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The start of the project (almost).  I did not take a picture of the bus when I first purchased it.  The tow bar and front bumper were installed to pull it home.  The doors were removed and the wiring harness had been pulled through from the back to the front before I took this picture.

Volkswagens are made on a unit body construction.  This means that everything is welded together and there are no body parts bolted together .  This makes the VW very strong as long as it is all intact.  If you remove part of the body, you must add substantial reinforcement to compensate.

There is no large metal chassis under the bus so when you cut the top off, a chassis must be built under the body to carry the weight.  I did not know this on the first Quailmobile, and the body broke behind the front wheels.  The weight of the front of the bus is held up by the front window posts and the roof.  If you remove them, you must add bracing under the body to carry the load that they normally carry.

From past projects, we learned that it is much easier to weld standing up than to lie on your back under the body with sparks falling in your face.  We used the forklift and a come-along to roll the bus on its side so we had a clear work area.

So you do not think I did all this myself, my friend and associate, Chip Thomas, who is a master welder, did most of the heavy duty welding and cutting torch work.  He humored me by letting me do some of the easy work

John Measuring for Steel


John Welding Bracing in Place



The Quailmobile on its side after most of the bracing has been welded in place. Notice the steel conduit and the gray PVC conduit.  The steel conduit carries the electrical cable to the engine compartment in the rear.  The PVC conduit carries the 12 volt lead for the winch plug in the front of the Quailmobile.  The winch can be moved to the front or back depending on the direction you need to pull.

The electrical must be protected since the Quailmobile will go through some very heavy, low brush which will shred unprotected wires.

The next step is to put it on its "feet" and cut off the roof.  This is done with a metal cutting saw and a couple of grinders.  A cutting torch was used to cut the thick metal around the roof frame just above and behind the front seat.

The roof has been cut behind the front seats and the sides have been cut to remove the roof from the lower body.  The forklift will be used to remove it.


More chains have been added for stability.


Carefully lift the roof off the body and set it aside.

The cuts to remove the roof were "rough cut".  Now go back and cut the side of the body on the same plane as the rear deck.  Trim the side wall along the wheel wells and down the the floor deck.  Trim around the gas fill area.

The trim work completed.


Remove the front seats and seat belts and prepare to remove the front glass and the roof over front seats.



The roof is sitting on the floor in the background and the Quailmobile is open air.



Another view of the Quailmobile without the roof.

The major demolition is complete.

Click here to start the rebuild.



Copyright 2011 John Howe, Inc.

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