NICE ONE, SHERLOCK!
Volks World|January 2020
It’s fun investigating a car’s past – especially if the vehicle in question dates from the early fifties. That said, the Norwegian owner of this ’52 Beetle discovered more than he bargained for when he donned his deer-stalker
Ian Cushway

We’ve all been there. You buy a car and immediately get the urge to find out where it’s been and who’s bum’s been sat behind the wheel before you. It’s all part of the allure of owning an old car and it lets us ‘bond’ with our new acquisition. But all too often, sadly, the only thing we manage to uncover is an assortment of anonymous names from crumpled garage bills and that’s about it. Okay, if you really get lucky there might be the feint remains of a dealer sticker, or a garage name on a keyfob which will allow you to fill in a few more holes in the car’s history. However, for 43-year-old Håkon A. Solberg, the Norwegian owner of this mostly original paint ’52 Beetle, this would never be quite enough. He was on a quest to dig much deeper, tracing his car’s past right back to its very first owner!

Beetle bits

If you know the scene, you’ll appreciate that people with Beetles from this era rarely come to own them by chance, so it will come as no surprise that our budding Sherlock has a long-held interest in Volkswagens. He commented, “My closest neighbour had a garage full of old VWs and Porsches, and from the age of six I became fascinated by them. My family drove a ’68 Squareback when I was born, and we had a ’70 Beetle when I went to primary school. In fact, me and my dad ended up restoring that car in 2007.” However, that particular Bug was just a bit too new for Håkon. No, he likes Beetles with a little more history behind them, which explains why he’s always leaned towards cars from the ’50s. His ‘baby’, as he calls it, is a low mileage ’57 Oval which he bought in 1994.

The ’52 here joined his collection in 2007 having sold his ’50 Beetle, which was in bits at the time, to fellow Sechs Volt club member Are Sletta – the finished article appeared in our June 2017 issue. As Håkon told us, “All four guys in Sechs Volt restore Split Window Beetles in our barn, so we do a lot of swaps inside the gang. Despite the ’52 being totally dismantled, everything was there and it was much better than my Split, so I did the deal.”

The original engine was still with the car, but as it needed too much work at the time to get it going Håkon decided to install a super solid 36bhp unit instead. As for the rest of the running gear, it’s mainly original – but where restoration hasn’t been possible, he’s tried to use only genuine replacements. As he puts it: “If parts were missing, or in bad shape, I took a look at my shelf and found a suitable alternative. And if I didn’t have anything, having restored so many cars, my friends would usually be able to help out.” He’s done virtually all of the mechanical work himself, with assistance from his dad, Tore, Knut Sommerstad and other club members.

As for the all-important condition of the bodywork, suffice to say pretty much everything was solid with only a minimal amount of welding being necessary. “I wanted to maintain the car’s ‘soul’, keep the original patina and not take any short cuts,” he told us. And because the majority of the body is still in the original L90 Sand Beige (apart from the roof which was painted by Are Sletta) it was more a case of preservation than restoration.

The same is true of the interior which also remains miraculously intact for an early ‘50s car – with the few trim repairs being carefully undertaken by Håkon himself, mother-in-law, Hege, and his buddy Erik Sitje.

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