rubber bed liner over as an undercoating.

There was just no way this car could easy serve as the basis for my project that I had in my head without major repairs. Far more than I expected.

During the winter, I would also start the cars and run them for 30 minutes ever 2 weeks to make sure the oil and fuel did not sit as well as getting them hot enough to dry out any moisture in the exhaust systems.

One day, the 74 would not start anymore.

Nothing I did could get it to turn over for more than a few moments. I ended up giving up, pulling Murbella into the garage, and working on her entire suspension upgrade the rest of the winter and early spring.

Once it started to get warmer outside, I finally discovered yet another major issue with the 74. The entire inside of the fuel tank was basically rust scale, and that had finally clogged up the entire fuel lines and there was no fuel getting to the carb.

Removing the fuel tank to try and really inspect it resulted in the discovery of more surface rust as well as several areas of cancerous rust under the tank.

1974 Super Beetle 1303 cancer

By April I knew that this car had far too many issues than I wanted to deal with at my skill level.

I had gotten so completely excited at the thought of having a 74 Super to turn into my mother’s that I overlooked many warning signs and completely failed to consider the quality of the 72 Super in Mansfield since “it wasn’t a 74”!

I had paid way too much money for an utter piece of shit that could in no way serve as the source for the project I had in my head.

I decided to try and get the car driving, starting, and stopping and would try to recoup all of the money in parts I had bought for it.

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