Time to strip

Dear VW-friends,

the front end of the Samba has made some serious steps forward, many of you have noticed that when we drove the Samba to Bad Camberg. To make the front look even nicer for the show I concentrated on an important detail of any Bus: the front bumper.

When the Samba was found there were some remains of a front bumper, but, opposite to most of the parts which were in the locality, these remains are not original ´51 parts. Have a look:

Clearly the remains of a ´59-on bumper
Somebody must have mounted it just a a few months before the Samba was dumped in 1961 or 1962

Following the philosophy of the project we reuse any parts found in the locality (except safety related items which absolutely can´t be repaired at all), but as long as they are original ´51 parts only. Luckily the very most we found with the Samba is original ´51, but these leftovers of the front bumpers are not. So why investing a huge effort to rebuild a front bumper by using this two remains if they aren´t original anyway?

So I had to look for an original ´51 front bumper and I found some in the German Barndoor community for a fair price. This bumper was already sandblasted, but there was still some serious work to do. I mounted it on the Bus for a foto shooting last summer and –just for fun- I mounted the license plate of the Samba which was also in the locality too.

But again, following the philosophy of the project, we have to restore to as-new-perfection any part added to the Samba which was not with the Samba when it was found, just to show in the end what is original substance and was not. So we had to make this bumper look as it was August 1951.

In this process of bumper restoration there was a simple question to answer: which colour was correct for the bumper of an August ´51 Samba. Well I thought it was a simple question…..

When clearing a question of originality it is always a good idea to have a look on a very original example of the same model but just a very little older and one a very little younger. If these two show the same detail we are looking for you can be nearly sure that it was exactly this way on the car in between too. Well you can be nearly sure. But detail is a devil sometime…..

But anyway my way was to look out for a super original ´51 Samba just a little older than mine. But guess what? There is none existing! But there are at least some pictures of one. When the Samba was introduced to the public at the very first after war IAA (International Auto Exhibition) April 1951, Volkswagen took some fine pictures of its exhibition stand for the internal magazine “VW Informationen”. Just see here:

Simple question, simple answer: the front bumper of a ´51 Samba is sealing wax red as the lower part of the body is. At least at the April ´51 prototype.

Now let´s have a look for an all-over-original Samba just a little younger than mine. There is one existing! The one and only January ´52 Samba of Mike Hornbecker, the world´s very most original Barndoor Samba, never restored, never resprayed. Have a look:

Sealing wax red again in January 1952. So the case is clear, isn´t it?

Which other conclusion I should have ended up with but “sealing wax red is the correct colour for the bumper of my August ´51 Samba”?  So after some serious body work on the bumper we painted it sealing wax red and added some good used and time period matching chrome trims and even some NOS rubber inserts. The extreme patina license plate and the one surviving Hella fog light gave the fresh painted bumper a very unique look. Just in time for Bad Camberg!

This is how we showed up in Bad Camberg. Cool looking bumper, isn´t it?

Bad Camberg wouldn´t be Bad Camberg without probably the world´s biggest line of super rare pre´57 Volkswagen in one place. So, no wonder that there was another ´51 Samba in the line up, it was the # 4 of the survivors, owned by Claus von Schmeling (also from Bonn, the home of the ´51 Sambas, from where else?), showing up this time with its original white coloured roof which was still hidden under some respray and now brought back to the daylight, a stunning job!

Claus had a close look on mine ´51 as I had a look on his. He pointed out that the front bumper was painted wrong, “The bumper´s groove strips have to be chestnut brown!”

Could this be correct? The factory seriously changed since the Frankfurt prototype to a two tone bumper for a couple of months and then, at least in January ´52, they changed it all back to pure-red bumpers? Come on, Volkswagen, you are kidding, aren´t you?

At home I studied as many historic pictures as I could get access to. I share some of them with you here:

Salon de l’Automobile in Paris, October 1951. It´s not easy to see, but VW´s exhibition Samba shows a somehow dark strip on the front bumper´s grooves!

An unknown guy beside his ´51 Samba (clearly identified by its white roof) And again:  dark coloured strips on the bumper´s grooves!
The final proof! My very own Samba in November 1951 and now very clearly visible: the bumper got these groove strips painted darker than the bumper blade itself.

OK. Claus was right. What else could I do but disassemble the damned bumper and paint the groove strips chestnut brown? I hate to do a job twice, but the pain was healed by the result! These brown strips look extremely cool as you can see on the following picture, July 2019:

The brown strip really makes a difference, don´t you agree? And the NOS accessory aluminium polished reinforcement under the extreme patina license plate gives the assembly the final touch.

Cool story, isn´t it?

What? By looking at the last picture you feel a little bit fooled? I can imagine what you want to say to me now….  “Come on Florian, you let us wait for nearly four months and now you show up with this nerdy detail story nobody is really interested in while your damned Samba seems to be nearly completed as the last picture proofs. What´s wrong with you?”

In fact, there is something wrong with me in the moment, but nothing to share in the net. This little nerdy detail story is all I can present you right now and be assured: the Samba is far away from being completed. Just the front and the long side panel do look really good now (also thanks to the “show-reason-only cab door), but there is still a lot of work to do even here. As soon as I am able to I will serve you with a big story about Mark´s superb body work done in early summer, but meanwhile I might keep on boring you with some short stories about freaky tiny details.


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