When it comes to auto restoration there are generally two different camps that spring up. The first is made up of folks who buy a slightly used car without any major defects and do some minor renovation work; the second is made up of folks who will tackle anything and through sheer will end up rebuilding even the most far gone cars.
Arcadio Buendia is definitely the second type of guy. This Mexico City native has lusted after a first-generation Volkswagen type 2 since he was a teen. His dream came true a few years ago when he purchased a green and white split window panel van in need of restoration.
Not content with the panel van, Arcadio sold it and purchased two passenger vans, a 1956 and a 1962. We saw them in person in 2010 and we were admittedly a little skeptical but work on the 1956 began last May and is moving at a fast pace.
This is what the van looked like when Arcadio purchased it:
Aside from the rust found just about everywhere on the body, some of the challenges this van was facing included cut out wheel arches, a sunroof poorly cut into the roof and a front panel that was heavily dented and full of bondo.
Just the photos are enough to scare many collectors but motivated by his dream of owning a fully-functional split window T2, Arcadio started gathering quotes from different body shops.
After being turned down several times, he finally found one that would do the work for a reasonable price. He towed the van there and the restoration had officially begun.
The first step was stripping the body down to the bare metal and cutting out the damaged sheet metal.
While they were stripping what was left of the paint, they were pleasantly surprised to find out that the van was originally fitted with semaphores. At some point in the T2’s tough life, the semaphores had been sealed shut with bondo. The interesting part about that is that it doesn’t appear to have been fitted with turn signals, at least not in the front.
The previous owner of the 1962 converted it into a pickup without paying much attention to the van’s structural integrity and Arcadio decided to cannibalize it for parts since some of the sheet metal left on it was still usable.
In week three attention turned to the front of the van. It was very damaged but efforts were made to try and fix it.
Over the course of the fourth week more rust and paint were removed from the body and repairs were made to the door hinges. The holes in the roof were welded in and one of the side doors was removed entirely in order to straighten it out.
In weeks five and six the van received its first coat of primer on some of the areas that had been stripped down to the metal and more stripping took place.
In the subsequent weeks the sheet metal around the front wheels and the front floors were removed for repair or, worst case scenario, replacement.
Despite numerous repair attempts the front end was deemed too far gone and was cut out. A new one was found and will be welded on when the front floors are finished.
Finally, after several weeks of the van looking like a skeleton it started to regain its original shape. Reassembly began and a new side panel was fitted:
There is still a lot of work left to do on the but it has come a long way since it was towed into the body shop and more importantly, Arcadio saved it from a near-certain death.
A restoration of this caliber evidently takes a while. Arcadio did not want to wait until the van was finished to drive a T2 and he recently swapped his late-model daily driver Jetta for a 1976 bay window.
Stay tuned to Ran When Parked for another update on this T2 as it gets brought back to life. Until then, ¡buena suerte!, Arcadio.
All photos kindly provided by Arcadio Buendia.